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Batting now for your school district.....

Right now, it is an ideal time for hiring teachers. Unfortunately, there are few to no positions. The number of applicants for a single position is vast, which increases the number of quality individuals who apply. Recently, we were challenged with the task to find a leave replacement teacher for the last quarter of the school year. The experience is what brings us here, to this blog, as we reflected on the process and saw it through the eyes of candidates-- all of whom were aware of the number of applicants as qualified as themselves and the fact that only a single position needed to be filled-- the role of lead teacher.

Act I: The Interview.
How much does an interview tell you about a person? Plenty, if you ask the right questions. But how much does it tell you about their teaching? Again, plenty, but any individual who has completed an education program should be able to give the right answers and be able to speak intelligently about the latest education trends and the theories behind them. Interviewing only reveals a piece of the whole person. While an interview that goes well will get the candidate to the next act of the hiring process, it does not provide an administrator with enough information about the candidate's teaching style.

It is important to include other teachers, especially the one who is about to go on leave, if possible, in this act. In addition, teachers who may work collaboratively in the classroom should also be part of the interview committee. This will allow them to have some input in the candidates who do or do not advance to the next stage.

Act II: The Demo.
The demonstration lesson is an interesting process. From my experience, it has shown me which candidates can put their money where there mouth is, and which candidates were all talk throughout the interview. Often times, the candidate will be in touch with the classroom teacher where he or she will be teaching the demo lesson. This communication generally includes one to two emails where the classroom teacher explains the options of topics for the demo lesson and the teacher candidate asks questions about classroom size and make-up (inclusion, AIS, etc). We like to set the teacher candidate up for success, so he or she will feel as comfortable as possible when teaching the demo lesson.

The demo lesson itself is interesting. Obviously, from the teacher candidate's point of view, it is all about getting the role of lead teacher. This lesson, more than likely, will be the teacher candidate's best work of art--incorporating as many learning styles as he or she can, using technology, grouping students, performing for an audience like he or she is looking to be nominated for an Academy Award. While this may be true, an observer should be able to get a sense of the kind of rapport the teacher candidate would have with the students, the classroom management, ability to adapt their lesson to the student's level of understanding.

Presence, in this act, is extremely valuable. The students are aware that the teacher candidate could potentially be their teacher and they want to be sure that he or she can take over seamlessly. While they probably won't admit it, the students want a great teacher who challenges them and who can control the classroom. They also want to feel like they can trust their leave replacement teacher and fill the shoes of their "real" teacher.

Administrators and parents share similar concerns. Most importantly, they want to know that their children are going to continue to learn and that there will not be any gaps in the curriculum. Administrators want to know that with their help and the help of teacher leaders, that the leave replacement teacher will quickly adapt to the school, the students, and fulfill the responsibilities that he or she were hired to do. Parents, likewise, want to know that the teacher will be fair and will not be left without the mentorship of other teachers and administrators. While all of these concerns cannot be guaranteed by a single demo lesson, there should be some level of reassurance for the observers that the candidate they choose will be able to transition into the role of lead teacher as seamlessly as possible.

Act III: Hiring, Transitioning, and Mentoring.

After a few demo lessons from a few different teacher candidates, there will probably be two or three who stand out as possible candidates. The next natural step is to check all of their references. This information can help narrow down the selection or help to answer any remaining questions of the interview committee.

When a choice has been made, it is a good idea to offer it to one and wait until all the papers have been signed before informing the other candidates that they did not get the position. Sometimes, after learning about the salary or just being offered the position, the candidate may decline. It is always good to have a back up plan just in case something falls through last minute!

Finally, once the teacher candidate has agreed to taking the leave replacement position, it is crucial to get the classroom teacher and the teacher candidate in touch with one another. The more information the teacher candidate has prior to his or her start date, the more prepared he or she will be for the position. Whatever support is available to the teacher candidate days before the classroom teacher leaves, or days before the position begins, will only make the transition a smoother one. Once settled, teacher leaders, department chairs, instructional coaches, and/or administrators should continue monitoring the leave replacement teacher as they would a new hire, including classroom walkthroughs and observations.

Teresa Ivey and James Yap

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