Monday, February 15, 2010

Looking for the Fit: Hiring Staff for 21st Century School

One of the many administrative tasks a school principal faces is hiring personnel for her school. There are certainly a number of philosophies and ways of thinking that guide school leaders in making such selections, but the selection of a teacher, counselor, receptionist, or any other position is a critical task. In all of our school administration courses we heard over and over the importance of a school's culture, and in fact, the one thing I know that has the greatest impact on that culture, is the hiring of personnel. We have all  been in schools where one or two teachers or staff members literally destroy the culture and morale of a school by their presence. There negative attitudes manifest themselves in their interactions with other teachers, students, and parents. In a very short period of time, a person with a negative attitude can bring down an organization to the point that it is ineffective. For that reason, decisions regarding hiring personnel are important.

If you take that one step further in the 21st Century School setting, you not only want positive contributors to the school culture, you want teachers that "are a good fit." We as administrators have heard that statement so much, it is almost a cliche, but when looking for personnel for a 21st Century School, you also need teachers and staff members who exemplify the very same skill set demanded by our world today, such as those outlined in the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.One of the most challenging aspects of finding personnel for me, is finding individuals flexible and adaptable enough to meet the needs of our school. For example, as a redesign high school, it has become clear to me that a secondary teacher with a strong traditional teaching philosophy would not be successful in our school. The emphasis on our six week projects, the use of computer labs, and  the relationship focus through groups called families would make that kind of teacher very uncomfortable. During my years in the profession, I have honestly heard high school teachers say, "My job is to get the content out there, and it is the students' job to get it." While I would question whether a teacher with that teaching philosophy would be successful anywhere today, in a 21st Century School, there is no place for that kind of thinking. So, in my search for a staff member with the fit, I need someone who is flexible enough to try anything, and adaptable enough to improvise when that anything fails.

Finding educators who are an addition to our 21st Century culture is a challenging task at this point. We need individuals who have no or very little preconceived notions about what a high school should look like.The staff at our school began the process of transforming a high school model into one where more students could be successful before I even became the principal. As their first administrator, I am conscious of that with every decision I make. This is especially true when contemplating the hiring of new staff members.

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