Emotions available upon request.

CC licensed photo shared by Flickr user Darwin Bell

For the past two days another elementary principal and I have hosted a variety of teacher candidates in my office for round after round of interviews for long-term substitute teaching positions. These positions are for extended periods of time in order to serve during family leave absences.

That being said, while there is no contract attached to the positions, I would expect as much out of a LTS candidate as I would for a full-time, contracted teacher.

Know this.

A bit about the process:
a) candidates submit complete applications in order to pass the first level of screening- we use the service PA Educator to screen electronic apps according to criteria we set
b) out of the hundreds (yes, hundreds, for one elementary position) that pass the screening, our assistant superintendent reviews apps and sends to the principals for review apps that may be a “good fit” for the open positions
c) principals review paper copies of the candidate’s documentation: resumes, cover letters, reference letters, transcripts; we then narrow the stack and schedule interested candidates for interviews. (Note: I have an incredibly hard time discerning qualities of candidates on paper. GPAs are similar. Canned reference letters are abundant. Extracurriculars are the same. Somehow, work to make yourself shine on paper. Proofread. Twelve times.)
d) at least two admin run the interviews; depending upon length and type of position offered, central office personnel are also involved, and there may be multiple interviews

I didn’t want this post to be about the process. A lot of schools use similar methods to narrow the field of candidates. I wanted this post to be about the quality of responses I received from candidates in our interviews.

Since I was the host, I selected the questions. A few years ago our administrative team read James Stronge and Jennifer Hindman’s The Teacher Quality Index: A Protocol for Teacher Selection and worked together to develop an interview protocol for our district, including sample questions for five domains: The Teacher as a Person, Classroom Management and Organization, Planning for Instruction, Implementing Instruction, and Monitoring Student Progress and Potential. Each question’s intent is outlined, with ideal responses summarized, and rubrics guide “scoring” of candidate responses. There is a writing sample included in the protocol, as well as providing the candidate with a “prerequisites of effective teaching score.” This pertains to how experienced the candidate is, the level of professionalism exhibited, etc.

Not surprisingly, the majority of my questions came from the “Teacher as a Person” category.

That’s what I’m looking for. Genuine people.

Here are some highlights and lowlights. If you are a teacher candidate, please, read and reflect upon your current preparedness to impress your interviewers. If you are someone who works with pre-service teachers, I implore you to pass along my sentiments. Not every administrator and school is looking for the same thing. I understand that. But even my colleague and I, who have very different building climates and who were seeking different qualities in our new hires, could agree on the strengths and needs of those before us.

The Highs

  • When asked about ideal physical space for a classroom, nearly all candidates indicated the desire for students to be grouped in order to facilitate collaboration, communication, and teamwork. One candidate mentioned that group work helps students “build knowledge together.” I loved that. Many mentions of cozy spaces where kids can enjoy independent reading and learning.
  • Positive reinforcements shone through as ways to “manage” a classroom. There was not a lot of talk about elaborate systems for classroom management, or discipline.
  • Many mentions of the importance of building community and getting to know students on a personal level in order to be successful.

The Lows

  • Lack of elaboration with responses. Please provide concrete examples of how this looks in your classroom, or how it would look. Paint me a picture. Even if I don’t get time to look through your portfolio, ask if I want to see it. One of the candidates actually left her portfolio with us, and included a self-addressed, stamped envelope for us to return it to her. Genius- although, better yet, give me the link to your online portfolio.
  • Too many buzzwords, some of which included: differentiation (I throw up in my mouth a little when I hear that, UNLESS you proceed to tell me what that looks like and why you would use such a word in the first place); think-pair-share, guided reading, manipulatives, blah blah.
  • A general “Technology is so important for kids today” notion, but not being able to articulate meaningful uses for technology in the classroom.
  • When the opportunity arises to ask the interviewers questions, don’t ask anything you can find on the website or principal’s blog. I enjoyed this question: “How would you describe your school community in one or two sentences?” Happy to do so.
  • A disheartening observation: When asked to describe an instance when the candidate had difficulty with a particular child’s behavior and how it was approached, within seconds of beginning the response, there was a mention of the child’s diagnosis: ADHD, ES, Asperger’s, etc. Guess what? I don’t care what the diagnosis is. I want to learn how you responded to the needs of the child and best supported her as demonstrated by her behaviors. Done.
  • Since I’m me, I asked: “Outside of taking formal courses through college or graduate programs, what are some things you do to help you grow and stay current as a professional?” Typical responses: I read professional books. I read articles. I listen in the faculty room when other teachers are discussing education. (I am quite skeptical of the quality of those discussions :) Since I sub, I get to learn about a lot of different programs and methods. Okay. So now what? Who are you going to talk to about the things you’re learning? There were zero responses that indicated any level of professional connectedness. One person mentioned going online to find ideas – but not to connect with others. We need to get our teachers connected.
  • A general lack of passion. Can some of that be attributed to nerves? Meh, maybe. Practice your responses. Talk to yourself in the mirror. This will help the nerves subside.

