Ask Sarita

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What are the strategies to be followed by the management of a school while conducting interviews for teachers? -Zameera Ofran, Co-ordinator, Crescent Matriculation H Sec School, Chennai

Ask the right questions at the interview:
Focus on skills: The interview should focus on skills the candidate has, not the positions held. Most of the time candidates list out the various tasks they have performed e.g. Head of Department, which is a ‘position’. While that is important and relevant information for the interviewer, what is more important is the achievements as HOD, the challenges faced and how they were tackled. How were meetings announced, were agendas circulated in advance, minutes taken, follow up done. Asking for concrete examples will give an in-depth insight into the competency of the person.

Checking for Professional Development (PD) in the past and interest shown for the future: What trainings and workshops has the candidate attended is important to know; based on that what was the learning and take-home? Can evidence be provided of how it was ploughed into the school system. This information will give you an idea on whether this candidate will add ‘value’ to your school. It will also reveal how passionate he/ she is about the profession.

Get to know the family background and special circumstances at home if any: This will help build a rapport both ways and will also reflect to some extent the kind of person the interviewee is. A person’s guard is usually down during this kind of talk and you may get to see some facets of his/her personality that you like (or don’t like). After all we want humane people in our classrooms, don’t we?

Call for a Demonstration Lesson: A teacher demonstration is a must. The teacher may be allowed to chose a topic of her choice and the demo should be over at least two classes on the same topic preferably on different days. Parameters that would decide the teaching effectiveness would be

  • command on the subject (this is different from subject knowledge- we ALL have subject knowledge),
  • ability to connect to the students i.e. ability to communicate in such a way that not only is the pitch just right, students are visibly understanding,
  • lightness of style with a non-threatening demeanor,
  • manner and quality of questions asked and eliciting answers(is the teacher doing all the talking or is he/she getting students to make the discoveries),
  • maximum involvement of maximum numbers.

Reference Check:
The importance of this cannot be underestimated. This person will be in your school, among your faculty, amongst your children and your parents. Is he/she safe, reliable, has a good standing?
Past employers will be the best people to speak to- on the phone.
I get very tense when my Principal takes rounds of the school. She wants perfect pin-drop silence in the classrooms and I do not always have that in mine. How do I handle this anxiety?
We know amply well that at the end of the day, no matter what the strength of the school, the size of the campus and the extent of the facilities a school provides, what is happening in our classrooms makes all the difference to our students. And that is the arena that belongs to the teacher, the ring-master.

There are Principals who when taking rounds like to see classrooms absolutely quiet with the teacher at the front in total control, students sitting quietly. They believe learning is happening. This is unlikely.

Then there are also Principals who like to see some activity, some dynamism in the classroom – a kind of buzz, a sort of restlessness, teacher walking around, students not sitting entirely quietly. They too believe learning is happening; and they are right.

Arguably, the best judge of teacher effectiveness in the classroom is the student.
It is not about being popular; it’s about students enjoying your class and your presence in their lives. That can only happen in a live and lively classroom – one where students ask questions, one where the minds are restless, thirsting for more, one where there is a two way interaction, there is activity and there is discussion.

If the students like the teacher- they show interest in the subject and automatically start doing well in it. They talk about what happened in class at home, share facts and knowledge with their parents and even explore books, TV programmes or sites related to the subject. Parents get happy when they see that and tend to think highly of teachers who have this kind of influence on their children. Would you not agree, one of the best compliments you can get as a teacher is a parent saying to you, ‘We are very lucky Ronak has you as his science teacher’.

So do not get anxious. Do your act, the way you know best. Enjoy your class and let your class enjoy you. Your Principal will support you when it is known to her (him) that she has many happy parents!
We are asked to make our classes lively by conducting activities in the classroom. We are also supposed to mark the students through some activities. Can you give me some tips on how to do this without spending too much time, as we are also expected to complete the syllabus?
Activities can be conducted in various ways and are of various types. Your selection should have a judicious mix of these. Which activity you use is a decision that must be made keeping in mind the desired learning outcome. Most importantly the chosen activity should be relevant i.e. not an activity for the sake of an activity. This is where many teachers go wrong and lose out on precious teaching time.
Activities can be broadly grouped under 2 heads: Fun activities and Learning activities (yes, yes, there can be fun and learning together as well) Fun activities simply involve a nontraditional style of answering questions and do not have much to do with introducing new concepts or new knowledge. Examples of fun activities are quizzes, draw-a-chit-of-paper to answer, tambola-style games, crosswords. The learning outcome for these type of activities are related to ‘re-call’.
Learning activities are activities where learning of a concept or procedure is embedded in the activity. Instructions are given by the teacher step-by-step. By asking the right questions at the right time, the teacher arrives at the desired learning outcome. Both fun and learning activities can be conducted in several ways:
Teacher demo: very quick and controllable as you are conducting it.
Individual activity: should be short and achievable by most students, i.e. not ambitious and one that requires a lot of supervision

Group activity: 4 or 5 students work together on this. Chose activities where you know that by working in groups you would be providing peer support for the students who need it without singling them out.
Project: Individual or group wise. As far as marking goes, you may want to mark the process of learning the child undergoes and not the outcome of the activity alone. This can be done through a simple, slick rubric that will make it easy for the teacher to mark objectively, fairly and quickly while the activity is in progress.

Sarita Mathur is a free-lance education consultant offering services to schools, both rural and urban, in India and abroad. An alumnus of St. Stephen’s College, Sarita has a degree in Mathematics, Education and a postgraduate degree in Operations Research. The Mathematics background and her well-honed sense of systems and processes had her institutionalise several long lasting and important changes as Principal of The Shri Ram School placing it firmly on the map as a progressive and leading school of India. Sarita has served as a consultant on the International curriculum of the CBSE and also serves as advisor/consultant to several curriculum companies, schools and start-up ventures.