Hiring the Best Teachers: Administrators Need a Careful, Inclusive Process
Your most important task as a school administrator is ensuring the physical, academic and emotional safety of your students. Your second-most important task is deciding who will teach them.
The research is absolutely clear on this: It’s the teachers — their dedication, aptitude and work ethic — who ultimately determine the success or failure of a school. How can administrators be sure they’re inviting the right new teachers to their schools? Here’s what I advise:
Get others involved in hiring
I have learned over time — and through much trial and error — that I am at my best when I work closely with my colleagues. Bringing together a committee to screen, interview and move candidates forward in the hiring process is essential to bringing successful teachers into a school.
In addition to helping the staff feel more ownership of the process, the teachers are much more collaborative and friendly with teachers they helped bring into the school. They feel like the work is being done with them, not to them.
Does that mean giving up authority over who is hired?
The answer is no. A properly structured hiring process where key personnel play key roles will help to bring in a better teacher. This will, in turn, help the school run better and free you up to take care of other responsibilities.
Hiring a poor teacher can generate a tremendous drain on resources, morale and performance. You’re not giving away your power; you’re sharing it to empower others to ensure good hires.
Make sure candidates can collaborate
In the past, a teacher was often a lone wolf in the classroom. The increasingly demanding nature of teaching, complex curricula and connective technology requires today’s teachers to work closely with their colleagues.
In interviews, ask candidates for specific examples of working effectively with others. Be sure to push them on this. A new teacher who shrugs off the help of colleagues or won’t work together can be a killer for morale and performance.
Tailor the process to your school
Before meeting with a candidate, convene your selection committee to establish a baseline series of questions that all candidates should be asked. Aside from standard teaching-background questions, tailor specific items to the culture and expectations of your school. This will help you to find the best fit for the building.
Assess the impact of the hire
Deciding who will be invited to join your school community is a massive undertaking because you have to take the time to assess the overall impact of a hire. Make sure to ask:
- Does the candidate have the capacity to meet your (high) expectations for teacher performance?
- Are there any warning signs from the interview process that you should be looking out for?
- Is the candidate a good fit for the grade level or department where they’ll be working?
You aren’t just hiring a teacher. You’re hiring a new member of the school community.
Look beyond the classroom
You should definitely look at the big picture when hiring a new teacher, particularly at what candidates can do at the school level. Can they run a club, serve as an adviser or coach a sport?
A highly motivated and energetic teacher, full of good cheer and caring, can be an incredible asset to a community. Also pay attention to how they will interact with parents. They need to win the confidence and trust of the parent community.
Be prepared to help
As thorough as your hiring process will be, you need to stand ready to offer professional development and assistance as needed. Even the best teachers will need help from time to time, and they should be expected to both ask for and be ready to receive help.
If you do not have one, develop a formal new-teacher orientation process that lasts throughout the school year. Expecting continuous growth applies to teachers as well as students.