Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Should Teachers Hire Teachers?

As you've probably figured out by now, my staff and I are doing everything in our power to improve public schools by the time my 9-year-old grandson Sammy reaches high school. At this point, we can find nothing salvageable in the institution, but we'll keep looking.

Today, however, we're fielding questions, this one from Ms. Sadie Crankshaw from Ethelberry High in Dubuque, Iowa:


I'd like your thoughts on the process of hiring teachers. Do you think teachers themselves should be allowed some input in hiring their future colleagues? I mean, our departmental colleagues. You know, like the English department, for example.

Maybe it's a budgetary problem or maybe it's just too much trouble to involve us, but at our school, teachers have no say in the process. We don't meet our new colleagues till the first-day meeting. We're introduced to them the same way the rest of the teachers are. The principal has them stand up while he reads from their resumes (or vitae, if you will). 

That's when we learn their favorite movies (the latest Hunger Games installment, the latest Marvel comics installment, the usual), their favorite books (A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, Shades of Grey, the usual), hobbies (surfing, Pokemon Go, etc.) and their major character flaw (perfectionism, typically).

Our assistant principals work diligently to cultivate esprit de corps so we can be one big well-oiled machine, with school spirit. Don't you think it's likely to be more difficult for our school to "work as a team" or "be a family" when we start Day One with a complete stranger next door to us? 

All the teachers allowed to interview candidates

For example, one of our leaders went to a lot of trouble moving a teacher, whose huge closet was jammed pack with books, all the way across campus so she could be closer to her fellow department members, her team, as it were, her PLC. I felt so sorry for her I was tempted to help her.

The reasoning was that with this snug proximity, the teacher and her colleagues would be more likely to coordinate lesson plans, trouble-shoot, swap great teaching ideas, develop strategies to increase the pass rates on State standardized tests, and just bond in general.

But it doesn't work that way at Ethelberry High. Being human, teachers find all sorts of reasons to subgroup, to split off from the team, to avoid colleagues they perhaps find annoying. 

Sometimes they even feel more competitive than collaborative, esp. when their pay can be affected by test scores. Who wants to help another teacher make you look like a loser when all the kudos go out at next year's first-day meeting?

My colleagues who own Corollas refuse to lunch with those who own Civics. Also, both of the department's Republicans take their lunches to another building. It turns out, getting all of us on the same floor of the same building didn't help at all.

Clearly, community-building is an arduous task, even arduouser* when its members aren't invited to help build the foundation.

So don't you think it would help if we could interview our future colleagues, maybe observe them teach a class, ask them how they handle texting and cheating or that one guy who answers all the questions before anyone else can get a hand up? Don't you think we should chat with them over lunch (perhaps we'd want to have lunch with them more often), maybe even throw back a couple of brewskis with them after school?

I mean, we know our Ethelberry students. We know the parents. We know how we became a respected school. We know our ethos. And since we don't go through revolving doors the way administrators do on their way up the ladder -- granted, that's a confusing mixed metaphor -- we know these things much better than they do. Ethelberry is our home, not just a weigh-station** on the way to greater glory.

I'm not saying that at Ethelberry we suspect our administrators of engaging in nepotism or favoritism, it's just that they're more likely to hire someone in their own likeness, so to speak, as a part of a bigger plan that may well be more personal (or private) than communal.

Consequently, they're not saying to the applicant, 'You'll make a good fit at Ethelberry and will contribute to its particular goals.' Maybe instead they're saying 'You'll make my job easier.' 

I don't know what they're saying. I know what I think they should be saying: 'Okay, English department, what do you think about Sylvester, and why? You go first, Mercy Nesspah.'

Anyway, that's my question. I'd appreciate any help you can give. Just wondered if you thought we should be hiring our own colleagues." Yes.

*Editor's note: Ms. Crankshaw was told "arduouser" is not a real word, but she insisted we let it stand. In a chillingly threatening tone, she told us by phone that "Ms. Crankshaw doesn't like to be edited."

**She means "way station." Just don't say anything about it in your comments. 


  1. Wow. This sounds a LOT like some other high schools I've had intimate experiences with. You know, hanging out at the 'way station'.

  2. I hear ya, K-Sav. Oviedo and Dubuque: Sister Cities!

  3. That is a funny read. But in all honesty, at this point, they aren’t hiring teachers anyway. They are just adding more students to each classroom. I have two teachers in my family and they would love to leave the profession if they could. I I don’t think they care if they’re involved in hiring teachers -I think they just wish there were teachers being hired. But who wants that job anymore?