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How to Interview, Hire, & Retain HighQuality New Teachers

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The key to student success starts in the classroom. Principals face the challenge of finding and keeping highly qualified teachers who will work to ensure learning for all. The authors use firsthand experiences and observations to guide readers through effective processes for recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and supporting faculty who best fit the needs of individual schools.

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1 Why It Is So Important to Help Rookie Teachers

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Jane Crewe is like most school principals today. She never seems to have half the time needed to do what people expect her to do in her school. In her five years on the job, she has learned that people expect principals to be miracle workers and do more with fewer resources each day. That is why she is frustrated when she reviews her teacher roster for the next year and suddenly realizes that she will be leading a school with four first-year teachers without prior experience outside student teaching. Two members of this new group went through alternative teacher certification programs at a local university, one left a career as an investment banker when that line of business began to lose its appeal, and the other is entering the classroom after twenty years in the U.S. Air Force. This means that Jane’s school, Kingsley Elementary, will now have eighteen teachers (out of forty-six) with three or fewer years of experience on staff.

Jane is not frustrated simply by the fact that she will be working with several new teachers. There were a few years when she had even more rookies. This anxiety is unfortunately common among the principals in the Gulf Streams Local Schools, a school system currently facing not only growth in student enrollment but also numerous departures by many experienced teachers who are either retiring or seeking positions in neighboring school districts that pay more for experience. What adds to Jane’s frustration is that, at the most recent principals’ meeting with the superintendent, they were told each principal would be expected to submit a plan for helping newly appointed teachers in their schools. Susan Shamonsky, the superintendent, made it clear that she looked at the new teachers entering the school district as a key ingredient to creating one of the most highly respected systems in the entire state.

 

2 How Your Values Define Your Task

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In the first chapter, we noted how critical it will be to find, hire, and keep good teachers to ensure effective educational programs for all students. We also noted that the principal of each school will be a factor in the teacher recruitment and hiring process. The days of site-based management are here, and activities like selecting new teachers will increasingly be an action shifted from central offices to individual schools.

In this chapter, we consider an extremely important part of the teacher selection process that relates directly to principals. Simply put, the ways in which the right teachers can be found for an individual school will, in large measure, be determined by the values and beliefs of school leaders.

Principals have always been expected to monitor their teaching staffs to determine as early as possible the likelihood of any turnover for the next school year. Keeping an eye (and ear) open to who may be retiring next year or which teachers may be looking for jobs in other districts or seeking transfers to other sites in the school system has always been an important part of the principal’s job. The principal should be able to predict where new teachers might be needed; there is a need to maintain a constant eye on who might be back next year or who may be ready to leave.

 

3 How to Start the Search

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There are several time-tested approaches used by school districts and individual school leaders when searching for new teachers. In this chapter, we note strategies that may be followed by the leader of a school as she or he moves forward with the increased responsibilities of engaging in personnel recruitment, and we suggest some of the right places to find the talent needed to make a good school even better. We will discuss the most frequent strategies, which involve relying on student teachers or substitute teachers with whom a principal might already be familiar, attending job fairs, contacting local colleges or universities for recommendations, advertising, and using technology.

When filling teacher openings, many principals make extensive use of candidates who already know about the school. Two traditional sources are student teachers who have recently worked in the school and regular substitute teachers. There is an assumption that someone who has already spent time in a particular building will be ready to step in as a regular member of the teaching staff. It would certainly simplify searching for new teachers if a principal could discover someone who already had some knowledge of local priorities, practices, and policies.

 

4 How to Plan and Carry Out Interviews

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Many principals have considerable skill and knowledge meant to improve the efficacy of teachers who, in turn, will work to increase learning in schools. They are excellent at providing strong instructional leadership, and many are very effective managers of their schools. However, there are also many principals—including strong instructional leaders and effective managers—who are not great interviewers of candidates for teaching jobs. That fact does not in itself make a principal an unsuccessful leader, but it may indirectly result in a school with fewer strong and competent teachers. To help avoid this outcome, we discuss processes for planning and conducting effective initial interviews in this chapter.

Effective job interviewing involves much more than sitting in a comfortable chair with a notebook and pencil and chatting with a candidate for a job. It is more appropriate to think of it as an activity in which a carefully planned set of questions is asked of each finalist for a job. It is a way to go beyond all other devices used in gathering information about potential teachers in a school.

