How to Hire the Perfect Teacher; Interview Like a Pro

For the past several years, springtime has brought about the opportunity to interview teachers for the upcoming school year.  Interviewing is a skill and an art that I was never taught,  In fact, my only experience with it before I became a principal, was the experiences I had myself when I was interviewed for a job,  This in no way made me an expert, or even slightly qualified for that matter.

As usual, whenever it was time to interview a candidate, I would go to the Internet to google possible interview questions.  Sometimes I would sit together with other teachers from the school and think about our current practices and what types of things we would want new hires to be versed on.

Often times the questions looked something like this:

  • What types of assessments do you use to determine the reading proficiency of your students?
  • Tell me what a typical science lesson would look like in your classroom.
  • You have a student who speaks very little English, how would you support that student?
  • How do you work with team members?
  • You notice two students fighting during a soccer game at recess, what would you do?

Although good, these types of questions never really seemed to get down to what I really wanted to know.  In fact, all these questions really demonstrated was the interviewees ability to answer the questions.  It reminded me of taking a written test to see how good of a driver you are.  Really, I knew nothing about how effective the teacher was following these types of interviews.  What it would come down to was who answered the questions in the way I thought they should be answered.  It was simply a chance for a teacher to show what they had memorized or what they knew; not what they did.

This year, I wanted to do better.  Somehow I had to get better at choosing the best candidate for the job!  As I was discussing this on twitter one day, Todd Whitaker pointed me towards his book Six Types of Teachers.  In chapters 9 and 10 of the book, Todd brought up some great points and got me thinking.

How can a teacher demonstrate their teaching skills, during an interview?

With this in mind, my trusted colleague and I set about constructing a different type of interview question.  In the end, we came up with the following three questions:

  1. How would you impact the academic achievement of your students?
  2. How would you impact the community and belonging in your classroom?
  3. How would you impact the culture and climate of the whole school?

Being very open-ended we were very curious to see how interviewees would respond to these questions.  We deliberately used the word “would” as in “How would you…” because we wanted to see if the interviewee could put themselves in a classroom in our school.  Had they taken the time to find out about this place, our students, our goals and how they would fit in here.  We didn’t necessarily want to know “How do you….” we want to know “How would you…”

In order to fully answer the questions, candidates were notified of the questions before the interview.  They were asked to bring to the interview an artifact or evidence showing how they would make the impacts we identified.

English: Children and their teacher at the Mou...

English: Children and their teacher at the Mount Nathan State School, ca. 1913 Several schoolchildren standing beside a timber one-room school in the Gold Coast hinterland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

During the interview, we had a very specific and purposeful job of probing or asking more questions.  We wanted to get down to the nitty gritty.  Once a candidate explained for example, how they would impact the academic achievement we would ask three main questions:

  • What is the purpose?…. the purpose behind the task, of doing it in this way etc.
  • What are you teaching (by doing this big project or unit)?
  • What did your students learn?  How did you know they learning it? What did you do if they didn’t learn it?

Following the interview, we were able to have a very rich discussion about the artifacts and examples the candidates brought forward.  None of the questions we asked led them into our way of being, and none of the questions gave right or wrong answers.  Presumably the candidates showcased their very best which gave us the opportunity to visualize their fit at our school.  We knew that if a teacher featured differentiation, personalization, engaging students in different ways or assessment it was a part of who they are and what they do.  If they didn’t even bring it up, probably it does not mean much to them.

For now we are going to stay with these three interview questions and work on honing our skills of listening and visioning.  I am most interested to hear about interviews you are conducting.  How do you find the just right teacher?

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Everything You Need to Know About Blogging In the Classroom

Guest Post by Blogger Jon Patry

You can visit Jon’s blog at www.eduboot.com and follow him on twitter @jtpatry

Since January, the students in the classroom have had the opportunity to begin using a Web 2.0 application Kidblog to create their own blog within a larger classroom established platform.

It is always unnerving to use new applications and tools to engage the learner, as often enough there are going to be questions that can’t be answered immediately.  We as teachers need to start realizing, that we aren’t always going to have the answers, and more often enough a student might be the black box holder.

Using a blog in the classroom can have many purposes and ultimately it is up to the teacher of how they want to create the experience for the students.  In our classroom, the blog is used for written expression and communication.  There isn’t a particular curricular focus for the blog, other then it is our classroom and students sharing.

What is published and posted on the blog is up to the teacher, as the content list is endless.  The blog is flexible and the teacher can use the platform for sharing showcasing, collaborating, creating, questing and informing.  Or simply put:

collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication.

The teachers role begins with conversations with the students about what a blog is (great youtube video by CommonCraft “Blogs in Plain English”).  This resource helped opened up the conversations about what makes/creates a good blog, what makes a good post, how should we ask questions, and what types of information should we include.  Promoting digital citizenship was also a huge component to working within this unique digital space.  The role of the teacher is unique in the digital community as you get to facilitate the conversations or get the wheels moving, and then sit back and watch the conversations unfold.

English: Students working at computers at Wald...

English: Students working at computers at Walden School in Louisville. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We began to post assignments and webquests on the blog as a means for students to work at school and at home.  With the assignments posted on the blog, information was posted for all to see (parents and students).  Webquests were caged to provide a foundation for students to work from.  Questions and web links were posted to get the thought juices flowing, and students had the option to use just the information posted or venture out on his/her own and seek more information.  Time frame for task completion is flexible, but with the Internet made available 24/7/365, students have access anytime at home and school.

Now you are hooked, interested and you want to start a classroom blog!  Blogging is becoming a great tool to use in the classroom.  It is great to jump in and try this wonderful experience, but as a teacher you want to become comfortable with using the application itself.  First and foremost, before you dive in and get your kids blogging, you must insure that you have followed protocol and filled out the appropriate documentation.  Ask yourself the question

What is your purpose of the blog in the classroom?

There isn’t a one-size-fits all purpose for blogging in the classroom and it really is a unique experience for those who use it to communicate with the world.  Is your blog’s purpose to:communicate with parents, publish student work in a portfolio, daily journal, communication tool with students from across the globe (this year we were talking to students from Russia to New Jersey).

Here are some other suggestions to help:

Platform Selection

There are many great platforms to choose from in the blogging world, but you need to select a platform that is going to best suit your students needs.  Safety and security are also two important areas of concern from both the home front and the board. kidblog.org and edublogs.org are two sites that put students needs and concerns first.

Establish Guidelines

Most of these parameters are going to be established when filling out the Web 2.0 PIA document that is highly recommended to fill out. Many boards require such documentation to be filled out in regards to what type of information you are posting.  Some other questions to consider:

  1. Will the blog be public or private?
  2. What protocols are you going to have in place for commenting on the blog?
  3. Are you going to read all of your students blog posts and comments before they are published?
  4. How are you going to deal with inappropriate conduct on the blog?

Inform the Parents

This is a pretty important and vital step to your blog.  Most parents are going to be supportive about blogging, and in fact some might already dabble in the experience.  Often enough though many parents are misinformed about what a blog is.  This is why it is important to have your purpose clear and laid out to explain to the parental group.

Final Thoughts

Blogs in the classroom is a great medium for students to communicate and express ideas when the need for written expression is required or desired.  The blog itself becomes a personalized form of written expression for all students in the classroom.  This is especially important for those students whom are more hesitant to speak in the class or have verbal communications skills.  The blogging experience has been a positive experience this year and one that utilized technology in a purposeful and meaningful manner, and an experience that will be repeated in the fall.

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