What’s Your New School Need-to-Know?
When I was teaching in Beirut, I was often tasked with writing to incoming teachers to tell them all about their new teaching position as well as a little about life in Beirut. I’d tell them the grade levels they would be teaching, what “ESL” at our school meant, a general idea of a schedule, and maybe a little about the middle school. The incoming teacher would often write back with a few specific questions about curriculum or what to pack for the big move to Beirut.
At my new school, AISB, there is a much more structured system for disseminating information. I was assigned an “academic buddy” from my department to tell me all about teaching and a “social buddy” to tell me all about life in Budapest. In addition, I have a staff contact at the school who helps organize everything related to travel, housing, and shipping. There is a website for new teachers with forms, FAQs, new teacher bios, etc. The level of organization is really unreal compared to my previous school.
On the academic side of things, I have had quite a bit of communication and information from the two outgoing ESL teachers in the middle school. An online handbook gave information on everything you could imagine, and one of the teachers even shared a link to his online lesson plans to give an idea of how he teaches. Despite all of this information, one of my new colleagues joining the department wrote to ask a number of very specific question about the ESL program including testing, screening of new students, exiting ESL, classroom space, scheduling, assessment, etc. The school contact happily answered all of the questions in detail and copied me on the email for my knowledge too.
While the level of information and communication is greatly appreciated, it got me to thinking about different styles of preparation. I skimmed through the info given, but know that there is no way I can process it or assign meaning to it until I am actually there on the job. You can tell me how the assessments are done at each term, and what parent-teacher conferences look like, but what can I do with that information this summer as I prepare to close this chapter of my life and move on to the next? I’m not saying there is anything at all wrong with collecting this kind of information in advance, but it’s just not my style at all. (I think I’m like this in most aspects of life; I’m not a huge planner–just get there and figure it out as I go.)
I’m curious to know (for all you international teachers out there), what’s your new school need-to-know? I think for me, the most important questions get asked in the interview before accepting the job: what is the ESL model at the school, how many student are served in the ESL population, what grades/type of schedule will I have? And I think that about covers it.
Anyone else a minimalist in their need-to-know like me?