On “How Do We Identify & Teach Students with Learning Difficulties” and #edcampdelta

Teacher In Classroom

Supporting students who have difficulties in school has long been a priority for me in each assignment I’ve undertaken as an educator, whether it be classroom teacher, school-counsellor, administrator, or district administrator. More recently, that priority and importance took on a more personal note.

A few years ago a young girl was having difficulties in school. She was in Grade 1 at the time. The whole school was organized around multi-age groupings, and the girl had been with the same teacher in Kindergarten and it was expected that she would again be with the same teacher in Grade 2.

The teacher and the parents had discussed their concerns about her progress, and it was determined at the school level that she would get some support through the LAC teacher. Later on in communicating with the parents, the LAC teacher indicated that the student’s difficulties were ESL related. The LAC teacher continued that because the girl had been in a daycare in which the provider spoke both English and Chinese and because the girl’s grandmother (with whom she spent a lot of time) spoke mostly Chinese, her learning was delayed. There was no reference to assessments or other factors used to make this determination.

The parents were taken aback. Both parents had been born and raised in Canada. Both went through school without needing any type of ESL support, and both had completed more than one post-secondary program. The father is an educator. The father shared with the teacher his view that the girl’s problems were not ESL related, and that appropriate assessment and interventions were important. The father communicated that the interventions necessary for ESL students were likely different than the interventions necessary to support his daughter.

Subsequently, report cards were sent home with separate ESL reports attached. In bringing this concern to the LAC/ESL teacher, the parents were told that this was simply an error and the reports should not have been entitled ESL. In meeting with the Principal, the parents were again told that this was simply an oversight and assured that this identification was not reported to the Ministry of Education for funding purposes.

The girl’s difficulties in school continued into Grade 2, and the parents engaged private tutors. Typical communication that schools are under funded and resourced and that the girl’s difficulties would not be very high on the priority list provided a clear indication that it was unlikely that any testing through the school psychologist would occur in the near future. The parents made the decision to have their daughter tested by a psychologist in private practice. The father’s and mother’s extended health plans would cover only a fraction of the cost, but they felt that it was a necessary course of action. The testing began during the girl’s grade 3 year.

The private psycho-educational assessment was revealing and specific about the girl’s difficulties and suggested interventions and supports. There was no indication of ESL related problems.

The parents met with the girl’s classroom teacher, who she had for grade 3 and 4, and her new LAC teacher to discuss the findings of the report.

During teacher job action, periodically sent home with the girl were communications from the teacher about the issues related to the current job action and identifying the necessity of these actions in support of students. No meaningful reports were sent home. No communication from the school in regards to the girl’s progress or difficulties was received. As the teacher did not use email, the parents had to leave messages at the office for the teacher – none that were initially returned. Each time the parents followed up due to the lack of response, they eventually received calls back from the teacher who indicated that she had returned the calls and left messages. There had been no messages on the home phone, the parents’ cell phones, or their work phones. There was no indication on call displays of any calls.

During grade 4, after job action had concluded, parent-teacher interviews again began. Parent-teacher interviews in this class were student led. At the parent-teacher night the girl showed her parents around the classroom and told them what she had done in class. Afterwards, the teacher would hand the parents their daughters’ report card and stated that they could read it later at home. The parents would leave with no clear understanding of their child’s progress or plans of support for the remainder of the year.

At the end of the school year the only clarity that the parents had was that their daughter was behind.

This year, at the beginning of the girl’s Grade 5 year, the parents attended an IEP meeting with her new teacher and new LAC teacher. The meeting was student led with the involvement and support of both teachers. In this meeting the girl articulated what she believed were her difficulties and what she felt would benefit her in addressing these difficulties. Both the teacher and LAC teacher contributed context, support, and suggestions throughout the meeting. The teacher explained how students were grouped with a mixture of strong and weaker students, and explained the various strategies that would benefit all students in the groups. The LAC teacher also contributed her thoughts as to what would help during LAC time. The two teachers, parents, and the girl all discussed what could realistically be done at home and with the girl’s private tutor. An enlightening aspect of the meeting was a discussion about supporting the girl at school in developing the skills and strategies to self-advocate for what she needed given her learning difficulties.

