Help in Mastering the Crap Shoot of Hiring New Teachers

I have been interviewing teacher candidates for over 15 years. I have interviewed teachers that I thought were great, hired them and found out that the interview was not a good indicator of their teaching ability. I have gone the other way as well. The interview was ok, but they were the best I could find. I hired them with some trepidation, only to find out that they were fantastic, dedicated and caring teachers. Like the title says, it can be a real crap shoot at times.

Over the course of many years, I have developed some questions that I rely on to give me my best chance at hiring the best people. I have also developed a philosophy on what type of teacher I want working with my kids. First, let me tell you a little bit about what I am looking for in a teacher.

I have been in a middle school for 27 years of my 30 year career. The gasps I get at parties when I say that. But this is what I have figured out. I can teach you curriculum, I can teach you best practices, I can teach you teaming and middle school PLC’s. I cannot teach you to love middle school kids. If you love middle school kids. you can come work for me. Now, understand that I am not minimizing pedagogy. It clearly is a critically important component of a successful teacher and a successful school. However, much if it can be taught. But you either love middle school kids or you don’t. And, for the record, I feel the same way about elementary kids and high school students. I believe that we have a niche where we feel the most comfortable and have the best chance of success.

Now to the questions that I use. This is not an exhaustive list, but they are some of my favorites and the answers I am looking for.

  • Tell me what are the three most important characteristics of a great middle school teacher? For this one I am looking for some indication of caring for middle school students.
  • What are some of the differences between elementary/high school students and middle school students? I ask this when we are interviewing someone who has experience at another level and wants to come to middle school. I am looking for some knowledge of adolescents and how the teacher would adjust the instruction.
  • Why is middle school an important part of a child’s education? Here I want to hear something about the teachers perspective on middle school. I believe that it is not just a bridge between elementary school and high school. It is much more than that. I want to hear about a well-rounded education, offering opportunities for students explore and develop passions.
  • What do you like the lost and the least about middle school students? Here I am looking for some honesty about what middle school students are actually like. If you spend more than 10 minutes with a middle schooler you know that they are complex individuals. That is a nice way of saying that they drive you crazy on a regular basis and for some reason you keep coming back each day.

What are some of your go to questions when interviewing candidates?

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About drellena

Principal of Tomahawk Creek Middle School in Chesterfield County, Virginia. President of the Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals.
This entry was posted in Leadership, Learning, Middle School and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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