Monday, July 7, 2014

New School, New Teachers, New Questions

Last year I mentored several new teachers and was always ready to answer questions.

Now I will be the new teacher with dozens of questions for my new team. I apologize to them in advance but I just want to make sure I'm on the same page as them in terms of procedures and school policies.

Here is my list of questions for new teachers (or veteran teachers at a new school):

School Procedures & Responsibilities
  • What are the expectations in terms of lesson plans? (content objective, language objective, assessment component, how specific)
  • Are they due at a specific time or day?
  • Where are they saved? (In my documents? On a shared folder?)
  • Do I have to post them online (curriculum engine for CCSD people)?
  • Do I have duty (playground, lunch room, etc)?
  • Do I have duty on a specific day of the week (every Monday) or weekly (every five weeks for the entire week)?
  • What is expected in my emergency sub plans? 
  • Is there a master schedule?
  • What time does my grade level have specials/prep?
  • What is expected of my bulletin board? 
  • Does there need to be a title?
  • What type of work should be displayed?
  • How often should bulletin boards be changed?

Classroom Management
  • Is there a school wide incentive for specials?
  • Is there a school wide policy for hallway behavior? 
  • Is there a school wide behavior plan?
  • Is there a grade level behavior plan?
  • What are the procedures for an office referral?

Classroom Instruction
  • Are there any programs we are expected to follow? (Being a Writer, Investigations, Envisions, Every day math, Trophies, etc)
  • To what degree am I allowed to supplement? (some schools require fidelity with provided programs, others are much more flexible)
  • What resources are available? (reading A-Z, reading eggs, Time for Kids magazines, literacy lab, online resources)
  • What do I use in terms of small group instruction?
  • What do I use for science instruction?
  • Does our school use the Common Core State Standards?
  • What assessments do I use? 
  • Are assessments already created or provided?
  • Are there any programs I should use for progress monitoring? (Aimsweb)
  • Is there a RTI process? (response to intervention)
  • When should I have my small groups established?
  • What data do I use to form my small groups?
  • Do I teach phonics or spelling patterns?  If so, when?
  • Do I use project-based learning?
  • Do I use rubrics? ( is an excellent resource if the answer is yes)
  • Do I do Number Talks?
 Special Education
  • What co-teaching models (if any) are used?
  • Does the school use push in (coteaching) or pull out (resource) models?
  • Where are IEP meetings normally held?
  • Are IEP meetings before school, after school, or during prep?
  • Who is responsible for implementing IEP goals?
  • Who is responsible for small group instruction?
  • Who is responsible for progress reports and report card comments?
  • Does my grade level plan together?
  • Are resources shared between teachers?
  • Are students switched between teachers?
  • Do any teachers departmentalize (elementary) where one teacher may teach writing to several classes while another teachers science?
  • What does my fellow grade level members like about the school?
  • Is there a grade level chair?
  • How are the responsibilities divided?

Questions for Administration
  • What are the school's biggest strengths and weaknesses?
  • What are my grade level's biggest strengths and weaknesses?
  • How does the school prepare for standardized testing?
  • Is there any opportunities for extra duty pay? (tutoring, supervising clubs, etc)
  • What are the expectations for committees? 
  • Are there any clubs or student organizations?
  • How often are meetings? (Staff meetings, planning meetings, etc)
  • Is there a format that is preferred for lesson plans?
  • What is expected of report card comments? (Some schools require full paragraphs, others are fine with a sentence or two.)
  • How are problems with parents dealt with?
  • Is there a PTA?
  • Does the school have supportive parents?
  • Does the school have a system set up for volunteers?
  • How many materials does the library have?
  • How often will I be observed?
  • Will we meet after every observation?
  • Will I be informed of upcoming observations or will they be unannounced? 
  • How many teachers are at this school?
  • How many teachers are in my grade level?
  • How long have other teachers been there? (Frequent turn around may be a red flag)
  • Am I the only new teacher?
  • Why did the previous teacher leave?
  • What is our school's demographics?
  • What do you love about the school?
  • What technology is available? 
  • Are there trainings available on technology?
  • Is there a computer lab? 
  • Is there a computer lab schedule?
  •  Are there any specific skills I should be teaching my students regarding technology? 
  • Are there iPads? 
  • Does each classroom have iPads?
  •  Does the grade level have iPads? 
  • Do students have to sign any usage forms before using the iPads or computers?
  •  How often are there fire drills or other emergency preparedness drills?
  • What is the policy for class parties?
  • Are students allowed to bring in treats for birthdays?
  • Is there breakfast provided for students at school?
  • Do students eat breakfast in the cafeteria or in the classroom?
  • Is a mentor available?
  • Who is a good person that I can ask further questions?

Good luck new teachers!

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