For the love of God, be emotional with me. Show me you want to be with my kids. Tell me. Tell me all about the activities you’ll do together. Give me details. Share your ideas with me. I won’t think you’re crazy. Be passionate in your responses. If I have to wonder, for one second, if you love kids? You’re not going to be offered a position. I can teach you programs. I can develop your content knowledge. I probably can’t transform you into a human being who loves being a teacher if you don’t inherently love doing so.

Passion is necessary. Don’t make me request your emotions -provide them, in every word, every response, every example of why you want to teach in my school.

76 thoughts on “Emotions available upon request.

    1. Lyn

      Thank you for commenting, Royan! Differentiation is a word that sounds like something you should do. But if you can’t speak to why you’re using that term or what it looks like in practice, it’s best to skip it.

  1. Great post. Too many teachers tag kids with a diagnosis in order to not deal with what they need in the here and now. Be present, be compassionate, be a pro. Thanks for sharing, Lyn

  2. Great insights. That brings me back to when we were interviewing candidates for an elementary position and three of the candidates had the same introduction letter complete with philosophy, objectives etc. Just the names were changed.

    1. Lyn

      Gerry, thank you for taking the time to comment. That is a sad story you shared. I understand that programs offer templates as examples from which students to start to build their portfolios. But it’s definitely nice to read letters that are personalized and original.

  3. Great post Lyn…I think you are looking for the right qualities in potential teachers. As a teacher, I want fellow teachers working beside me that have passion and emotion for what they do. If they don’t get mad or go nuts with joy from time to time, they are in the wrong line of work. Being a good educator requires passion that in my opinion is something you either have or don’t.

    This is a great piece of advice for interviewing teachers.

    Good luck!

    1. Lyn

      Thanks, Josh! Just wondering how many teacher prep programs have honest conversations about interviews with their graduates. Also, it’s important to consider that it has to feel right for the candidate as well. Get to know the organization’s values and mission, and be sure they align and will support you as the teacher you want to be.

  4. Wow! I cannot thank you enough for posting this! This is very valuable insight for a teacher candidate such as myself. I was only half-way through reading it and I just had to tweet it out to fellow candidates! I am passionate about teaching and was thrilled to see you beg for that passion to be on display! The culture of teacher’s college often caters towards the “vomit-inducing” buzz-words, rather than the inspiring and sharing of innovative ideas. This post encourages me to go with my gut and my passion rather than tip-toeing through assignments and practicums trying to do things “by the book.” (the very thick and dull methods book we study to be exact!)

    1. Catherine- thanks for your comments! Sorry I missed them in the thread earlier. Please don’t feel as though you have to do everything “by the book.” Let your enthusiasm and spark shine through, particularly in the interview process!

  5. “For the love of God, be emotional with me.” Love it!

    “I probably can’t transform you into a human being who loves being a teacher if you don’t inherently love doing so.” I do wonder if my biggest flaw as a cooperating teacher is believing that I can….

    1. Lyn

      Thanks, Paul. After I clicked publish on this post, I considered the very integral role of the cooperating teacher in all of this. Many of the new teachers we see have narrow views of their role due to the experience of working with a by-the-book, complacent teacher who lacked the passion we seek. While I know you are not one of those teachers, it should cause admin and university personnel to be as strategic as possible when placing student teachers. Due to the high demand for placements, this is not always the case.

  6. Wearing my teacher hat, I understand the reason for seeking employees who want to be in the classroom: it’s no place for those who aren’t committed to teaching.

    However, reading this while wearing my businessperson’s hat, I’m struck by how different the education establishment views hiring than the way most other businesses view hiring. In the industrial sectors in which I’ve worked, employers seek skills first. I cannot imagine a businessperson seeking an employee passionate about writing, for example. When I look for employees for my publishing business, the people who tell me they love to write get a polite rejection without an opportunity for an interview.

    I mention the difference in perspectives because I feel educators often put themselves at a disadvantage by being unaware that their position may not be understood by or acceptable to the public. While parents want teachers to care about their students, people without children in school (the majority of the public) may be more concerned with the knowledge and skills the teachers have.

    Just something to think about.

