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?