Hiring Good Teachers

I have a habit of making would-be teachers cry.

It's not deliberate; I'm not a sadist.

I just tell potential instructors what it is like sitting in their classrooms. I think people who teach ought to know how they come across to their students.

"I'm bored," I told a teacher after a few minutes of listening to him give a practice lesson the other day. He was applying for a job to teach English to eighth graders. "All you're doing is talking at us."

He paused, took a deep breath and began again. This time he was much better. He asked us questions and used the board to illustrate his points. And he left without tears.

Another candidate that same day didn't fare so well. "If this were a job for a university professor lecturing on a stage, you would be great," I said, "but it's not. I need someone to teach 14-year-olds. You would put them to sleep. Thank you for coming in, but I'm not going to offer you the job."

That's when the tears began.

A simple rule of thumb: No one who weeps when getting criticized during a practice lesson is ready to teach early adolescents.

The prescription for more effective schools is not more multiple-choice testing or performance pay for teachers or Internet in classrooms. What we need are higher standards for new teacher candidates, including a demonstrated capacity for taking criticism.

I don't know if they still do, but at least one SAT test prep company used to have impressively high standards for their candidates. I remember the first time I applied to teach for them. I was a cocky college student. And I was summarily rejected. Why? My sample lesson, I was told, was dull.

I took that feedback to heart, worked on my teaching style and tried again. I got the job and was soon promoted to train the other teachers.

That company wasn't messing around. They wanted good teachers, and they weren't willing to settle. That's a lesson for all of us in education.

We're always building a pipeline of potential Saturday and summer teachers at NJ SEEDS, so if you're interested, have strong credentials, and you can take feedback well, send us your resume. I can't promise you'll get hired, but if you come in for an interview, you will definitely grow as a teacher.