    1. Lyn

      Linda, I appreciate you sharing your perspective. I guess my thoughts are that caring for children IS an essential skill all teachers must possess if they are going to help students be successful learners. We, of course, look for specific skill sets in our candidates, which I alluded to when desiring that those we are interviewing share specific examples of ways in which they’ve delivered and enriched educational experiences for children. There are so many factors to consider when hiring a new teacher. It is no easy task. Any member of the public who doesn’t consider a passion for teaching to be an important prerequisite for teschers to possess before entering the classroom, particularly at the elementary level, has little understanding of the enormous emotional demands of teaching done right. There are many teachers in classrooms today who are skilled technically, but who are rather complacent when it comes to being passionate about their profession. Perhaps not all admin feel as I do, but I’d rather work with a teacher who is constantly willing to learn in order to enhance the experience for kids he cares about, rather than a technically skilled teacher who thinks he knows all there is to know and that students need to align to his vision of what learning should be, rather than take the time to get to know and appreciate the needs of the individuals in front of him. I would hope that in addition to skills and competencies, you would be seeking someone who is passionate about writing or at least about their role in the organization. It is my opinion that those who are passionate best contribute to the success of your organization. Educators should want nothing less for students.

    2. Linda,

      I think you hit the nail on the head that many people don’t “get” education. They think they can higher the smartest and brightest teachers without thinking that is merely a part of what makes a good teacher. The problem I see with an analogy to the business world, is we work with children, not products. As soon as we start treating the kids like products we have failed them. If we hire teachers completely based on their ability to “create” a product, we have failed as well. We need knowledgeable teachers, but more importantly we need passionate and caring teachers.

  7. Thanks so much for your thoughts Lyn. It’s so true- do they truly want to be with kids, or is it just a job to them? Will there be joy spending your life working among children, some of whom can be very challenging?

    1. Lyn

      Thanks for reading and for sharing your comments. I guess it’s a matter of the qualities you find important and what to bring to your school. Along the way I remember reading or receiving the advice (can’t remember at present), “Don’t hire to find someone who will fit the school that you are. Hire someone who will help transform your school into what you want to become.”

  8. Excellent post Lyn. I believe hiring teachers is one of our most important jobs as administrators and believe your reflection will help new candidates and administrators alike. I also appreciated your responses to comments above, well-done!

    Question on the process: do you include teachers in your interview process? And do you have applicants teach a class as part of the interview process? We have found success including teachers in the interview process. We have also brought finalists in to teach kids at our school (when possible). We have found this tremendously beneficial. What better way to see if a teacher can teach than by watching them live.

    I enjoy your tweets and posts, thank you for all you do. Your kids, parents and teachers are fortunate to have you.

    1. Lyn

      Hi, Bill,
      We do not regularly include teachers as part of the process for teacher interviews at the elementary level, but I agree it may be beneficial. Teachers are included in the administrative interview process. At the discretion of central office, a candidate may be asked to teach a lesson. When I interviewed for my first teaching job right out of college, I had to report to an unfamiliar middle school, classroom, and group of students to teach a language arts lesson. I was petrified. I thought the lesson was successful, but how authentic was that demonstration of my skills? You could ascertain my planning and preparation, instructional delivery, and I guess my ability to build rapport with kids in a very short period of time. Probably valuable in some instances, misleading in others? It’s a tough call. To me, if time allowed, I guess I’d prefer to see the candidate in action in his/her current placement if possible. I think it’s so fascinating the varied protocols used by schools around the world! Thank you for taking the time to comment and your kind words!

      1. Kyle

        I have also interviewed many candidates for teaching jobs and have unfortunately not been able to hire good teachers because they can’t clearly articulate their abilities or passion. I love that your district gives the option of having the candidate actually teach a lesson. That would tell me so much more about a teacher than an interview.

        1. Lyn

          Kyle, I appreciate you stopping by. Could you work into your interview process some kind of performance task? Even if you weren’t permitted to have the candidates teach to a room full of students, perhaps you could design opportunities for them to showcase their talents or further explain/demonstrate their skills through the conversations and questioning techniques you use. Could you do site visits if the candidate currently has a teaching position, so you could see them “in action?”

  9. Great post Lyn and something that will help new teacher candidates that will read this. Unfortunately, many of them will not because as you said, not many of them are “connected”; they will probably read Wong’s book on being a first year teacher and go from there.

    With that being said, I am thinking of what we can do during the actual interview. Here is something you stated:

    “Passion is necessary. Don’t make me request your emotions -provide them, in every word, every response, every example of why you want to teach in my school.”

    As you discussed the interview process, many of the candidates also know that there are 100’s of applicants for one position; they have to be nervous as you and I were when we first interviewed. Some of them who actually received interviews from others probably have gone through something totally different and have no idea what each person expects. Some administrators want “business” and some want “personal”; your post will not help anyone who is looking for the former, and to some they might come off “flaky”. I am in the category of the latter and want someone who I knows cares about kids first, and teaching second.

    With that being said, how do we provide opportunities within the interview to actually learn and connect with them. If you are just asking them questions, that is a basically a business model of interviewing. Throw in a panel and that would freak them out even more. It is a tough process.

