Have a cheery disposition
Rosy cheeks, no warts!
Play games, all sorts
You must be kind, you must be witty
Very sweet and fairly pretty
Take us on outings, give us treats
Sing songs, bring sweets
Never be cross or cruel
Never give us castor oil or gruel
Love us as a son and daughter
And never smell of barley water
If you won't scold and dominate us
We will never give you cause to hate us
We won't hide your spectacles
So you can't see
Put toads in your bed or pepper in your tea
Hurry, Nanny! Many thanks
Sincerely, Jane and Michael Banks
"Perfect Nanny." Mary Poppins.
OK, so selecting a teacher isn't like dreaming up the perfect nanny. I mean, you can't just throw your description in the fireplace and whoosh, down from the clouds floats the one person who can meet your every expectation. On the other hand, this is C. W. Henry School, and a lot of teachers want to come here. So it turns out you can have pretty high standards, and you can be pretty darn selective.
I recently spent part or all of three days with the Principal and three teachers on the site-based selection committee, interviewing candidates for teaching positions at Henry. The teachers have a combined 35-ish years experience teaching at Henry. One is a Henry alum, who lives in the neighborhood, and whose kids also attend Henry. Along with the Principal, all are strong advocates of the school, the students, and the Henry community. I thought my wife and the other Henry parents we know, who are Henry alumni/ae, and whose kids go to Henry now, were the promotional mavens of Henry. I learned that the teachers are as dedicated as the alumni/parents to the unique culture of Henry.
The committee interviewed close to 20 candidates: all are certified teachers, most have years of experience. Some knew of Henry from living or spending time in the neighborhood. Some from working with peers whose kids go/went to Henry. Some spoke of learning about Henry as if told through legend around a secluded campfire in the misty depths of Middle Earth. A place where most of the kids are nice, respectful, ready and willing to learn...where teachers work together...where parents are involved throughout the school's life...can such a place really exist?
I've hired probably 100 people in the nonprofit arena over the past 18 years. I know what I'm looking for in someone who's going to work for me. Proven performance. Willingness to learn and grow. Motivation to push beyond what's been done before. So I was pleased to work with a team of teachers and Principal who have the same expectations of the teachers they select. Their years of teaching experience, combined with years of working with teachers who didn't work out, and their native respect for the school culture, created a high bar for candidates to clear. In addition to a strong understanding of the subject area and grades in question, key areas of interest centered around:
- personal responsibility for one's students and classroom (no pass-the-buck attitude)
- collaboration with other teachers
- not necessarily in the same words, but an understanding of the ideas expressed in the Common Principles of the Coalition of Essential Schools
Come September, I'm looking forward to greeting our new teachers in the school yard. Thanks to the opportunity to be part of the selection process, I know they'll come with the experience and ideas to help our kids excel, and with the willingness to work with all elements of the Henry community.