The girl has had, so far, a positive year. At home with her parents she has been able to describe what she is doing and learning in class, the adaptations her teacher has been providing and implementing, the areas in which she is still having difficulties, and the different ways in which she has been encouraged to demonstrate her learning. While behind compared to her peers, she is positive about her learning and engaged.

It has so far been quite a journey for the family. From K-2, a positive relationship with the classroom teacher, but an incorrect assessment and possibly interventions through non-enrolling support; limited communication and clarity regarding the girl’s progress, strengths, and challenges for 2 years during grades 3 and 4; and now an eye-opening experience whereby, although still behind, the girl appears to be positively engaged and supported in her learning and also developing the skills to articulate and advocate for her needs.

This most recent experience is so important in that as the girl gets older and must take on more and more personal responsibility for her learning and progress, she is beginning to better realize and understand where her challenges are, some of the strategies that help and why, and hopefully, over time, how to let teachers….and her parents…know when and how she needs assistance.

However, I can’t help but think that if the father, an educator, had such a hard time getting information about and understanding his daughter’s progress in grades 3 and 4, how difficult it must be for parents who don’t necessarily have as strong an understanding of our education system to share in the responsibility for their children’s education.

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend another EdCamp in Delta. These type of opportunities are so important to me, as in my present assignment I have to be more proactive in seeking out professional development opportunities focused on teaching and learning. Out of necessity, Twitter and blogs have become a major source of ongoing professional development – but that’s for another post.

Intentionally, I attended sessions which had a lower subscription (fewer dots on the topics on the schedule board).

The session on “How Do We Identify and Teach Students with Learning Difficulties” had an impact on me, as I saw the power of student involvement and voice in an edcamp. In this session there were only a small number of educators and one parent, but it was also attended by approximately half a dozen secondary school students. Most of these students indicated that they had learning disabilities.

Some of the students’ comments during our discussions included:

    • It’s really hard to write and read out loud around other students
    • Helpful to be in a group with a student of similar level – not just a stronger student
    • Sometimes more comfortable if you can pick your partner to help edit
    • Helpful to have more than one person help with peer editing
    • When pairing/grouping students, will the stronger students want to help the weaker students?
    • Teachers asking an LD student to read out loud can be frustrating and embarrassing
    • If you have a learning disability and you get asked to read out loud you can get picked on
    • Not right to have students peer assess for the purpose of producing marks
      • Becomes a popularity game
    • Need to have more than one way to show our learning
    • Need a chance to improve our marks.
      • Sometimes teachers don’t give a second chance, and we don’t have the confidence to keep trying

While similar to the comments many of us as educators extol, the power of students sharing their views and experiences was incredible.

I appreciated the confidence these students displayed while participating in this group, and I wonder if they also have the confidence to share and advocate for their needs in their classes. I also wonder about the receptiveness of their teachers.

I also think about the journey of the girl described at the beginning of this post, and hope that she develops the same confidence I saw in the students at EdCampDelta, and, with the guidance and support of her teachers and parents, learns to effectively advocate for her own needs at school.

photo credit: www.audio-luci-store.it via photopin cc

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Photo via @EMSCarlson

 

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Applying & Hiring – Part 2

Job Application

Now that the school year is underway, among other things, we turn our attention back to the recruiting process.  Over the coming months we will be attending job fairs at the local universities to meet students in their final year of teacher preparation.

Also, in the New Year I’ve been asked to speak to student teachers at one of the universities about the process of moving from a teacher candidate to teacher.

The presentation will include suggestions to consider when applying and interviewing for positions.  I previously posted links to blog posts about applying and interviewing for both job seekers and employers [here].  I hope to draw attention to select posts which are still active and some of the newer ones I’ve come across (below) during the presentation.

I’d be interested to know if there are other posts which would be useful to share with pre-service teachers, but also points for student teachers to keep in mind as they are preparing applications and for interviews.

Please share your links and thoughts.