    What I have done in the past is clearly set the guidelines at the beginning of an interview of what I would like to see. I tell the applicant that I have some questions but I am going to do my best to turn this into a “conversation” and that I will challenge them on some of the things that they say. This helps me to elicit how I interact with them as a person and how they actually deal with conflict. They can say they deal with it well, but I want to see it in action. This conversation style type interview also helps them to feel more comfortable and go deeper into what you are trying to learn about them. If I create this same playing field for all of them, I can really find the best person for my school but I can also have a great conversation about education and use my experiences to help teach and learn with the person being interviewed. They may not get the job, but will they be better off later for it? I like to hope so.

    Last year I interviewed a teacher in the manner that I described above. She was challenged by it and said it was nothing like that she had ever experienced. As I followed up with her on a fantastic interview, I spent time talking with her about how she answered and the process. She didn’t get the job. Four months later, she sent me an email and thanked me for the interview and the process because she had said that she learned from it and thought that she was actually a better interview for other positions, but more importantly, felt that she had a better understanding of teaching. How cool is that? Through an interview process that someone did not get, she thanked me for the learning.

    I think that if we are asking teacher candidates to be more “emotional” in their interviews, we have to work with them in that short time to connect and bring it out. We can’t expect the drill and kill type interview to bring it out/

    Just my thoughts. Thanks for the great post and sorry for the LONG comment.

    1. Lyn

      I think your points are valuable. I know why our district and others have established protocols, and it’s not only to guide our process but to ensure all candidates are treated fairly. I do appreciate that. I prefaced our interviews by explaining that we had a few questions designed to get to know you, you would have the opportunity to ask us questions, and I found that starting off with a friendly tone (and lots of smiles and a good dose of humor- unavoidable in my case, it just comes so naturally) :) does a lot to put someone’s mind and nerves at ease. My colleague and I went “off the cuff” many times, asking the candidates about programs or ideas we weren’t familiar with, seeking for them to open up and share their ideas. There’s nothing more frightening than having two admin rapid-fire a bunch of questions at you. Actually, when you try to engage the candidate in that type of conversation that you describe, the way they react is often a key indicator of the type of personality they possess and would bring to a new team. Thanks for commenting!

  10. You nailed it Lyn- Engaging, passionate, has that zing or the “it” factor, is articulate & thorough in responses, humble, excited to be there and confident but not overly so. Our children deserve for us to be extremely meticulous when it comes choosing new school “family members.”

    Hiring the very best teachers (even the LTS) is one of the most important things we do to help our students & improve staff/school culture. It’s easy to see your own passion in the hiring process, and I am confident those you have had a hand in hiring pan out well due to the bar you set.

    I’m always working to further develop the “tweens,” as Anthony Mohammed puts it – those in the first couple years on the job. Developing new teachers is so important and not talked about enough.

    Thanks for sharing this awesome and well-thought post! Each year I sit with all of the Penn State student teachers and provide input to them on the interview process. I’ll be sharing this with them this year.

    1. Lyn

      Hi, Joe, thanks for your comments! I think you can tell within minutes of meeting someone if they have that “it” factor as you describe. Our first question always asks for educational background. Very seldom does the candidate begin with how having a passion for teaching led them into program x,y, or z, or how a former teacher inspired them into this field. I always wonder why they’re here in the first place! One of my former 6th grade students graduated from Penn State last year and is now an elem teacher in Delaware. She spent the day in my school last year and it was a lot of fun. She’s a rock star! But when she was 12 I could have told you that she’d be an amazing teacher :)

  11. saliyah

    If you look at the hiring practices of organizations like the Ritz-Carlton they look for the right attitude with the understanding that they have a highly effective employee induction program and quality control systems. Just one example from the business sector that looks at the importance of attitude and passion.

    1. Lyn

      I can’t imagine there are many businesses out there looking for people who lack passion. It seems to me a cornerstone for continuous growth and success. Thank you for commenting!

  12. Lyn- Great post! You don’t teach or cultivate caring. You find it. Skills can be developed and honed, caring and passion makes that process a little easier and worthwhile. Interviewing/hiring is one of the most important processes for our profession. Within a very short period of time, an administrator molds the makeup of the educational environment and staff with the decisions they make. I have been the lead administrator in my building for 11 years and have hired about 60% of the staff. I have no excuses for how they perform. As much as I would like to make interviewing an exact science, my experience tells me that it never is. Your post has pointed me to some resources that I will consider as I look to fill positions open for next year. Thanks again!

    1. Lyn

      Hi, Dave! Thanks for commenting! That’s very true about hiring not being an exact science. The protocols and processes are helpful guides. But there is always that element of “you-feel-it-in-your-gut” that accompanies the system. Personalities shine through!

  13. Darlene Vachon

    As a new educator who is yet to start a full-time position, your post got me excited. The line where you say “Passion is necessary.” is my philosophy! I’ve been out of school for a few years and have yet to begin my teaching career.

