What School Districts Look for When Hiring Teachers

Richard A. Lawrence
Richard A. Lawrence
Elementary school principal; M.A. in School Administration
chalkboard with advice for those seeking new job

There are a multitude of factors that school districts look for when hiring teachers. As a key member of an interviewing team, I make sure my voice is heard about identifying these qualities as much as possible. Remember an interview gives you just a snapshot, and it’s possible a candidate you hire may end up exhibiting none of these characteristics. A good administrator will make sure to continuously follow up and evaluate, both informally and formally. If the qualities are genuine, they will be nurtured. If not, preparation must be made to document the need for improvement and ultimately dismiss the teacher if it is called for.

Passion

Without passion and enthusiasm, you will get very little from a teacher. Teachers are on their own most of the day. They must be self-motivated, set rigorous goals, and display genuine enthusiasm for their craft. Passion will drive them to self-examine, expand their repertoire, and seek solutions for difficult problems and situations. None of this can be accomplished without passion. An administrator can document, make suggestions, and provide a teacher with professional opportunities. All of it will be meaningless without a driven teacher. Look for, encourage, and reward passion.

Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal skills carry a much higher importance than they used to. School managers have been taught much about organizational culture. This was passed on from the business world, and schools have long ago embraced and absorbed the concept. A good principal will guard against toxicity. It only takes one negative and emotionally destructive staff member to damage your school. A teacher who is positive, upbeat, and can relate to and work with many other types of personalities is one that is highly valued. Collaboration cannot be a mere buzzword. It is vital for school teams, professional development, mentoring, planning school events, etc.

Moreover, a teacher must be approachable. Administrators, teachers, support staff, parents, and most importantly students need to feel comfortable speaking with and consulting all staff members. Technical skills can gradually be improved. Unfortunately a bad personality is permanent and fixed with few exceptions. A good leader will value and emphasize interpersonal skills at all times.

Compassion

This word speaks for itself. Without compassion for your clientele, you can do enormous damage. Education is perhaps the most important profession for this particular quality with the exception of the medical profession. A child’s brain and emotions are in the process of developing. Cruelty, demeaning statements, unwarranted criticism, and ignoring the needs of students can have lasting effects, sometimes through the course of an entire life. A teacher must be aware of the power they hold to lift up or crush the spirit of another human being, in this case a student.

Compassion speaks to all of these situations and an effective teacher will balance accountability with the right level of compassion. It is important for staff to understand the lives of their students, what socioeconomic background they come from, what their home life looks like, and what daily struggles they deal with. With this knowledge, a compassionate teacher will seek to mitigate the negative effects a student’s life experience brings so the child can concentrate and work to their potential in the classroom.

Skill Sets

When I think about skill sets in teaching I think primarily about content knowledge and pedagogical skills. The content knowledge must be there and the pedagogical skills must be there to deliver the content to the students. Teachers must understand the basics about traditional and progressive teaching methods, what the right balance is, and how to most effectively reach students and check and assess for understanding. How much time is acceptable for direct instruction? When is it most effective for students to work in groups? What activities will make independent practice meaningful? All the while, the teacher must possess mastery of the content being taught to effectively utilize these multiple teaching methods.

Effectiveness

Effective teaching can be clearly measured over time. Teachers today must have a good grasp of using data to set benchmarks, goals, and other targets. A good school leader will emphasize and utilize the best programs and practices for data tracking. Academic effectiveness will be measured through these and other modes of assessment. There is another measure of effectiveness. What is the emotional climate in a teacher’s classroom? Are they effective at promoting positivity, a good self-image, perseverance, and teamwork? Do the students in the class treat each other with respect and is bullying kept to a minimum? An effective teacher will promote and produce academic and emotional health.

These are the primary qualities I look for in a teaching candidate and then in a full-time teacher. There are a couple more worth mentioning here. Does the teacher possess the ability to take direction and accept constructive criticism? In other words, are they teachable? If they are not, you most likely will not see improvement over time. Look for, hire, and mentor teachers that are continuously looking to improve their overall skill set.

Lastly, look for teachers that are willing to contribute to and help shape the life of the school beyond the classroom. Staff that come out for extracurricular events, volunteer to serve on committees, and help foster a collegial atmosphere will help you build a positive school culture.

 

*Updated August, 2020
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