__________________________________________________
STUDENT TEACHERS

Dear Practicum Student

How to get the More out of your Practicum Experience

__________________________________________________
APPLICANTS

3 Things That Will Get Your Resume Thrown in the Trash

5 important steps to job interview success

5 Job Seeker Resolutions to Make in 2014

5 Reasons Your Portfolio Should Be Online

5 Ways Your Cover Letter Lost You the Job

7 Important Tips to Making your Job Application Stand Out

8 Quick & Easy Resume Tips You Can Use Now

Don’t Be Boring: How To Write A Cover Letter That Can Get You The Job

How to Ace Your Interview for a Teaching Position

How to Best Prepare for Your Job Interview

Is a Two-Page Resume Ever OK?

Is Your Resume 6-Second Worthy?

Interviewing Tip: Mind Your Buzz Words

Making the First Impression Count: 5 Interviewing Tips for Introverts

My Biggest Interview Mistakes Ever (and How to Avoid Them)

Nailing the Job Interview

Read my blog, not my resume…

Resume & Cover Letter Tips for Articulating Your Awesomeness

Six Steps To A Resume Upgrade

Teacher Interviews: Common Sense and Professional Advice

The 5 Biggest Resume Debates Among Recruiters—Finally Answered

The Power of Face-to-Face Networking for Recruitment & Job Search

The Perfect Elevator Pitch To Land A Job

The Teacher Interview Process – How to Stand Out

The Ultimate Guide to Being an Interview Pro

What Interviewers Wish They Could Tell Every Job Candidate

Top 5 Elementary Teacher Interview Questions

Things to Consider When Preparing for Your Special Education Job Interview

__________________________________________________
RECRUITERS AND INTERVIEWERS

Good Job Descriptions Make Good Hires

Good Job Descriptions Make Good Hires Part 2

Inside Information: 16 Interview Tips for Principals

Student Teacher Observations/Interview Process

What’s Wrong With Using Resumes For Hiring? Pretty Much Everything

Why unstructured job interviews are a waste of time

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photo credit: Ann Arbor District Library via photopin cc


Reputations: Easy to Get.… Hard to Lose….

I’ve been struggling with this post for a while now.

I’ve thought a lot about personal and professional growth for most of my career, and one of the difficulties I’ve had has been getting my head around reputations by which we become identified – both positive and negative.

I’ve read a few posts (including Judgement or Talent – Harry Potter and Leadership by @jordantinney and Professional Learning and Employee Support by Tom Grant) which do a better job of articulating thoughts about the importance of support than I ever could; however, I have not been able to escape the desire to put something down about reputations.

A few years ago, a Principal colleague and I were speculating about the upcoming period in which administrators would receive the news as to their assignments for the next school year. Some of us would be staying put, while some would be on the move to new schools and become part of new teams. As the conversation started to lead towards the compositions of teams and who we thought would be a good fit in each school, the conversation began to head towards the uncomfortable topic of character and reputations. Before we went any further, he commented that he didn’t want to perpetuate any unfair reputations or rumours.

That comment has stuck in my head ever since, and I recently had the opportunity to share with him how important it was to me.

Sometimes it’s just a single comment (true or inaccurate) from one person and sometimes it is discussions within a group that can catapult a person’s reputation, and as a result their career, in a number of different directions, positive and negative.

How many of us are aware of the reputations we carry with us in our day-to-day work? While many will say that they don’t care, as leaders we have a responsibility to our colleagues, to our staff, and to our organizations to propel everyone, including ourselves, forward in a positive direction.

I think about how reputations stick, at times unfairly, with little opportunity to change the perceptions of others.

I think about mistakes we make early and later in our career.

How often are people placed in a position in which they take on new tasks or responsibilities only to falter in approach and consequently results? How do we regard those who try new things or think “outside the box?” Do those who work above, or alongside, wait for people to falter and then criticize or reprimand? Do we label due to a singular or series of instances, without providing an opportunity to learn and move forward positively? Do we have an uneven playing field in which some are encouraged regardless while some are ignored or faulted.

How do we help the people with whom we work improve and grow? How do we help our organizations improve and grow?

