Monday, December 18, 2017

Hiring and Referencing

Teachers and principals can make or break a school, their hiring plays the biggest part in the future success or failure of a school.  Because of this it is important to find and hire the right people.  This can be a challenge if you are not prepared and understand where you are, what you currently need and where you want to go in the future. 

Understand Your Needs

Every school is unique when it comes to hiring the perfect teacher or administrator.  You must know the environment, the best fit for that individual and the school community.  Specific needs might include certification, experience, personality, flexibility, and individual philosophy of teaching.  Don’t begin the process until you know the answer to these questions.  They will help shape not only the understanding of the type of individual you’re looking for but also the type of questions that would be most important to ask potential candidates.

Post the Position

NAD Education has a central location to post all openings in the NAD on the Adventist Education website.  The larger the pool of potential applicants the better.  Be as detailed in your description as possible, make sure to list contact information, the deadline for submission and qualifications.

Initial Sorting

After the deadline has passed scan each resume specifically for key words, skills and experiences that match your needs.  Note how the resumes and letters are constructed, are they organized, do they have gaps in the information, was this a generic interest or does the candidate exhibit a specific interest in your school.  Use this process to narrow the field and then look for individuals on their references that you or someone you trust may know.  Consider links to individuals that might not be listed and reach out beyond the list of references.  Your goal is to get as much information as possible about the individual before they are even considered for an actual interview.  All of these things will help narrow your list.

Deep Background and Reading Between the Lines

An interview is a snapshot of an individual and can be unreliable as a reference for how the person will actually fit in the position.  Interviews are too short a time to become familiar with how someone will perform long term.  The goal of spending time doing deeper background is to get clear understanding of the individual’s performance from people who interacted with them long term.  It’s important to understand that official references typically stay brief and often superficial.  Your successful discussion with a reference is based on what they said and what was conferred “in between the lines.”  Always ask these two questions; “Would you hire this person for a similar position?” and “Who else should I speak with about this candidate?”

Something else to add to your deep background is a search of social media website for the individuals being considered.  You won’t be the only one looking them up on these websites and you will be much better off checking them before you hire someone than finding out afterward through a constituent.

The First Interviews
An initial phone or teleconference is recommended to further narrow your candidates.  In this initial phone conversation, your goal is to establish how strong their interest is in the position, fill in any gaps or answer basic questions you need clarification on.  Try to get a feel for the candidate’s personality and comfort level.  Don’t rush this conversation, spend time to get to know them a little with small talk, ask them to share.  Take notes as you go through their resume.  Add your thoughts, impressions and any further questions you might research. 

The Second Interviews

At this point you should have a good idea who the top 2-3 candidates are.  It’s time to broaden the scope of understanding with your committee, chairperson or board.  Let them add their thoughts on the resumes, deep background and connections to the candidate to the discussion.  Let them share their impressions before you share your thoughts.  Let them formulate their own opinions for each candidate.  Some Conferences prefer at this point to bring only one candidate in, while others will bring in their top 2-3 for interviews.

Interview Questions

While you want to learn as much as possible about a candidate there are some things you should not ask.  While Title VII doesn’t have a list of questions that can’t be asked, anti-discrimination agencies use these types of questions to show bias and discrimination.

1.     Are you pregnant?
2.     What is your political affiliation?
3.     What is your race, color or ethnicity?
4.     How old are you?
5.     Are you disabled?
6.     Are you married?
7.     Do you have children?
8.     Are you in debt?

Here’s what you should do:
1.     Questions are easy, use scenarios instead to get a deeper understanding.
2.     Throw a trick question in for example: “You’re working with a group of students at a table when one of them throws up on the manipulatives. What do you do?”  Pay attention to the candidate’s response, body language and thoughts.  The best candidates will not only focus on the cleanup, but the sick student AND how they will handle their student’s response to the sick child to limit embarrassment.
3.     Relax, remember that this individual will become an integral part of your team, use the opportunity to find out their interests, hobbies and books.  Look for opportunities to laugh!
4.     Ask your candidates what they know about your school, the area and the Conference.  The amount of research they did can tell you a lot about how likely they are to succeed.
5.     Be specific when asking about the gaps or red flags on their resume. 

6.     Take a tour and make sure to note how the candidate interacts with students, teachers and parents.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Creator's create...

