How a teacher is hired can influence how much collegial support she will find on entry

As a fourth year teacher in Oakland, I have gone through the hiring process in OUSD twice. Each experience was profoundly different from the other and did in fact influence the collegial support I encountered. I came to OUSD through Teach for America. As an incoming teacher, it was TFA’s job to “place” me at a school site. They worked with the district and sent my resume to different schools. I was then contacted by a school principal who conducted a brief phone interview with me.

After the phone interview I completed a Skype interview with a TSA to assess my command of Spanish (as I was being interviewed for a bilingual position). Soon after I was offered the job. No other teachers or staff members participated in my interview or hiring process. When I began my job I found that the collegial support was lacking. My colleagues seemed distant and in a way, distrustful, of me- and I believe they had every right to be wary.

They knew nothing of my background or credentials, had no say in hiring me, and were probably doubtful that I would stay past my two-year TFA commitment. It took almost a year to develop relationships with a majority of the staff and even then the environment was not a particularly collaborative or supportive one for me.

After three years at my initial school site I made the choice to seek out a different position. I researched and spoke with other educators in the district to learn about schools that could be a good fit for me professionally. I found schools that interested me and proceeded through their application processes. For my current position, I began by completing an online application and touring the school. Then I was invited to teach a 30-minute model lesson in which I was observed by both administration and teachers on the hiring committee. After the lesson, I participated in an interview conducted by a panel of administrators and teachers, who took turns asking me questions designed to determine whether I would be a good fit for their school community. When I was offered a position at the school, I was immediately put in contact with the school literacy coach and my future grade-level partner to begin getting to know each other and making plans for the upcoming school year. Prior to the start of the school year I was given a new teacher orientation to the school and participated in staff PD, planning, and an overnight retreat. I felt welcomed from the moment I stepped on the campus and I knew that I was part of a team that valued my presence. I felt excited and inspired to begin the work as part of a collaborative and caring group of educators.

Teaching can be incredibly challenging and emotionally draining. Having a supportive staff culture is so important to develop sustainability in our profession. In order to create the type of collaborative, supportive, and collegial environment that encourages and allows for teachers to stay in teaching I believe it is crucial for teachers to choose where they teach and for current staff members to have a strong say in who is hired to join their team.