1973 - when I started asking questions, like, "Why are we all dressed so funny?"

Monday, December 31, 2007

Avoiding Presumption: Hiring Teachers

How easy it is to make assumptions about persons and things. For example, in the hiring of teachers it is often presumed that (a) demonstration of certain competencies (a degree, teacher training/certification, teaching experience, et al) translates into (b) a good or suitable teacher. Of course, we have all experienced "qualified" teachers who were dull, uninspiring or otherwise "useless" (with respect to communicating something to their students that was helpful to the students' lives).

How to avoid "misplaced" teachers in the hiring process? For one thing, beyond screening through a simple cover letter and resume, perhaps we could additionally have the prospective teacher write about his or her philosophies of education and of life. If we are faced with a generic ("boilerplate") philosophy of education, there's a red flag; a teacher who thinks that life's meaning is found in mere financial success or other extrinsic rewards is one who should not teach at our school.

In addition we might ask a teacher to read a relatively short article, essay or story and ask, "If this were part of your curriculum, how would you use it? What is important or useful in it to you personally? What elements in it do you think your students will find difficult? How would you help them overcome the difficulties?"

"What kind of man or woman are you?" is far more important than the degree in hand. People with a passion for the destiny of their students -- that's the ticket.

1 comment:

Freder1ck said...

I'll tell you that the principals are well aware that a certificate in hand is no guide to evaluating teachers.

One of the best interviews I had (for a position I was not offered) was a conversation. The principal asked me, "what do you like to read?" which floored me. Everybody else asks, "what methods do you use? Content is not considered, much less desire regarding content.

Some interviewers use tricks. One interview tactic is to relentlessly ask questions on problems. They want to see how much one will try before giving up (urban school district).

Philosophy of teaching is a common request, but these are assembled in the teacher training programs and really tend to embody triangulation: this school wants to hear about brain based education, another is oriented toward college prep, etc. You might like my philosophy of ed, but it really just tells you what my concept of teaching is. The teaching is something else. I would be really wary of a school that hired teachers mainly according to the self-stated ideals and concepts of their teachers.

"Describe learning in your classroom" is another common request. Principals want to see that the students will have hands on practice, group learning, etc.

There's a whole array of other factors to consider: what teacher induction programs will you have? What curriculum support can be offered, what teamwork can be fostered so that each teacher is not sweating it out to design whole curricula ex nihilo? Will curricula be archived (and how) so that teachers can benefit from the good ideas of others?

Standards are another issue, for charter schools as for anybody. How will teachers prepare students for standardized tests? What are the best ways? Some schools have daily instructional focus time to practice and pre-assess standards that need improvement.