 

5 How to Draw Additional Questions From State and National Standards

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Numerous lists of effective teacher characteristics have been adopted as standards to guide certification and licensure. These standards represent sets of performance expectations by teachers. As such, they would hardly be appropriate for direct use in the interviewing process. However, they may serve as the basis for areas of potential development for those who work in classrooms. In many cases, they have been used as the basis for evaluating performance of teachers in their jobs, and in some cases, standards have also been used as guides for teacher professional development activity. They may also be used as a way to determine the potential skills and abilities desired in job seekers. In this case, they can serve as frameworks to be used by administrators or others who need to gauge potential performance through the questioning process suggested in the preceding chapter.

The Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (InTASC) standards were developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) primarily to guide the development of future teachers. There are ten standards ranging from knowledge of subject matter to classroom management to the development of partnerships with colleagues, parents, and the community. Following are the standards as described by the CCSSO (2011), accompanied by examples of interview questions based on the standards.

 

6 What Comes After the Interview

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Once an interview process is complete, committees face the task of determining which candidates they want to continue pursuing. It is important that groups are able to reach consensus on the status of candidates. In order to do so, there are a number of processes to complete and topics to consider. Here, we describe these and provide helpful questions to guide you through this decision-making process.

Remember that the process of finding good teachers to add to your school (or at least replace departing staff members) is not simply finding someone to take a job. If a school is truly committed to providing excellent educational opportunities for children, teacher selection can be a powerful tool to ensure that what takes place in the classroom leads to learning. Simply finding people who meet the minimal standards associated with a particular opening is only a start to improving the school in its effort to address the learning needs of students. In this chapter, we suggest some actions that might ensure that the interviewing process leads to hiring and keeping high-quality teachers.

 

7 How to Guide New Teachers After They Sign on the Dotted Line

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Each year, principals have an opportunity to add some new blood to their schools, but they also face a challenge with the arrival of rookies. The question is, How do you take the enthusiasm and awe often exhibited by new teachers and help them translate their energy into creative and productive work in classrooms? Another reality facing most new staff members and their principals is that new teachers are not only entering a new job, but a new profession. Teaching is a very important and satisfying world, but also a tiring and frustrating occupation in many ways, and new teachers need to be supported so they can cope with these challenges.

There are many effective recruiting and hiring practices to ensure that schools will be able to enjoy the benefits of excellent teachers. But the job of selecting new staff is not the end of the road. The first days on a job are, in fact, the beginning of a long journey for new teachers. Even in cases where teachers new to a school have had prior experience as teachers in other schools, or experiences in other life endeavors, being new can be a real and daunting challenge. Experienced teachers have at least been treated to the ups and downs of a school year. Newly minted members of the teaching profession are not familiar with the rhythm of a school year, and they are often unaware of the subtle nature of interpersonal relationships that are likely to occur in their first full-time job as a teacher.

 

8 How the Central Office Supports New Teachers

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The previous chapter included ways in which rookie teachers can receive support at the individual school level. This chapter considers two ways in which support for beginning teachers (as well as veteran teachers) may be provided by school districts. One is through structured mentoring programs, and the second is through comprehensive and focused professional development throughout the first few years for new teachers. As we have noted repeatedly in this book, teachers make a difference for students. If you find caring, dedicated, and talented classroom teachers, you are not simply filling a job; you are adding to the quality of learning. And while some leave the teaching profession because they feel mistreated, others give up life in the classroom because teaching is increasingly very demanding, hard work. While we note the absence of magical ways to keep teachers, we also recommend that school districts keep trying to assist newcomers in the hope that such effort will keep a high percentage of teachers who are hired each year.

 

9 Final Reflections From New Teachers

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The basic argument of this book is that the selection of new teachers is both a responsibility and an opportunity for a principal to move his or her school to excellence. Other members of the school community are also important partners in the selection of teachers who are likely to add to the quality of a school and help pursue its goals and objectives.

But the one voice not reported until now comes from the “customers” of the searching, interviewing, hiring, and supporting actions noted throughout the book. This last chapter offers comments often made by people who have gone through the selection process from the other side of the interview. Teachers who have recently gone through the frequently frustrating process of finding and getting a good job are full of stories about their experiences. The items listed here came straight from responses to the question, If you could advise the people who hired you in terms of what were (or what should have been) questions and issues to ensure that the best applicants for teaching jobs would be hired, what things would you suggest to improve the process?

 

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