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