When considering leadership and succession planning, we sometimes look around and comment on the lack of or weaknesses of potential leaders in the field with the requisite skills, experiences, and abilities required to fill our needs. The common commentaries are often focused on poor hiring and poor character. However, we also need to consider what WE do to support and develop from within – not just who we regard as the top staff but ALL staff.

We all learn from experience, and sometimes those learning opportunities need to be identified for us. Sometimes we need help to get over the hump. I can’t think of a better way for this to occur but from a position of relationship and support. The importance of relationships has been something I’ve always kept in the forefront [post].

The Principal mentioned above recently shared with me the difficult conversations he had with one of his colleagues. He pointed out some of the reputation that had been following him around, and in turn his colleague shared some personal information of which no one was aware but provided context to how he operated. Nevertheless, from that point on he has made a conscious effort to try to avoid the things which feed the reputation that has developed over the years, and perhaps, if people have been paying attention, those changes have been noticed.

Another Principal colleague recently shared a similar story in which he also had one of those difficult conversations with a colleague who couldn’t understand the cause of the problems she was having with staff and students. He capitalized on an opportunity to help her understand how some of the approaches she was using were unintentionally short-circuiting relationships, and he used that as an opportunity to work with her and offer support so that she wouldn’t be trying to turn things around on her own.

However, it’s unfortunate how long people can go on without anyone caring enough to intervene AND offer and provide needed support. Sometimes it’s due to lack of relationships. Sometimes it’s a perception of roles and responsibilities. Sometimes it’s because people have already been written off. Sometimes it is wanting to communicate and work only with the “rock stars.”  Sometimes there’s no problem at all… just a perception that’s been created by others.

With students our understanding, by and large, is that they will make mistakes and will need help to learn and move forward.  We also understand the importance of advocating for the misunderstood.  Many of us acknowledge our role in these regards.

Why should it not be the same for our colleagues and staff?

It’s good for the people with whom we work, it’s good for our organizations… and it’s good for reputations.

(photo credit: Joe Houghton via photo pin cc)


Engagement

I recently read a post on employee engagement [here] which includes the video below.  While the categories don’t necessarily appeal to the author of the post, and I wouldn’t necessarily advocate labeling people in the workplace, the thoughts described in the video provide interesting points to consider in the work we do.

While not focused on education, one can draw connections to the work of district leaders, school administrators, and teachers.

The video explains that success is defined by organization and business goals.  How well you achieve these goals is defined by performance.

Individuals provide high contribution in a successful organization.  At the same time, employees (executives, managers, staff) are on a path of their own personal definition of success, and looking for maximum personal satisfaction.

What employees want to get (satisfaction) and are prepared to give (contribution) intersect.  There are different levels of satisfaction and different levels of contribution and, as a result, different levels of engagement.

The “5 levels of engagement” outlined in the video and described in the post are:

Engaged:  These employees are contributing fully to the success of the organization and find great satisfaction in their work. They apply discretionary effort and take initiative.

(High on satisfaction & high on Contribution)

Almost Engaged:  These employees are reasonably satisfied with their jobs and are among the highest performers.

(In the centre. Decent performers and reasonably satisfied.)

Honeymooners & Hamsters:  Honeymooners are new to the organization or role and have yet to become fully productive. Hamsters may be working hard but focused on the wrong things — or they may be hardly working. The outcome is the same: maximum satisfaction for them and minimum satisfaction for the organization.

(High on satisfaction, but not fully contributing)

Crash & Burners:  This group is the opposite of the one above. They are high performers, delivering what the organization needs, but disillusioned or not achieving their personal definition of success.

(Great results, but not getting what they want.  Will quit or pull back on their contributions – quit and stay.)

Disengaged:  Disengaged employees are the most disconnected from organizational priorities and are not getting what they want from their work.

