Monthly Archives: September 2012

Hiring the Right People

I was struck into thought this week when one of my Ed. Leadership students asked me, “How did you learn how to interview and hire the right teachers?”  I really had to think about how I learned that.  I can’t remember having specific preparation for that vital part of the job of a school leader.  The question stemmed from a discussion we were having in reference to the new, soon to be mandated teacher evaluation system here in PA.  Todd Whitaker (2002) reminded us that that the only ways to improve instruction in schools is to either 1) help the teachers we already have to improve and grow (hence the new evaluation system based on the Danielson model) or hire good ones.  It’s vital to maximize the opportunity to hire when one has it as a school leader; unfortunately, those opportunities are more and more sparse and important right now with the budget cuts that have burdened every school district.

So off the bat, my answer to the student was this.  I believe that I learned by experience how to hire well.  Unfortunately, that meant that I had to get “burned” a couple times, meaning hire someone who maybe wasn’t the best fit.  My guidelines, borne purely from experience, are as follows:

1) The candidate should know something about the school.  There should be evidence that she has investigated important information about the school embedded throughout the interview.

2) Good interview questions are a must.  They need to lead the team of interviewers to understand this person’s philosophy of education.

3) The candidate must express the understanding that the teacher is responsible for figuring out how to motivate each child to learn.  If the teacher gives off the impression that “I teach it.  If the students don’t learn it, then it’s their fault,” then this teacher would not be a match for my school.

3) A diverse interview team representing the main interests of the students is also a must.

4) The candidate needs to be a fit for where the school’s vision will lead it.

5) Finally, the candidate MUST be willing to be a team player, a life-long learner, someone open to the technology available as it fits a lesson and/or professional development activity, and most importantly, a role model through example for children (or young adults, whatever age the students may be).

Reference

Whitaker, T. (2002). Dealing with difficult teachers, 2nd ed.  Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education.

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Teacher Strikes

When I had the opportunity to serve as a school leader, I was blessed to never have to experience a teachers’ strike.  As far as preparation for a job a principal, I can’t imagine any university program or state department of education training that could prepare a principal for the tenuous situation she finds herself during a teachers’ strike.

The situation for the students of Chicago Public Schools is very sad.  All the grown-ups have been struggling to come to any agreement on key issues, and ultimately, students lose precious days of education as this continued through the week.  Principals have the responsibility to oversee any students who do attend school within a program provided (in this case, the Children First programs located at approximately 144 of Chicago’s schools) and the grown-ups who are brought in to work with the students.  If a strike continues for more than a few days, principals need to make plans to provide structure and education for students on a longer term basis.  Finally, principals are expected to publically support the district administration and the board of education.   This expectation is in stark contrast to what good principals work to do on a daily basis – build positive relationships with all staff members.

I read in one of the many articles (Sawchuck, 2012) about the ongoing strike about a principal, Lee Jackson, who walked outside his building with a smile for his picketing teachers to ask how they were and if he could do anything for them.  While still maintaining the program within his building, he continued to show a level of care and concern for his teachers that prompted genuine and mutual respect for people who have to be on “different sides” of this issue.  I believe this is a perfect example of a principal demonstrating moral leadership and is more likely to have an easier time returning to “normal” upon his teachers’ return to work.

Reference

Sawchuck, S. (2012, September 11). Waiting game: Inside a Chicago ‘Children First’ school [Web log post].  Retrieved from http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/teacherbeat/2012/09/inside_a_chicago_children_first_school.html.

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