In May 2016, I explored some ways administration could help retain the best teachers in their building.
Making sure good talent doesn’t leave is critical in maintaining and growing a building’s culture, but is a moot point if the talent itself isn’t good. A school isn’t like a basketball team, where one or two all-stars can carry the organization into decades of success. Schools need to constantly look for new talent; teachers drop out of the profession for a variety of reasons, many of which fall outside of building control.
This year I sat on a committee that reviewed the hiring process (aka “the process”) in its entirety – from the initial contact a potential candidate makes with the district (whether through our website, a career fair, or student teaching) all the way through the signing of a contract. We dove deep to figure out the “why” behind everything that we communicate. To borrow a phrase from The Bachelorette, we wanted to know if we were doing everything we were doing in the process for the “right reasons.”
If you read that May 2016 post, then it should come as no surprise that the key to hiring the best teachers is going to be differentiation again.
But this differentiation is… different. When you’re hiring for a new teacher, you want the process to work for you. If you want your building to have a culture where teachers go out of their way to support their students by opening their classrooms for hours after school, attending sporting events and plays, then show that outlook is desired through “the process.” If you want your teachers to show that time is valuable and to demonstrate how to balance life and work by modeling it, then show that philosophy is valued through “the process.” There’s no right or wrong in either philosophy, but incompatibility between building and teacher philosophies leads to wasted time and money.
With hiring, the more preparatory work a district can do to clarify their vision and culture, the more likely they will select a good fit for their building. And when I say good fit, I ultimately mean whether they add to or detract from the building’s culture. Sometimes a teacher doesn’t truly shine until they find a culture that complements their talents; Marshawn Lynch lost his starting job for the Buffalo Bills, but ultimately became part of the bedrock of the world champion Seattle Seahawks. On the other hand, a teacher can look and be outstanding on paper, but fail to leave an impact if they don’t fit your school’s culture, in the same way that Jimmy Graham has been slow to contribute to the Seahawks. (If you’re reading this from another state, replace this with sports stars from your home town – for example, if you’re from New York consider using Ryan Fitzpatrick and Chris Johnson. And if you don’t like sports, consider a TV show or book – like Saved By The Bell, when AC Slater showed up to Bayside vs when Tori joined the cast).
A strong district will know what their culture is and mold every part of “the process” around that culture. If you, for example, are a district that values being on the cutting edge of technology, then lure teachers by tweeting out your district’s recruitment video.
These are some of the questions our district is still wrestling with that will ultimately lead us to a better process:
- When someone is looking for a job in our district, does our website truly reflect who we identify ourselves as? Or does it look like it was made from a boilerplate template by HR professionals?
- Are there any high-quality candidates that we lose simply because of avoidable barriers? (e.g. a method to collect information from interested candidates even when no job posting exists, a lack of user-friendliness to our website/phone systems, etc.)
- Do we do anything to set ourselves apart? If we’re truly looking for the best candidates, then they should in theory have their pick of whatever schools they want. What do we do to make sure we are that pick?
- Are there any pipelines of talent that we aren’t utilizing to their fullest extent? Alumni? Teacher prep programs?
- Do we truly know what we value and prioritize as a district? Does our process reflect that?
Our changes are still in progress, but we’ve started doing some of the above thinking. What does your district do to help attract higher-quality candidates?
Holding Red Rose image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Right Shape for Right Hole image courtesy of Clare Bloomfield at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Marshawn Lynch image By Stephanie Rush, Pacific Regional Medical Command Public Affairs [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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