(Low on satisfaction and contribution)

The video emphasizes that creating a more engaged workplace:

  • can’t be solved with a survey and a few organizational wide initiatives.
  • is not the sole job of Executives and Managers
  • must be a daily priority
  • is a shared responsibility – team approach (executives, managers,
    and individuals)

The video outlines the following roles:

Individuals must “ACT

  • Assess own goals & satisfaction drivers – What does success look like?
  • Communicate w/ Managers – aspirations, needs, & what the organization needs from them
  • Take Action – need help, guidance, but they own their engagement

Managers must “CARE” about engagement

  • Coach for performance and development
  • Align priorities, interests, & talents w/ organization goals
  • Recognize achievements & effort
  • Engage selves & individual team members about what matters for the organization and them

Executives (Sr. Leaders) must model, lead by example, set the tone, and make their “CASE” for engagement

  • foster sense of Community
  • be Authentic in what they say & do
  • provide Significance to aims of organization & help employees find meaning in the work they do
  • build Excitement to move the organization forward

By making engagement an important part of the organization – a daily occurrence rather than an event – a culture of engagement that drives performance helps individuals achieve ambitions and satisfaction, and also contributes to organizational success.

I need to continue to consider engagement in my current role working with members of the department, but also in the way our department supports school administrators and staff.

What does all this mean to you in your work as a:

  • District Administrator/Leader with district staff and building administrators and staff?
  • School Administrator with staff and students?
  • Department Leader with colleagues?
  • Teacher with the students in your class?

______________________________

 

______________________________

(photo credit: cityyear via photo pin cc)


To be globally competitive, we should all begin to use chopsticks…. (Yong Zhao)

Yong Zhao, a professor at the University of Oregon, wasn’t serious when he tweeted the above statement with a link to a post on his blog. Yong Zhao’s blog post was a reaction to an article that pointed to a correlation between countries which had high PISA scores but few natural resources. However, it is interesting that 4 of the top 5 PISA countries (Shanghai – China, Korea, Finland, Hong Kong – China, Singapore) are Asian.

In reality, what is important is each country’s acknowledgement that “education matters.”

I recently watched a video on education reform in Shanghai, China.

While there are varying perceptions about teaching and learning in China and other Asian countries, it is the efforts towards educational change depicted in this video which I find interesting.

The video begins stating that over the last three decades in Shanghai special attention has been focused on education funding for young people and education policy. Throughout the journey of improving education, problems arose, but on each occasion, in response, new education policy was created to address each of those problems.

The video goes on to highlight an approach used to improve weak schools in Shanghai entitled “Empowered Administration.”

Empowered Administration includes:

  • A stronger school or educational institution is contracted to strengthen a weaker school
  • The strong school or institution provides administrative and pedagogical guidance
  • Such institutions are generally composed of retired school principals and teachers

Empowered Administration includes four partners:

  • the Shanghai municipal government
  • the external partner (school or firm)
  • the district education authority which finances the endeavour
  • an external evaluation body to independently assess the results of the project

In Shanghai it was felt that the issues in the weaker schools included administration that did not know how to run modern schools, did not have strong theoretical foundations, and had, “not followed the changes in technology and modernization,” and, as a result, were behind current practices.

Their approach dispatched strong management teams to lower performing schools.

In one school depicted, a weakness identified was in teachers who came to class without a lesson plan and not having prepared much. As a result, one of the focuses became the need to improve the quality of the teaching staff. The teaching profession is described in the video as a, “conservative and insulated occupation,” acknowledging that it is difficult to change behaviours that have already been formed.

A mentor administrator shown in the video uses his “success education” philosophy, which he had used to turn around a previous school. His “success education” philosophy has three main points:

  • All students are viewed as potential high achievers
  • Developing student self-confidence is the key
  • Intensive teacher mentorship is the strategy

In Shanghai there was recognition that change in approaches to teaching needed to be systematic and lasting. The system of sending in teachers to work one on one with other teachers would often result in immediate change; however, teachers would usually revert back to their former ways of teaching after a period of time.

As a part of providing ongoing support, non-governmental consulting firms were contracted to provide regular and on-going support directly to teachers, and included regular communication with school principals. These firms were usually staffed by retired administrators and teachers.

The Shanghai experience, I believe, offers some interesting considerations for the work we do in improving schools.

