(Originally posted on Eduleadership.)
By Justin Baeder
I have friends who work in high-needs schools that are overwhelmingly staffed with first-year and second-year teachers. While a school might occasionally find itself in this position, I’m convinced that it must not become a recurring situation.
Justice demands that we staff all of our schools with a well-balanced mix of educators, including a critical mass of experienced teachers, and not too many first- and second-year rookies.
So if you’re hiring (or will be), don’t leave this balance up to chance. Make sure you hire the people with the skills and experience you need.
Searching for Amazing
Of course, you can’t hire great people if they don’t apply.
Schools end up with under-qualified teachers because they don’t have strong enough applicant pools.
How can schools—even those that are tough to work in—ensure that they have a great pool of candidates to choose from?
It begins with high expectations, and high expectations begin with the job description. Too many schools don’t think enough about what kind of person they truly aspire to have in the position, and just pull a job description out of a drawer and post it online.
As a leader, you have a special responsibility to write compelling, ambitious job descriptions. Job descriptions that would intimidate your current teachers, even if they’re pretty darn good.
A special caution is in order here: do NOT assign this task to a committee. If you ask a group of incumbents to write the job description for their future peer, they’ll express a vision that they feel like they could personally fulfill.
In other words, they’ll lowball.
Guess what happens when we lowball in our job descriptions?
Wanted: Person Who Can Throw Baseballs
Imagine if you were a Major League team manager, looking to hire a pitcher. Most schools write job descriptions that are roughly on this level:
Wanted: Person who can throw baseballs from pitcher’s mound into catcher’s mitt. Prefer 5+ years of experience in baseball, softball, or a related field. Must have relevant certifications and an undergraduate major in pitching.
Is that job description going to attract the next MVP?
Of course not. So let’s ask for more in our job descriptions when we’re hiring for a much more important position: teacher.
Great teachers can detect an opportunity worth of their talents, and they can smell a job offer that will waste their talents.
Ask for more, and you’ll get more.
And have your best teachers tap their networks and help you recruit. Teaching is a social and collective endeavor, and it makes a tremendous difference to work with great people.
What else can we do to attract great teachers, even—and especially—to our toughest schools? Leave a comment and share your insights.
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