    Shortly after graduating I started a family and have chosen to stay home with my children until they begin school full-time. I figure I have a limited number of early years with my children but a lifetime ahead of me to work along side other people’s children. It is not that I find them any more or less important I simply feel that my role as a stay at mom is the hat I am currently choosing to wear. (Sorry I digress.)

    Of course as the years have rolled by I have gotten nervous about the prospect of interviewing for a position. The prospect of staying relevant keeps popping into my mind. After reading your post I am excited to one day sell myself and all that I can bring to a classroom. I know that I won’t only be looking for a “job” but for a place that I can continue to learn and excel. I feel that when the time comes I want to find a school that embraces me not for the “buzz” words that I know, but for the true feelings that I have towards children and their education. I am not naive in believing that I will get the first position I interview for though cautiously optimistic that I will find a place that “feels” right.

    So I thank you for sharing your thoughts (& tips) and I will be sure to keep it in mind when I begin interviewing.

    1. Lyn

      Darlene, thanks for commenting. It seems like you’re already doing what you can to stay connected and keep your enthusiasm for teaching alive! We interview many applicants who have spent time at home with children or who began their careers in another field. The important things are the life experiences, willingness to help children grow, and passion for the potential position that become so important when learning more about the candidate. Don’t hesitate to reach out to any of us when you’re headed back into the classroom, and enjoy your time with your little ones. That is the most important job of all!

  14. Lyn,

    I wanted to build off both your post and George’s comment. I have been part of many different interview processes in the past and very few are structured to help facilitate any sort of passionate conversation (the worst one asked me 60 questions in 60 minutes and then ranked my answers). In the past 4 years, I have interviewed a number of teachers and have found that I have moved from canned questions to using questions as a base for conversation.

    This year, I wanted to try something different. I had a few interviews to d at the start of the year. After narrowing down based on resumes and references (which… Is an odd one as who really puts a bad reference on there), I contacted the applicant and asked if they would be interested in an interview… And that it was no secret what I valued as an educator (i gave my blog as a link) in our school so instead of the pop quiz style interview, I would send him/her a doc with questions and topics for them to consider so we could just chat rather than trying to predict what I will ask.

    During the “interview”, we chatted based on topics of assessment, motivation, literacy, numeracy, relationships, discipline, leadership, tech… And everything that the conversation lead us to discuss. We went for a walk through our school and chatted instead of in the office. I did not sit across a desk from the interviewee, I sat in a nearby couch in the library…

    What I found… Much more relaxed atmosphere lead to much deeper conversations. Because they knew the topics, it was not about a resume but more about examples of HOW they impacted kids’ learning.

    I would never go back to the canned questions… I am sure that the interviewee was not as replaced as I was but I felt that I knew way more about the person than I did in previous interviews… And ended up hiring some great teachers.

    Would love to hear people’s thoughts…

    1. Lyn

      Chris, that is a great approach. I like the idea of not interviewing behind a desk. We have a bank of questions we pull from, and I take liberty with the wording in some of them, although the central themes you described are represented. It sounds like you have a lot of autonomy with your protocol, which is nice. In many districts, the hiring process is well-defined in order to ensure candidates are treated fairly. (Read: to avoid lawsuits. Sad, but true and necessary.) To break away too far from that system would jeopardize that.
      I wonder how many candidates found and read my school blog before showing up. Sometimes a candidate will refer to something they found on a website. I think, for our next opening, I’m going to spread the word on Twitter. I haven’t done that yet, but hopefully someone within my reach would be local enough or know someone who’d be interested. That being said, I couldn’t just bring that person in. They’d have to be registered and have all credentials on file with PA Educator, make it through the electronic screening, etc. A system of checks and balances is not a bad thing, but I agree with you that making the experience more personal would yield better results. Thanks for your comments! Glad you found my post :)

  15. Lyn: When I was involved in this process I had to constantly remind my colleagues that interview skill has little to do with teaching skill. Nobody interviews for a living. I recall one candidate who impressed the entire committee during an interview. Later the same day I saw her in action with students as she was working as a substitute in the school where my daughter was performing in a play. It didn’t take me long to realize that this person didn’t belong working with children. Just about anything else you can find out about a candidate is more important than interview performance. Ideally you can watch them in action. I also put great stock in the opinion of my top teachers. Any sub can put on a good show when the principal walks by but they can’t fake it all day. The teachers in their neighborhood will soon be able to tell if they are any good. Keep up the good work. Doug

    1. Lyn

      Hi, Doug – love this: “Nobody interviews for a living.” Very true. I hired a candidate who was quite nervous in both of her interviews. This was apparent, but her responses still indicated a general enthusiasm for her potential role, and it was clear she would be a welcome addition to our team. And she is. Thanks for commenting!