The focus on education funding and education policy, I believe, is important. I also believe that these two foci cannot be exclusive of each other. Increasing funding to continue doing what we’ve always done doesn’t make sense for educational improvement. Moreover, policy should focus and guide us in our efforts to organize and allocate resources (who should contribute to the design of educational policy is a whole different topic for a completely separate post).

However, in our system, accurately identifying the “weaker schools” is difficult, controversial, and gives rise to conflict diverting from the issues and solutions, just as does identifying weaker administrators or weaker teachers. The annual Fraser Institute rankings of schools in our province are a good example of a ranking system that probably divides the education community more than improves it. These types of rankings, especially based on limited criteria not widely acknowledged by the profession, have not helped improve our system, and after many years of controversy will not likely be embraced by educators in the near future.

Perhaps for our purposes the focus is not on weaknesses, which speaks to a deficit model, but rather opportunities to share and capitalize on the successful experiences of others towards continuous improvement. In our District we have, on a small-scale, approached that type of work through collegial conferencing projects, and to a lesser degree action research.

I notice some similarities between the Shanghai narrative and the framework in Michael Fullan’s, The Moral Imperative Realized. Fullan identifies the value and importance of administrators and educators working together as partners to link schools, help each other, and ultimately improve the whole system. Out of Fullan’s book I pulled out important aspects necessary for change which spoke to me at that time, including the importance of relationships [Post: Relationships, Relationships, Relationships], building capacity [Post: On Building Capacity], and recruiting and hiring teachers possessing strong foundations on which to build [Post: Don’t Wait for Superman].

I believe there is merit to supporting administrators and teachers with some sort of system of mentorship or collegial sharing. I don’t believe that teachers recently graduated from university training are ready to be classified as “master teachers” any more than newer administrators (Vice-Principals, Principals, and Board Office Administrators) have immediately developed all the skills necessary to address each responsibility resulting in immediate success. Becoming stronger teachers and stronger administrators comes with learning from experience and each other, mixed with some trial and error. I appreciate Fullan’s advocacy for the importance of encouraging, “risk taking, learning, and sharing of successful practices while intervening in a non-punitive manner.”

Districts use educators in a variety of capacities to support school-based educators, including positions such as helping teachers, mentors, consultants, department heads, district administrators, directors of instruction, etc. Each district will have its own model which they believe is the best fit to move the organization forward. However, attention also needs to be focused on ensuring that the model is efficient and truly addresses the needs of the district, schools, educators, and students, especially given a time of limited resources.

Ideally, we should see ourselves continuously striving to improve the work we do in providing improved and superior learning situations focused on success for each student.

… we just need to ensure we have the correct framework and tools in which to do so.

It’s a good thing my kids already know how to use chopsticks. BYOC.

 

__________________________________________________

 

(photo credit: sizima via photopin cc)

 


Applying & Hiring

Over the last few weeks I had an opportunity to meet some of the student teachers in our district. While there are still more I’d like to meet, this was a good start to the Spring application and hiring process.

The student teachers asked some great questions, and some of the posts I’ve read provide a variety of points to consider in response to those questions.

I previously posted some of my own thoughts about hiring [here], and, as I wrote, we continue to look for ways to improve our processes to attract and hire the best candidates possible.

We have been developing screening rubrics to help assess applications at each stage of the process, including university training, student teaching, and references.  We also earlier began revamping our interview questions, again using rubrics to better assess each candidate.

We have recruited and hired some excellent teachers in the past; however, we continue to make adjustments.  We have a number of administrators who we will include in screening and interviewing this Spring, and we hope our work will provide increased consistency in hiring.

Below are some posts, articles, and reports I’ve come across over the last while, which hopefully will assist applicants and interviewers as they prepare.

I also plan to update this post as I come across additional/new resources.

