Loading the Teacher Bus



I have to admit that I find this time of year both frustrating and exciting.  It does not seem to take long for the current school year to crash into the next school year.  Decisions are needed for budgets, staffing, ordering and spending and time-tabling, all while business as usual is going on around the building.

It is easy to understand why most administrators think that hiring and “loading the bus” with the best possible staff is one of the most important things we do.  Nothing has as big of influence over student achievement than the teacher in the room.

With so many things to consider, it can be a difficult and nerve-wracking process. Not only are we wanting to hire someone with all the skills necessary to be an outstanding classroom teacher, but we also need someone who will mesh nicely in the culture of our building and be an excellent staff member as well.

In my teaching career I have had the honor and privilege of working with many talented teachers and have had the opportunity to learn many things from the people who I work with.  In the short time I have been an administrator-5 years, I have interviewed and hired many great teachers as well, but…I have also hired a few not really suited for the rigors of an elementary classroom.

According to a study conducted by McRel, a private and non-profit educational  research corporation, the attributes that matter the most to teacher success are:

  • Some experience
  • Preparation and content pedagogy
  • Strong academic preparation
  • Verbal and cognitive ability

So if I find teachers that fit these 4 criteria, will that mean I have hired a great teacher? It seems very cut and dry to think this is true.  I could probably get most of this information without even talking to the candidate.

There are countless sites that claim to have the secret to good teaching- Top 10 Qualities of a Great Teacher, Ten Traits of a Good Teacher, and so on, but there is still no guarantee that I will be able to detect all those qualities suggested in an interview situation.

It seems to me that some of the most important attributes a teacher needs to have is a belief in kids and a belief in themselves as a teacher.  Teachers also need to have strong relationship skills, a willingness to be a life long learner and “withitness” or the ability to have eyes in the back of their heads to manage a busy classroom and again the list could go on and on.

Teaching is not simple, it requires grit, stamina, a willingness to admit we don’t have all the answers and the desire to work as a team to do what is right for children at all times. I always say to my staff-teaching is not for the faint at heart.

So, my fellow educators and administrators, I am seeking the truth about hiring and interviewing.  What are some of your best interview questions?  How do you ensure you are hiring the best teachers possible?