One day the teachers at Indian Run Elementary, in Dublin, Ohio, organized a “Flash TACO bar” – a spontaneous buffet meal where they shared great food and fun together.
As principal of the school, Jen Schwanke reflected on the joy and creativity of her teachers: they not only love teaching but they also enjoy working together. How do you attract and build strong cultures of educators who find joy in teaching and just being together? In this week’s encore episode, Jen Schwanke, author of You’re the Principal, Now What! Strategies and Solutions for New School Leaders, and I discuss the importance of hiring high quality teachers.
Across the nation, principals are facing teacher shortages. In my state for instance, Oklahoma has felt that burden especially strong. The reasons vary: Whether it’s lower teacher pay in some states or the stress that comes with compliance or class sizes – fewer people are choosing education as a college major and career. This means that more than ever principals also have a competitive field in recruiting and retaining excellent teachers.
We first discuss reasons hiring teachers is a huge responsibility, including:
- The implications of your hires that go on for years and years (decades), either positive or negative
- How your hires represent your school (beliefs, philosophy, attitude, etc.)
Applications & Interviewing Takeaways
Next, we talk about some important hiring priorities to keep in mind:
- Depending on the size of your faculty and staff, your strategies for outreach may vary, but it’s important to determine ahead of time what your application process will look like and ensuring it is easy to understand. This means your district or school website must be updated with easy-to-locate applications.
- Consider soliciting applications before openings exist. In other words, if you keep general applications available, you may already have applicants available when openings occur.
- As you have openings, dig through applications and resumes looking for the qualities you want in a candidate. Open up applications inside and outside your district.
- Spend time on social media investigating possible candidates as you want someone who would be the right fit for working with students.
- If possible, it is best to interview by committee. Include a small group of teachers, administrators, or counselors so that you have a diverse representation. Clarify roles, and if your district allows you the responsibility, let the ultimate decision be yours.
- Remain open to changing your mind as your colleagues may have different perspectives from you. Determine what you are looking for, and remind committee members that feelings/emotions are not hiring criteria: “I really like her! She’s so fun!” cannot be the driving-force of whom you hire.
Common Missteps to Avoid
Hiring is not necessarily about being “right” or “wrong” in your choices, it is about “fit.” As you’re looking for the right fit, keep these pitfalls in mind:
- Don’t fall for a beautiful resume: just because you see a great resume doesn’t always mean you have a quality candidate.
- Don’t fall for versed, rote answers: Universities train candidates in how to interview. Avoid robotics and explore answers for motivation and practice.
- Don’t use questions you found from the internet: Instead, use nonstandard interview questions–ones that really reflect what you need.
- Don’t forget to ask “why”: Take time to ask why do you want to be here?
Don’t ignore references: This is one of the most important steps to not forget.
- Who is not on the list? Make sure you contact both who is on the list and if possible, who may not be on the list but should be.
- Follow-up through phone calls, not an email or survey (these are very common practices common lately but don’t replace the kind of feedback you’ll hear in voice-to-voice conversations).
- Be very wary of vague answers. (Jen shares one trick she uses when having a hard time recommending some is saying, “Her attendance was good.”)
- Be careful of your gut. It’s okay to trust your instincts… just so your “gut” contains facts and an unbiased review of all the steps.
Let’s Wrap This Up
Hold to your standards when it comes to hiring high quality teachers. Remember the goal is to hire someone you would want teaching your own child. At the end of the day, if you can’t find the quality person needed for a position, it may be better to move forward with a substitute than to place the wrong person in a teaching position.
Now It’s Your Turn
If you’re in a place where the pool of candidates is shallow, this means becoming creative in finding the right candidates: use your social media contacts, advertise in both traditional and non-traditional settings, and use the positive messaging of your school as a way to attract quality candidates.
What are the most valuable values and qualities you are looking for in a teaching candidate? How are you including others on your team in selecting and choosing your hires? What are some creative ways to stand out among others in attracting high quality candidates to your school?
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