Hiring teachers is top of mind for Savannah, a current Possip reporter and former educator. She shares tips on how to make the most of teacher and staff hiring for this semester! Shani Dowell, Possip Founder, joins her. Shani spent over 10 years in teacher and principal recruitment.
Schools and districts need to hire qualified teachers. It feels more urgent than ever. Yet, hiring – and retaining – is hard. Teacher shortages, and their root causes, bring decades worth of reasons. COVID-19 demands exacerbate the need for change and intentional hiring practices.
The last two years have proven difficult for schools across the United States. Teachers have to pivot between in-person and virtual learning. Along with reworking the curriculum, and filling in videos all while guiding students through COVID-safety protocols.
It is no secret. Teachers are burnt out.
With teacher shortages, school administrators struggle to encourage time off without many substitutes available. As a result, many qualified teachers choose to leave the profession. This leads to higher turnover, and an impact on school stability, community, and student learning.
Given these challenges, how can administrators intentionally hire qualified educators with so much already before them?
Here are a few tips from Possip for attracting and screening potential teachers:
Learn what your school or district’s assets are:
Unfortunately, all schools can be painted with one broad stroke. That’s not fair. And we know that school cultures are highly variable. We see this in our pulse checks. Within one district some teachers are gleeful about their workplace and school culture – while others are struggling. Your school has assets. You don’t get to brag about them until you know what they are. So ask your teachers, your families, your students – what do you love about our school? What is special about our school community?
Brag on yourself – repeat it – often:
In the marketing world, they say people need to hear a message 7 times at least before they start considering it. How can you share why someone would want to teach at or work at your school or district – again, and again, and again?
Know where your future teachers study, eat, play:
Once you have a message you want to say again and again, where are you going to deliver it? Find out where your teachers or staff learned about your school or district – and go there again and again with your message. It could be a local university, a favorite professor, a social media platform. You want to get in front of them again and again.
Understand requirements for licensure and new teachers:
When we’re confronting a teacher shortage, we’re going to have to bring new teachers into the profession. Make sure someone in your district or staff are prepared to support aspiring teachers into the profession. This means you know someone who understands options for aspiring teachers based on their education, test passage, and certification options. There are residency options for aspiring teachers, as well as alternative certification programs.
Leverage a sample lesson if possible:
A resume, letters of recommendation, and supplemental materials are standard procedure when hiring educators. However, an in-person sample lesson will help a prospective teacher see themselves in your building, in their classroom, with your school or district’s students. Meanwhile, it will allow you to assess how a teacher interacts with students, their teaching style, and content knowledge. An in-person sample lesson can help determine if the fit is right for both the teacher and the school.
Consider your student demographic:
When teachers reflect the cultural, linguistic, and racial demographic of students, it is more likely that students will feel seen, known, and represented. While this is difficult to achieve, especially during a teacher shortage, it’s nevertheless important. Consider where you are posting and advertising about open positions. Or, if your district partners with a recruiter, grow curious about where they are finding candidates.
Be expansive about your school culture, strengths, and areas of growth:
As a former teacher, during interviews I was often bombarded with statistics regarding how many students were accepted into four-year colleges. While this was an impressive statistic, prospective teachers may have diverse motivations. Some prospective teachers may be motivated by the extracurricular opportunities for students or how they’ll get to work with their colleagues. By being expansive about what you share – both strengths and areas for growth – you can give the prospective teacher a holistic read on your school culture.
Interview multiple candidates:
Interviewing multiple applicants is time-consuming, but will also help you identify who will best fit the role. Also sometimes candidates apply for the role that is open – but in education, we know that what role is open can change quickly. So while you may only have one 6th grade Reading position open, by interviewing 5 people – even when you have a great prospect – you can be prepared should a 7th grade English position open (or a 6th grade Social Studies).
Be a problem solver:
In a time of shortages, you are going to have to get creative at times. Working with hundreds of principals over my careers, I saw some principals give up when a great teacher candidate had some obstacle come up. The difference between those and the great principals is the great principals were relentless. They would call the state certification department, call the candidates, and generally saw problems as obstacles to be navigated. Problems were the starting point, not the end. So be prepared to solve problems to get great teachers.
Keep and care for your current teachers and staff:
We talk about this as a company – it’s much harder to get new customers than do great work with your current ones. Similarly, having to replace and train new teachers and staff is hard. So while you’re bringing on new teammates, remember to care for your current ones. Here are some resources from Possip on caring for and retaining teachers and staff. And guess what! Helping bring on new teachers and staff may be one way current teachers want to engage!