My Greystone office team colleagues (Assistant Principal – Tracy Lachman; School Support Coordinator - Jesse McLean) and I held a marathon session of teacher interviews this past week. Our school community is growing in size and we needed to add an additional five teaching positions and two temporary assignments for the 2013/14 school year.
I consider hiring new staff to be one of my most important responsibilities as a school leader. Creating a positive, strengths-focused school culture where our staff are committed to improving their teaching practice, in the company of peers, and where they see themselves as designers of learning in a collaborative, interdependent school community means that each and every time I bring someone new onto the team, I better get it right. Jim Collins, author of the book Good to Great, calls it “getting the right people on the bus”. Todd Whitaker, author of the book What Great Principals Do Differently, claims that the biggest impact a leader can have on school improvement is to hire “super stars”. I have come to understand, through my experiences in staffing over the past several years, from mistakes made, lessons learned and successes achieved, that Jim Collins and Todd Whitaker are absolutely correct – hiring the right people is key to ensuring that a school community continues to improve.
As I began our Greystone “Star Search” and sifted through the hundreds and hundreds of on-line applications, resumes, and letters of reference that were submitted, I kept coming back to one key question…what are you looking for? In my opinion, the “super stars” we hire at Greystone need to meet the following criteria:
1. Be a good person – do the right thing, be a positive influence and role model for others, support and serve others, build strong relationships and demonstrate a hopeful optimism for today’s youth. If we can connect with each other and our students, we will be successful in creating a place where all of us feel we belong, where we can discover our unique gifts and talents and where we can make a difference in the lives of our young adolescent learners.
2. Be a hard worker – never give up, persevere, take student learning seriously and do everything possible, inside and outside of the classroom, to support the success of our kids. Think critically about all of the initiatives and programs out there to determine what is the best fit for the vision we have as a school community and keep working hard to bring our vision to life. We expect our students to work hard – we must also expect this from ourselves.
3. Be a learner – take risks to try new things, be open-minded, reflective and willing to grow, recognize the importance of continuous learning from a variety of sources – books, articles, students, colleagues, twitter, workshops, courses and apply the learning to the work we do with our students. Understand that learning requires that we make mistakes, fall down, get back up and learn from the experience.
The other qualifications a teaching candidate brings to the table are important, but if these three things are not in place to begin with, quite honestly, all the understanding and experience related to curriculum, literacy and numeracy programs, new technology, assessment and inquiry based learning won’t get us where we need to go. What I am looking for is good people – the rest can be learned.
The challenging thing about using the above criteria to determine a candidate’s potential for being hired at my school is that these qualities don’t necessarily pop out while reading an on-line application. This is why it is extremely important to pay attention to the recommendations of trusted colleagues, to follow my intuition and the intuition of my office team during the interview and then to thoroughly check the references provided. When I discover that the candidates I interview are people that their current colleagues and employers are sadly disappointed to see leave, I know I am on the right track and that these “super stars” will contribute their talents to make Greystone Centennial Middle School an even stronger community of learners. They will help us on our journey as we continue to move from good to great.
We have hired an amazing group of “super stars” this week – genuine good people. I believe we have the right people on the bus and I am so excited to see what will be possible next year and beyond.
I am curious about what criteria other school leaders use to get the right people on the bus…what are you looking for?