Blog posts from Research for Better Teaching

Hiring New Teachers: Candidate Example #4

By Jon Saphier - May 22, 2015

Four very different kinds of skill— planning skills, management skills, motivational skills, and instructional skills — enable effective classroom teaching. All of these skills are essential to improving student learning. Unfortunately, we rarely get new teacher candidates with all four. Let’s look at an example of a hypothetical candidate. 

Should You Hire Mr. Excelsior?

Let’s say teaching candidate, Mr. Excelsior, walks through your door for an interview. How would you evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of this candidate? Would you hire him? If so, what would you focus on during his induction year into your building?

Based on your interview with Mr. Excelsior, you discover that he is an energetic young man who believes strongly that all children, even those who are way behind, can acquire the skills to achieve academically. He is well versed in the research on Growth Mindset. During a lesson demonstration with a class at your school, Mr. Excelsior had problems with classroom management. However, it is clear that he loves children and is determined to learn and improve. He has a Masters degree in social work, but no experience teaching elementary school. After your interview with Mr. Excelsior, you and your team discuss his strengths and weaknesses as a candidate.

What’s the Right Answer?

Mr. Excelsior’s social work background should help him to be empathetic to family situations and perhaps reach out to create family-school partnerships. Mr. Excelsior’s demonstrated work ethic together with strong mentorship should lead to his rapid learning. If hired, you should put him through a rigorous classroom management course so that he is set up to succeed at the start of the school year. If a professional development course isn’t possible, Mr. Excelsior should be referred to “Fred Jones’ Tools for Teaching” and he should be assigned an instructional coach to get his classroom management skills to proficiency. He must learn to employ clear routines, swift responses to off-task behavior, and clear limits in his classroom. You don’t want Mr. Excelsior to get discouraged early on by classroom management problems.