  16. Gail Ray

    Lyn,
    Thank you so much for this truly useful post. (My son made sure that I saw it). As a retired principal, currently working with student teachers, what you are saying is so important for them to hear. I will be sharing and discussing this post with my current student teachers and with all of my future student teachers as well.

    During my career, when the assistant principals and I interviewed potential candidates for our school, we’d always look for the teachers who had the passion. We knew we could teach them the mechanics of teaching but we could never teach them “heart.”

    1. Hi, Gail,
      Sorry I missed your comment in the thread a few weeks ago. I appreciate you taking the time to add your thoughts! Thanks for passing along the post to the student teachers you work with. As someone who has interviewed for “the passion,” you can be sure to describe to them what that looks and sounds like in an interview setting!

  17. Dr. Mouton

    Another great source to look at for interviewing potential candidates. My ultimate test though is to put them in the classroom and teach a lesson with a group of students. Ever interviewee has to teach a lesson they decide on to a group of my students. I ask the students after the lesson when my team takes the teacher to the office for interview, what they learned, what they liked about the teacher, and would they want them as their teacher. I also ask the teachers will the interviewee fit into our culture we have built at our campus. My interview team is comprised of my asst. principal, two or three teachers. I have found that many people can interview well and look good on paper but can’t do the actual job.

    Care to share the questions you use?

    1. Lyn

      Hi, and thanks for commenting- I’m happy to share my questions- will get in touch with you via email. I absolutely love that you include students in the interview process. So important to get their feedback! I know that process isn’t always a priority due to time constraints, but it seems to make sense that it should be!

  18. Lyn, I absolutely love this post of yours, and I think that it would be so valuable for new teachers to read it and see not just your words of advice, but all of the words of advice shared in the comments too! I remember talking to a previous principal of mine one day before she was doing some interviewing, and she said to me, “Aviva, you got this job because when I asked what else you could share about yourself, you were so passionate about teaching and about students that I just knew you were the person to hire!” This has stuck with me, and in all of my interviews from then on, I’ve made sure to share my passion too. Thanks for reminding me of this!

    Aviva

    1. Lyn

      Thanks for stopping by, Aviva! I am so thankful for everyone who shared their insights in the comments section. That is why I love blogging! What a wonderful story you shared – I can definitely remember stand-out candidates – what they said in their interviews can make a lasting impact. I might sound like a total sap right now, but in my very first teaching interview, I was asked to talk about an inspiring teacher I had. It was one of my college professors, and as I retold how he impacted my life and future career, I began to tear up! I was just so excited about my potential role as a new teacher and couldn’t help but be emotional about it. Thanks for sharing!

  19. I found your post very candid and appreciated that. Since getting into the teaching profession seems to be getting harder (so many applicants for only so many positions) I think that honest, realistic feedback such as yours is what is needed to help tomorrow’s teachers see what is expected of them. When I got into the profession a decade ago, one administrator took the time to give me real feedback about my interview (I didn’t get that job), but his un-sugar coated advice helped me land my first job.

    1. Lyn

      Thank you for commenting… I often have candidates who were not offered a position call me after the fact and ask how they could improve their interviewing skills for their next opportunity. I think that shows a lot of initiative and willingness to grow as a professional. I agree that honest, forthright feedback is important.

  20. Great post Lyn! As a past administrator interviewing teacher candidates for full-time positions or LTS was such an important time. I was typically a bit nervous about finding the right person for the job. Hiring great staff is so important to a school climate as you know. I was really impressed with your thoughts in this whole thing and I thought Chris’ idea about using a DOC before hand and a more relaxed sit down is fantastic! You made so many great points about tag words and “technology being important” kind of comments! That is so true and sad!
    Being “connected” as George mentioned is such a key and it is interesting to me how so many administrators & teachers are not! I find this shocking in 2011 when you think of such powerful tools like Twitter & GDocs, but at the same time I spoke at a Technology class at Creighton University recently filled with undergrads in ElEd and some pursuing Masters in Ed and many of them were not “connected”.
    I’m ready to interview now! Or do some hiring again! ha! Thanks for a great post!

    1. Lyn

      Hi, Brent- appreciate your comments! I am always very nervous about hiring. You just never know who’s going to walk through the door, even though you spend considerable time reviewing paper applications. Personalities don’t often shine through until you meet face-to-face. It still saddens me about how many teachers and administrators work in isolation. I can’t imagine, with the incredible workloads we face, and the importance of our jobs, responsibilities to kids, etc., that educators can still exist in a vacuum and be satisfied with that. Thanks, Brent!