 

__________________________________________________

 

 

APPLICANTS

Emotions available upon request. by @l_hilt

Autonomy in Teacher Training? by  @mrwejr

Dear Teacher Applicant by @johnnybevacqua

What do Principals Look for When they Hire? by @peterjory

Response: What Principals Look For In A Prospective Teacher by @larryferlazzo

Cover Letter Tips via Education Week

How to Write a Cover Letter That Employers Will Actually Read via @makeafuture

The Rules that Guide Great Teachers by @coolcatteacher

“What do you mean I can interact with your resume ?” – 21st CENTURY RESUMES by @mr_levy1

How To Redesign Your Resume For A Recruiter’s 6-Second Attention Span via @makeafuture

Your All-in-One Interview Prep Guide via The Daily Muse

Spring Clean Your Resume (in Less Than 2 Hours!) via The Daily Muse

Student Teaching via @peterjory

Teacher Vitae and Resume Suggestions by The EDU Edge

How Important is GPA in Getting a Teaching Job? by The EDU Edge

8 Top Resume Mistakes to Avoid via @makeafuture

Student Teaching Right Now? To Ask or Not to Ask Your Principal to do an Observation… That is the Question. by The EDU Edge

Top Strategies for Selecting References for a Teacher Interview by The EDU Edge

How Your Social Media Profile Could Make Or Break Your Next Job Opportunity via Forbes.com

Top 10 Ways to Make It Through The Initial Screening for a Teaching Position by The EDU Edge

Interview Snafus via Texas Principal

__________________________________________________

 

 

RECRUITERS & INTERVIEWERS

Behind the Mask: How to Effectively Evaluate a Candidate Before Interviewing via @janetstewart

Are Teacher Preparation Programs Dangerously Irrelevant? guest post at Dangererously Irrelevant

What Do We Need Our Teachers To Be? by @l_hilt

Teacher Diversity in Canada: Leaky Pipelines, Bottlenecks, and Glass Ceilings via @makeafuture

Personalized Learning: A Human Resources Perspective on Hiring 21st Century Educators by @janetstewart

Treat job candidates well, or risk a backlash via @janetstewart

Possible Interview Questions for Teachers by @gcouros

Staffing: What It Is and Isn’t! via Education Week

6 Common Hiring Mistakes – And How You Can Avoid Them via @bchrma

Hiring Wisdom: Do Your Interview Questions Look For Positive Outcomes? via @bchrma

TEACHER “DRAFT” by Tom Grant

HR for Principals: Interviewing & Hiring Part I by School HR

HR for Principals: Interviewing & Hiring Part II by School HR

HR for Principals: Interviewing and Hiring – The Postscript by School HR

On Your Mark, Get Set, Interview by School HR

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(photo credit: Samuel Mann via photopin cc)


Don’t Wait for Superman

Update:  links to other blogs for those “Applying & Hiring” here.

I just finished the last chapter, System Leaders, of The Moral Imperative Realized. Fullan begins the chapter with identifying three forms of “system leadership”:

    1. school leaders who link to other schools
    2. school leaders who take positions that oversee/help other schools
    3. system leaders who lead and direct whole system reform

Fullan later uses Ontario, with reference to Finland, Singapore, etc, as an example of linking moral purpose and strategy to illustrate the importance of all leaders working together to focus on eight important and necessary components:

    1. A small number of ambitious goals
    2. A guiding coalition at the top
    3. High standards and expectations
    4. Investment in leadership and capacity building related to instruction
    5. Mobilizing data and effective practices as a strategy for improvement
    6. Intervention in a nonpunitive manner
    7. Being vigilant about distracters
    8. Being transparent, relentless, and increasingly challenging

It is important not to take each of these statements in isolation, but to further explore the meaning Fullan attributes to each of these components. In particular, for me, I find value in Fullan’s further expansion on the sixth component to, “encourage risk taking, learning, and sharing of successful practices while intervening in a nonpunitive manner.” This particular strategy, Fullan explains, is, “deliberately light on judgment.” This is linked to a question posed in a previous post about Chapter 3 [here], “are leaders allowed to make mistakes, learn from errors, and move forward having learned… or do leaders fear criticism and backlash from above?”

Early in the book, Fullan references the movie Waiting for “Superman”, and in this chapter he emphasizes that there is no Superman coming, and that we need to be doing the work ourselves. He reminds us that “creating dramatically better leadership and working conditions with associated capacity building prior to and during one’s career” is imperative.

