The trials, tribulations and adventures of being a new Principal

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Raising the Bar: Finding the Best Teachers

We are entering the hiring season.  The time of year when administrators get a little greedy, when each and every one of us want to hire the best teacher for our building, our staff and our students. We want the rock star, the child-centered example, the one who will raise the bar, who will demonstrate a growth mindset by learning with our best teachers and administrators,  and the one who will make a difference for our valued community by teaching our kids how to read, write, solve problems and think.

What does it mean to be the best?  How do we know who to hire?  Is the search for the best an art or a science?  What process will provide the most fruitful results? 

This spring, several colleagues and I have been engaged in an ongoing dialogue about the issues and processes involved in the recruitment and hiring of the most talented candidates.  The job of hiring teachers is among the most critical aspects of our job.  If we can’t hire the best, how can we expect to continue to move our school district forward?

We work in a small, rural district where our pool of resources must be managed with the utmost care.  We cannot afford the expensive research designed screening and interviewing tools available on the market.  Nor are any members of our team the types of educators to assume that these tools alone would meet the needs of our schools and our community.  Therefore, our team has been working on developing a systematic and multi-faceted process for screening, hiring and interviewing candidates.  

We see this as a work in progress.  It reflects our current level of understanding about the research and best practices in hiring,  as well as the needs of our schools and our community.  It is not yet complete.  We ask questions, dialogue, marinate, make decisions and then move forward.  We will be working on this process next year and the year after as well.

I would like to share what we have so far:

Step 1: Screening-  Separately, the building Principal and the Assistant Superintendent screen applications and resumes and creates the initial pool of candidates.  They will meet and discuss the pool before candidates are called for the first interview.

Our current dialogue about screening applications and resumes:   

  • What makes a candidate “interview-worthy”?
  • What do we “look for” in an application package?
  • What are some characteristics and/or experiences that would make a candidate a good fit for our schools?
  • What questions come into your mind when you read resumes? My current favorite: What could I learn from this teacher? 
  • Should we have a rubric or checklist that will help guide us through this screening process?

Step 2: Administrative Interview-  Our Assistant Superintendent, our Director of Student Services, Our Middle School Principal and I will be working together to interview candidates for both buildings.  That means that I will be helping the middle school principal analyze potential middle school teachers and he will be helping me with the elementary teachers.  We are currently collaborating on the questions that should be asked at this interview.  We are writing questions that will allow us to discriminate between the teachers who will move forward and the teachers who are not right for us at this time.  Our current question pool is linked to the Ohio Educator Standards.  As we are examining the standards, we write questions that will provide insight into the teacher’s understanding, performance and articulation in each area.  Our collaboration on the questions will eventually include a list of characteristics, qualities or phrases that we consider to be important in answering the question.  

Step 3: Building Team Interview- Each building principal will invite the narrowed pool of teachers in for an interview with a building team.  The purpose of this interview is to gain additional insight about each candidate and to gather observations and ideas from the building team.  It is very important that our building team understands that while their input will be valued and considered with the utmost regard, the ultimate decision lies with the building administrator.

Our current dialogue about the building team interview:

  • We should provide the building team with a checklist or rating system.
  • Each member of the team should refrain from discussing candidates with each other until every interview is completed.
  • Who should be on this building team?
  • Should the building team be flexible depending on the situation or should it be a “trained” team that considers every candidate in the building?
  • Maintaining objectivity and confidentiality

Step 4: Performance Interview- The top 2 (or 3) candidates will be invited back for the performance interview.  Each teacher will be asked to teach a lesson to a group of students. This will be an opportunity for the candidate to demonstrate his or her ability to interact with students, teach a lesson and reflect on his or her practices.   We feel that we can learn a lot from this process by meeting with the teacher before and after the lesson as well as watching them teach.  Before the lesson, we will ask the teacher to explain the plan for the day, including the thought processes that went into researching and deciding on the best approach for the lesson.  After the lesson, we will encourage an open dialogue and reflection.  This reflection will give us information about the teacher’s self-awareness and his or her ability to analyze their practices to determine strengths and areas in need of development.

Our current dialogue about the Performance Interview:

  • What criteria will we use for the performance interview? Right now, we are leaning toward using the rubrics provided in the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System.
  • Who will observe during the lesson?
  • Writing and sharing the “scenario” for planning (including assessment info, etc.)

Step 5: Recommendation and Approval-  At this point, we will meet with the superintendent, prepared to make our recommendation for the position. We should have a tremendous amount of information and evidence to share with the superintendent about the top candidates and why one is being recommended over the others.  Pending his approval, we will make an offer to the candidate we have selected for the position.

Are we going to spend a lot of time on the process of finding our teachers?  Absolutely.  Is this a good use of our time?  Without a doubt.  Will this process evolve? I hope so.

 We know that this process is rigorous and it is a fantastic improvement from the process we have used in the past.  We also realize that we are going to find imperfections along the way.  We will learn, we will reflect and we will change.  

That’s who we are as leaders and as educators.


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