  21. Fantastic post! I love that you are looking for passionate people. People who speak from who they are, not what they think they should be. We need educators who are open, thoughtful, inspired and not afraid to share it. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. Hugely important for all of us to reflect on. I recently had the opportunity to talk to a group of BEd students and at the end I was asked by someone what my 3 pieces of advice would be for new teachers. This is what I said:
    1. Truly teach the children in front of you – recognize that you will create a classroom community with your students and families – be open to that.
    2. Don’t give up who you are and what you think. Speak up, speak out, Advocate for what makes sense. You need to be you in your job.
    3. Don’t collect someone else’s prepackaged units/lessons – you will spend the rest of your career pitching the things you so desperately collected at the beginning Instead, collect inspiring thinkers – through blogs, etc. Read what people are doing and what their process is – then interact (comment, question)!

    1. Lyn

      Carrie, thanks for commenting! I love your three advice points, especially #3. So often new teachers are just trying to keep their heads above water, so they roll along with what their colleagues are doing, even if they don’t necessarily think it’s the most effective strategy/lesson/unit/project for kids. Have a voice! Be passionate! Get creative! Do the work! :)

  22. Nick Endlich

    I really thought that was an insightful post! It seems that colleges and universities have don’t do enough to prepare future teachers for the actual application and interviewing process.

    I’m currently applying for assistant principal and principal positions and was wondering if you had any suggestions for making my application STANDOUT?

    I am currently working on a digital portfolio, but not sure how I could incorporate that into my application. Thanks for all the great posts!

    1. Lyn

      Nick, thanks for taking the time to comment. I’d be happy to read through the information you’ll share with districts. We can Skype as well and I can share the process I used when applying. Email me at lynhilt@gmail.com if you want to share your docs with me!

  23. Bill

    Lyn,

    I feel your pain. We will have a high number of retirements this year and will be in the unique position to hire teachers. Sounds like I should check out the book you read as I feel our proces could use an overhaul.

    1. Lyn

      Hi, Bill –
      We should talk. I found the Stronge book to be helpful. I can walk you through our process! We need to connect on Skype like we’ve been talking about for weeks!!

  24. Lyn,
    Your blog could have been entitled ‘the job advice they don’t give you at teacher’s college.’ During the search for my first teaching job I was repeatedly advised by my universityto keep my blogging and online activities off my job applications because principals might not like me being online and blogging about my experiences on the course. Yet it was my social media activity that led to a job offer.

    Stephanie

    1. Lyn

      Hi, Stephanie,
      I am sorry you received that advice from your university. That message is driven by fear -fear that is fueled by the overhype of educators who misuse social media, instead of focusing on the countless examples of teachers and administrators who harness the power of social media to improve collaboration, communication, and creation in their school communities. Kudos to you for using your skills to obtain a new position- I hope you’re having a great year! Thanks for sharing!

  25. What a wonderful post! Your line about throwing up a little in your mouth at the word differentiation is classic. We are going through a search for a principal and I am having some of the same struggles you are; I want passion! I want to hear in your voice that you love kids, know how to move mountains (read: complacent teachers) and aren’t going to pander to any one constituency. This is so critical. I also want to know that you know more than me about education, current trends, social media, classroom discipline, and management…is that too much to ask?

    1. Lyn

      Sarah, thanks for commenting… I appreciate your thoughts. I agree, these qualities are equally important in potential administrators! It’s not too much to ask. Talk about a daunting experience… the admin interviews I have been involved in included anywhere from 8-14 interviewers! If you are unable to make your passion shine through, certainly one of those people will notice. :)

  26. Excellent post, Lyn! I especially liked the Highs/Lows. I laughed out loud with the “…throw up in my mouth a little…” comment regarding differentiation. :) We involve the entire team of teachers at a grade level to hire new teaching staff and your post is going to be required-reading before we host any potential candidates. It states exactly what our hiring teams need to be looking for!

    1. Lyn

      Thanks for your comments… the team approach is so powerful! Even though it requires more time and coordination of schedules, it’s nice to have a variety of voices present in the decision-making process. So long as you have open-minded, non-agenda-driven voices… :)

  27. Lyn,
    I was working with a pre-service teacher this semester and the first thing I said to her after she completed her demo lesson was ENERGY. I have worked with unbelievably intelligent educators who could put a corpse to sleep and others who were much weaker in their content but their enthusiasm alone inspired their students to work twice as hard. Enthusiasm and the pure love of teaching was always the first things I looked for in an interviewee; you can teach content and classroom management, but you can’t make someone have passion. I am glad to see you look for that from every employee regardless of their role in the school.

    1. Marc, thank you for sharing. That’s an important lesson for new teachers to learn… yes, many of them are nervous at the get-go, but we can’t let worries about standardized lesson plan formats, pacing guides, and other organizational demands overwhelm our teachers and zap the passion right out of them! By encouraging and supporting creativity and risk-taking, I feel as though our teachers can flourish. It’s awesome you support student teachers! I am sure they learn lots from you :)

  28. I’m glad I finally got to read this Lyn! (and am still reading, as the comments just serve to enhance the post). I don’t have a lot to add, but I think it is also reassuring to see that there is value in the things you mention from an interviewee’s perspective. I want to feel those same things that you look for in my interviewer’s responses and questions. Those give me a sense of place beyond what a school might promote on a website. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Pete! I am sure not every administrator feels as I do. Many are probably looking for more standardized versions of what they think teachers should be. But I say, no thanks. My kids are too good for that!

