Tuesday, May 21, 2013

8 Steps to Selecting a Dream Team of Teachers

Here are just a few of the many positive comments I heard after selecting 35 staff members in our unique interview process for Camarena Elementary.

"I felt like you really got to know my skills and abilities".

"I wanted to take the opportunity (sic) Dr. Winters and his team for putting together the most comprehensive interview process I have ever experienced. Thank you for interviewing me and congratulations on doing such a great job of putting together a solid hiring plan. Parents, you should know that your kids are in good hands. You can just tell that they know what they're doing!" (posted on school website)

"I felt like I was interviewing at Google".

So what was this interview process, you ask?  Here are the steps that we took to select those amazing teachers who now call Camarena Elementary home.

1.  Develop a Mission, Purpose, and Values
2.  Develop Criteria for the teachers who sill implement #1
3.  Review candidate narrative against #1
4.  Contact current Principal for direct reference
5.  Set up 15 minute observation for strong teachers before interview
6.  Ask candidates to prepare by sending references, reading iPad article, and sending in student work.
7.  Send interview questions for one on one session 4:00 the night before and notify them that they will have 20 minutes to answer all questions.
8.  Interview Day consists of group problem solving, writing task, and 20 minute interview.

1.  Develop a Mission, Purpose, and Values - This was developed through several iterations and conversations with prospective teachers and community parents.  That document is attached.

Camarena students and staff will 
  1. be models of character demonstrating integrity, perseverance, and leadership as members of a community where they are valued for their individual strengths.
  2. be voracious learners, inspired to explore and know the world around them. 
  3. be clear thinkers through structured social learning, the interplay of ideas, deep reflection, and evidence based opinions.
  4. be fully literate (including digital literacy) integrating their knowledge in all academic arenas.
  5. be excellent collaborators and communicators who listen critically and empathetically to one another and speak with clarity and effectiveness enhanced by multimedia.  
  6. explore their passions and interests every day, publish what they are learning, and create products that exemplify their unique talents and skills.
  7. embrace technology to facilitate the acquisition of the best knowledge and information, the development of products and presentations, and to make connections with experts and co-learners anytime, anywhere.
  8. embrace languages through a Dual Immersion program and foreign language opportunities.

Purpose: Just as Enrique Camarena inspired so many through his life of community service and self-sacrifice, Camarena Elementary will serve as an inspiration to the local, national, and international community as a pioneering school where all learners are engaged by pursuing their passions and interests in an atmosphere of innovation, teamwork, and joy.

Mission: To make Camarena the model neighborhood school for learning in the 21st century.

2.  Develop Criteria for the teachers who sill implement Mission, Purpose, and Values.  Here's what we came up with:

  1. Inspiring and motivating teachers who differentiate instruction based on student needs and understand that learning is enhanced through quality relationships.
  2. Skillful users of technology to accomplish learning goals and increase student engagement.  Evidence of incorporating technology in content consumption, deliberate practice, and content creation.
  3. Experts at designing instruction around Understanding by Design (UBD) principles and essential questions and integrating material across content areas.
  4. Evidence of instructional maturity.  Ability to inspire the love of learning in students through engaging instructional routines.  Embraces literacy and instills the love of literacy in students.  Understands how standards fit into the big picture of learning for authentic purposes. Not program dependent but able to THINK about and design quality instruction around the BEST content.
  5. Eager team players who make those around them better by sharing their great ideas and absorbing the best ideas of their colleagues.
  6. Not satisfied with the status quo.  Wants to be a part of something uniquely different and better than the current school model.  Knows that there is a better way and is eager to join with others to co-create a school that works for students.
  7. Learners who can adapt to new environments, change, and fresh ideas.  Evidence of personal ambition to learn through any means - reading books, articles, web search, social networks, professional networks, experimentation, noticing, action research, etc.  
  8. Skilled at engaging parents in the education of their children through two-way communication, empathy, personal outreach, and perseverance.
  9. Affable - Fun to be around.  enjoys life and learning and students.  Laughs at jokes (especially very punny jokes)
  10. People of the highest integrity and moral character.
  11. Bilingual preferred or willing to learn another language
  12. Experience, knowledge, and professional development in Dual Immersion Program and instruction
Actually we had to get rid of #9 since I guess I really can't require people to laugh at my jokes.  I should have known that since my wife and daughter won't do it and they're quite fond of me.

3.  Review candidate narrative against Listed Criteria

Many narratives were clearly written for a generic position. Those candidates were not the ones we were looking for.  If you didn't connect with the mission, purpose, and values, you weren't going to be right for Camarena.

4.  Contact current Principal for direct reference

I have interviewed candidates for many years and it was only until recently that I started calling the Principals before the interview.  This sure makes a lot of sense.  You begin to find out early who your top candidates will be and look a little carefully at those strong candidates to find qualities that will separate them from the field.

5.  Set up 15 minute observation for strong teachers before interview

This also proved to be very beneficial. I was able to see candidates in their own environment and with apologies to Malcolm Gladwell, you can tell in the blink of an eye a quality classroom when you walk into his/her room.  Culture has been established over nearly a year and big differences become apparent instantaneously.

6.  Ask candidates to prepare by sending references, reading iPad article, and sending in student work.

Some of our candidates rolled their eyes at the extra "work" that was being required, but this step helped to weed out candidates who were not serious and gave us nuggets of information to help separate the nearly 200 candidates that applied for our school. Of course, the content of your request should be based on the criteria you are seeking.

7.  Send interview questions for one-on-one session 4:00 PM the night before and notify them that they will have 20 minutes to answer all questions.

My belief is that the traditional interview of forcing someone to think on their feet with no preparation has limited benefit.  In their actual job, teachers almost always have plenty of time to prepare their lesson.  In fact, giving questions ahead of time presents a very different challenge of being succinct and to the point.  We had several candidates who went way too long on a couple questions and never got to the end of the interview.

8.  Interview Day consists of group problem solving, writing task, and 20 minute interview.

We organized each interview day into sets of four candidates.  All four came in at the designated time to have a 15 minute discussion on three different topics or tasks.  These sessions were invaluable in getting to know which of our candidates would be able to work together with their colleagues. Some groups actually started to bond in the hallway before the meeting.  Others said nothing to each other and came in cold.  Once the group session was over, three candidates went outside to write while the fourth candidate waited for his/her turn for the interview.   Our panels had discussions about candidates after every group session and each individual session.  I would share what I had heard from Principals and in my observations.  Panel members would also share what they knew of each candidate.

This process was extremely time consuming because of the sheer number of candidates, however every minute was worth it as the staff that we finally selected for this school was of the highest caliber.  In fact, you could make an extremely successful school from the top 30 candidates that we were not able to hire.

I highly recommend you consider some or all of these steps as you gear up for your next round of interviews.  What are your thoughts?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

On the afternoon of May 9, 2013, I waited, with cell phone in hand, for the phone to ring. When it finally did, I was ecstatic to find out that I had been selected to be a member of this amazing team of teachers to open Camarena Elementary School. I appreciated the selection process we candidates had to undergo in order to earn an offer of assignment. I knew that this very thought out selection process would help the selection committee find those teachers that really wanted to work at Camarena for all the right reasons. I look forward to meeting the community and getting started on this new venture!