When I review and interview candidates for teaching positions, I look for four things: sound knowledge; well-developed ability to think creatively; authentic enthusiasm; and that indefinable, unmistakable 'teacher-ness'.
There is no question that knowledge of the subject matter is an important quality in a good teacher. But is it essential? I've heard it said that the best way to LEARN a subject is to TEACH it, and, HEAVENS, I remember lots of times I did JUST that! So what do I actually LOOK for in the candidates? Certainly they should demonstrate the basics needed to learn what they will be teaching. These can come from education and experience, or from personal passion and learning. I am happily open to a variety of possible ways that the knowledge might have been acquired, but more important than that is some indication that learning NEW things is part of the candidate's personal motivation. I know from experience that a candidate who wants to DISCOVER new things will make just the sort of teacher I'm excited to work with. No job I have ever held demanded MORE creativity than teaching. Every student is unique, and every day every problem MUST be solved. Thinking outside the box is not enough - SOME days ya just gotta toss out the box altogether!
Nothing is more attractive to students [especially adolescent students] than an authentically enthusiastic teacher. We can each remember those few we were lucky enough to know in our own lives. They change us, forever. Teaching at any level is ALL about relationships. A teacher needs to know that and be ready to take the lead in building the kind of relationship that makes learning happen.
At this point you may be asking, "How can I be sure to identify the best candidates for the position?" It's a fair question. I see it as a three-part process:
First step - I do my homework. Read the resume. Check the main references. Have a good look at the cover letter.
Second step - I build a relationship. We talk together - a conversation, not a stilted 'interview'. We trade some stories. We share our interest in our subjects. I draw the candidate out to tell me what they* want and why they* are here. I give up the details of what I need - including the feared 'salary' topic. That is a game I am not comfortable playing; I know what I am able to pay, and I won't stop looking until I find the person who deserves that maximum pay.
Third step - The candidate teaches a small group. This is where I find that 'teacher-ness.' Does the candidate take control of the room with calm assurance. Can he or she speak well? Also, nothing is more telling than the 90 seconds just BEFORE the candidate starts to speak. Here is the "tell', the clue I'm looking for: A teacher doesn't just start TALKING! They get everything arranged: erase the board, hand out papers, get their 'stuff' organized on the desktop just 'so'. Sounds a bit OCD, I know, but think of it more like an acting troupe - all the scenery and props have to be in their places or the show will stumble while they are searched for! A teacher unconsciously knows this and will take care of it before looking up to begin.
You can never know for sure how well a person will grow into teaching. I rely on these things and a bit of intuition in making hiring choices. I've been honored to work with some outstanding teachers!
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