  29. Dave Zirkle

    Hi Lyn: This is a bit off your topic, but while I was telling a colleague about your post, I realized how often I’ve seen weak teachers say they got a “bad class” that year. Yet somehow that “bad class” is calm and well behaved when they have a reasonable substitute. My heart goes out to these kids, who desperately need someone who has some empathy for them.

    1. Dave, how very true! I’ve seen that exact same thing happen, especially with individual students. A child touted as “problematic” in one year has virtually no issues in the next grade level. Hmm… magic cure? Nope. A teacher who can build a quality relationship with a child, be persistent in supporting her, and works hard to help her learn in every way possible. That doesn’t happen without passion for the role and a love of kids! Thanks for sharing!

  30. When I’m on an interview committee, my main criterion is: How many good ideas can I steal from the candidate over the course of the interview? That covers a lot of the passion/differentiation/connectedness issues.

    – John

    1. Excellent point! I always want to learn from our new teachers. That is one of the reasons why I loved hosting student teachers when I was a classroom teacher. They taught me so much! Thanks for sharing!

  31. Marc

    Good read. I find it informative to ask candidates, “Are you passionate about teaching?” and then score their answer on a rubric: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 for varying degrees of “yes” and negative numbers for varying degrees of “no.”

    I kid.

    Interviews leave me in a structure/content dissonance. For better or worse, I leave with the best sense of candidates with whom I’ve conversed, not quizzed. While I know I can’t quantify passion, I think I share the ability of the author to look for a like-souled person and recognize it when it’s sitting in front of us.

    As unspecific and messy as it sounds, I call these passionate people “heart and soul educators.” Far be it for me (or anyone?) to propose a method for interviewing for heart. But it’s wonderful to know others out there, in a time when we are focusing on skills (“I write the essential question ON the board!” Golf clap), are seeking “…the identity and integrity of the teacher” (Palmer).

    Along the lines of other errors preservice teachers make in the interview process, I’m just about finished reading the same objective on everyone’s resume. Yes, I understand your objective is to gain employment, but really, look at the word “objective” and read it as “purpose.” Help me buy WHY you do what you intend to do, not merely what you intend to do.

    Lyn – I like your site very much, though I’m not a daily visitor. You offer much to our community, and your school is lucky to have you.

    mb

    1. Marc, I loved your comments. Especially your opening. :)
      “Heart and soul educators….” I wish there was a checkbox on a walkthrough form for that. :)
      Isn’t it funny, too, how we can spot that characteristic in a teacher almost instantaneously? It doesn’t take much for those teachers to shine, in every circumstance. Even under stress or in difficult situations, they let their dedication to students guide their actions and decisions.
      Thanks for visiting and your kind words. No need to visit daily… I certainly don’t post each day. :)

  32. Spot on! Building knowledge together . . . LOVE it! I agree with Marc; your school family is lucky to have you.

    We like to ask, “why do kids fail?” We also like to know what our candidates think it means to work in a school of character. And our other favorite is finding out what three words their colleagues/coworkers would use to describe them.

    Passion . . . . can you cultivate that in someone you hire? Or do they have to have it when they get there? Oh, your post has really gotten me thinking . . . thanks!!!

  33. Thanks for your post. Loved it the first time I read it, and every other time after. I even ordered a copy of the Teacher Quality Index book, and have also been using it is a starting point to revamp our District’s processes.

    I had already been thinking about what I wanted to change, and your post helped better solidify some of my thinking which I hadn’t been completely able to articulate.

    The last couple of weeks I have interviewed some of those genuine candidates who also show that passion you mention.

    Interviews can be difficult at the best of time. It’s always nice to see some of our candidates relax, and speak to what they really think and feel as opposed to what they “think” I want to hear.

    1. Lyn

      Thanks for reading, Michael, and I am glad that my post offered some insight during your interviewing process. I hope you found some fantastic additions to your organization!

  34. Thanks for this wonderful post! As a pre-service teacher just starting the job hunting process it is really reassuring to see that admin are looking for passion as well as the technical know-how of teaching. I think new teachers often become caught up in the interview process and what the right thing to say is that we often forget to let their passion for teaching shine through! So thank-you for reminding me to let the reason I’ve decided to go into teaching show itself in my future interviews!

    Also, I laughed out loud when I saw the comment about the 3 philosophy statements that were all the same! I purposefully didn’t look to closely at the resume samples I was given in my classes as to avoid having my resume looking like everyone elses! I ended up putting a QR code to my digital footprint just to make sure it wouldn’t go unnoticed.

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