It is vital that the teacher and student become co-creators of knowledge instead of content consumers.   It's a simple concept covered in some form multiple times during teacher training.  But it's power is under appreciated and under emphasized.  In the rush to cover the curriculum teachers often forget their job is to co-create knowledge with their students.  Creatively re-imagining what has become "common knowledge" for the teacher, but is novel for their students.  That recreation should spark some new facet of understanding for the teacher as well.  That was the beautiful part of teaching that captivated my wondering mind, no day, no subject, no problem, no moment would be exactly the same twice.

When fully involved in the process of teaching, every teacher is a content creator and it's the perfect role to model for our students.  One of the best motivations for students is the realization they are producing content through their assignments and projects that is meant to impact the world outside the classroom.  They should see us producing content that impacts a broader audience too.  We all learn more when we teach others and it keeps us from stagnation and status quo thinking.

I want to challenge everyone, to be intentional about creating content for your students and the broader world.  This can be done in many ways: posting lessons and materials lists, mentoring newer teachers, sharing ideas with colleagues, writing, blogging, newsletters, presentations at Conference/Union/NAD events, sharing thoughts and articles at teachSDA on Facebook/Twitter, etc.

You are excellent educators with voices and thoughts worth being heard!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Adventist Education Matters

Wholistic education is the difference

“They (students) need the very best of instruction and religious training. They need that virtue that comes from God, added to knowledge, which will qualify them for trying and responsible positions. The intellectual and spiritual growth should be as marked as the development of the physical powers.” Sabbath-School Workers Jan. 1, 1889
Adventist Education was created alongside the medical work to be a preparation for young people to develop skills that would make them an invaluable part of any community.  Through their intelligence, diligence, kindness and skillful service graduates from our schools would become beacons of blessing no matter where they found themselves.  Their abilities would be hallmarks of excellence and would naturally lead them to positions of leadership and respect in their communities.

TeachSDA is continuing to advocate that administrators, teachers and students keep this goal in mind.  Our academic goals are not secondary to a solid relationship with Jesus.  They are an integral part of the holistic ideal of Adventist Education as missionary training.  We believe that every individual is a missionary called to minister in any area God places them in.  Through studies like Value Genesis it is clear that our religious emphasis has positive results, students who attend our schools are more likely to be active members for the rest of their lives.  Through our research in the academic programs of Adventist Education it is also clear that the longer students attend our schools the better they perform.  Often with standardized tests, SAT and ACT scores far above their counter parts in both parochial and public schools.

This issue will cover several topics that every excellent educator should be considering!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Welcome to @teachSDA

Leveraging technology to grow connections

The 2017-18 school year has begun for me here in the Southern Union and many of you have started as well.  Some of you have been a part of the teachSDA community for many years and some of you are new.  I thought it would helpful to remember why we started teachSDA.  

Chris Webb was a former student of mine and during his academy and college years he developed a love for education.  I was overjoyed and encouraged him at every opportunity.  He eventually graduated and began teaching in Taiwan.  He was an amazing teacher, I like to think I had a bit to do with that.  But he quickly realized what many of us veteran teachers learn early.  The classroom can be painfully isolating.  Educators become so busy with the day to day management that they lose perspective and connection with those around them.  The system also tends to isolate and silo teachers giving them very little opportunity to expand their professional network.  Add being on the other side of the world and the issues are magnified. 

So what could be done to solve the problems?  Chris and I continued to talk through emails, Twitter, Facebook and video chats and eventually came to the conclusion that technology could be a helpful tool to connect teachers from diverse backgrounds and locations.  So many of the day to day issues we deal with as teachers are universal.  So we could benefit from the creativity and wisdom of others.  The platform could also be used to advocate thoughtful and deliberate educational ideas in Adventist Education.  So the first Adventist Twitter personal learning network was created.  Over the course of that first year a website and newsletter was added; eventually a Facebook was added too.

We've continued to grow over the last five years and now are part of the Adventist Learning Community project.  Thanks for journey!  We hope you'll continue to join us on TwitterFacebook and 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Fall is here!

Let's have some science fun with fall

Autumn is a perfect opportunity to get out of the regular classroom routine and learn some science!  The eight links in our newsletter this week give you ideas designed for easy implementation in any classroom.  Read it here