One of the most impactful ways that a K–12 administrator can create an inclusive and positive school culture is through effective hiring and offering support for new teachers. It’s no secret that teachers are the greatest predictors of student success, so it’s crucial that administrators develop a process to identify, hire, and support teachers. This process can be divided into two areas: hiring and supporting. The goal when hiring new teachers is for them to become an integral part of the school community.
How I Approach the Hiring Process
I look for two things when I hire: character first, then technical skills. Technical skills can be taught, but altering a person’s fundamental character or disposition is much harder to do, and it’s usually a person’s character and disposition that determine whether or not they will be a successful teacher.
During an interview, I ask questions that might seem deceptively simple but are designed to reveal a candidate’s character. Questions like “Tell us about a time you made a mistake” or “Tell us about a time you had conflict with a coworker—what happened?” or “What three words would your students use to describe you?” can reveal candidates’ mindset and how that translates into their actions.
After the initial round of interviews, I invite selected candidates to give a demonstration lesson to a group of students. The demonstration round is held on a different day to give candidates time to prepare. We supply each teacher with a lesson prompt and invite a cross-section of three to five students to participate. These lessons add tremendous value to the hiring process, as we get to see, in real time, how candidates design lessons and interact with students.
An unexpected bonus is how invested students feel in the process. Several students have shared with me how much they appreciate having input, and their feedback is a candid and refreshing part of the process.
How I Support New Teachers
Once a teacher is hired, my next goal is to equip them with the resources and tools they’ll need to be successful.
Clearly communicate expectations: I meet with every new teacher individually for about 30 minutes, outlining expectations and strategies for success. Students need to know expectations to be successful, and so do new teachers—an administrator should clearly communicate with them. Here are four things I tell new hires:
1. “Ask a lot of questions!” I don’t expect new teachers to know everything, but I do expect them to ask questions and seek out support.
2. “Connect with colleagues and get involved!” Students need to feel connectedness and a sense of community, and so do teachers. The first year of teaching at a new school can be overwhelming, but I encourage teachers to get involved in things they’re passionate about, as it provides a way for them to connect with other staff members and get to know students outside of the classroom.
3. “You’re going to make mistakes, and that’s OK.” I like to acknowledge that new teachers might make mistakes, but the most important thing is what they do afterward. Self-reflection is an important part of professional growth, and I encourage them to ask questions such as “What have I learned from this? How can I do things differently next time?”
4. “Have fun!” We have the privilege of being in a career that shapes and changes lives, and it can be a joyful experience for students and teachers.
Resources and mentorship: If a teacher needs support in specific areas, I connect them to resources specific to that area. For example, if a teacher is brand new, I have them work with instructional coaches on instructional strategies and lesson design. If teachers need more support in behavior management, I connect them with a behavior specialist and offer relevant training. Every teacher—whether they are a first-time teacher or have experience—is connected with a mentor teacher.
I pair new teachers and mentors based on personality, academic content, and area of need. Mentors are the go-to person for questions, support, and advice, serving as an exemplar for new teachers. These introductions are done in person or via email, depending on the circumstance.
Monthly check-in meetings and classroom visits: Meeting monthly with new teachers is another important way to support them. These meetings are short (20 minutes), and I add all check-in meetings to my calendar at the beginning of the year. As an administrator, I find it easy to get caught up in day-to-day duties, so monthly meetings are a helpful way to keep me accountable and in touch with new teachers. It’s a great way for us to build trust and a positive relationship.
Monthly meetings also serve as an opportunity to find out what additional support or resources teachers might need. I couple these meetings with frequent classroom visits so that I can learn their teaching style and provide guidance when needed.
Hiring new teachers is one of the highlights of being an administrator because it has a direct effect on student outcomes and the school environment. There’s nothing better than identifying the passion and potential in a new educator. For me as an administrator, it’s a privilege to provide support and opportunities for them to grow into an educator who makes a positive impact on students’ lives.