Fullan states that Finland, Singapore, South Korea, and, in some cases, Canada, have, “figured out that the quality of the teacher force and moral purpose realized are one and the same.” Fullan references a report (McKinsey & Company, 2010) examining the teaching profession in the United States compared to Finland, South Korea, and Singapore. In these three countries the teaching force is made up of the “30+ group” (100% of teachers in these countries are made up of the top 30% of university graduates plus “suitability to teach”). The research used in this report suggests that in the U.S. 23% of teachers come from the highest university ranks, and only, “9% of the top-third of college graduates” intended to enter the teaching profession.

Fullan acknowledges that improving pay and financial incentives is necessary, but is not the only solution to achieving the desired results. Fullan continues to include the following factors which the remaining 91% identified that they value in a job:

    • Quality of co-workers
    • Prestige
    • Challenging work environment
    • High quality training

These are also some of the qualities the 91% found lacking in the teaching profession, and some of the factors Fullan indicates are necessary to fully realize the moral imperative.

@LynHilt [here], @PeterJory [here], and @jvbevacqua [here] recently posted their thoughts on interviewing and hiring. I also recently read a brief article entitled Behind the Mask: How to Effectively Evaluate a Candidate Before Interviewing which offers some great reminders when screening applications.

In this last year, the “other duties as assigned” as per my administrative contract has included hiring teachers to the District’s Teacher-on-Call list. This is one of the responsibilities I do find interesting. However, recruitment, selection, and hiring is not a perfect science. We continue to adjust our practices in our efforts to increase the reliability of our decisions.

Our process for considering applicants currently includes several stages, with further screening before contemplating a move through to each stage.  There are so many factors to consider at each point in the process. However, I believe that above all, the candidates considered must have demonstrated excellent qualities in all areas of the classroom, including instruction, assessment, and connections with students. We also look for the personal and personable qualities the applicant brings to the job. We further consider what the applicant brings and can contribute to the school and community.

We sometimes get feedback that these are “just” Teacher-on-Call positions, some of these applicants “might” improve over time, and as a result some of our concerns should not be a big deal.  However, it is ultimately important to remember that shaping employees is more difficult once they’re in, so it is important to ensure that applicants considered and hired have strong foundations on which to build.

Recently, a guest blogger on Dangerously Irrelevant [here] and @chriswejr [here] commented on teacher education programs. However, it was a panel discussion at a symposium last month, which included @janetstewart, that especially extended my thinking further.

One of the questions posed to the panel included a query as to what needs to be done to raise the teaching profession. Separate from comments regarding our present workforce, some of the points which stood out for me included the notion that we shouldn’t be assuming that universities and teacher education programs will inspire students to meet our needs and thus provide the quality applicants we require.

We do however, I believe, need to, in conjunction with Post-Secondary, continue to encourage our best teachers to take on university students for their student-teaching placements, and provide the mentorship and guidance necessary to further strengthen our teaching ranks.

The panel affirmed that recruitment, selection, and hiring practices have not changed much despite changing times. However, it was pointed out that if we’re not entirely getting the people we want, we need to ensure that we target the right people.

The panel challenged us to consider the value and importance of attracting, encouraging, and inspiring the brightest high school students to the profession.  I’ve always enjoyed observing the students I’ve known over the years who found their passions early in life – the students who put their energies into pursuing their dreams of becoming doctors, lawyers, musicians, artists, athletes, mechanics, chefs, etc.  What a system we could have if we mobilized a large number of youth early, passionate about pursuing the goal of becoming teachers.  Imagine the energy, enthusiasm, and excitement as an increased number of our students approach and enter their post-secondary lives with the passion to be teachers already instilled.

In order to begin approaching this goal, one of the significant pieces which needs to be in place, in part, is to ensure that we have engaging and innovative role models in the classroom who will help grow this cause.

Ultimately, we need to inspire and attract the best to the profession – whatever we determine constitutes the “best.” Improving the system is hard work. It takes time, and it takes persistence. However, what a missed opportunity if we don’t make every effort to put the strategies in place to do so.

Update:  links to other blogs for those “Applying & Hiring” here.

photo credit: Xurble via photopin cc