Sunday, June 29, 2014

What Book Are You Reading?

Tis the season to interview teachers,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Yup, its that time of year again. Time to sit in the conference room and interview prospective teachers. Individuals who are going to help drive the learning process of what could potentially be generations of students within your building. This is NOT a subject that should be taken lightly.

Having worked almost ten years as an administrator, I've seen it all when it comes to job interviews. I've also learned a lot, like which interview questions have the greatest impact. A couple of years ago, our school division administrators participated in a summer read of Donnalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer. In that book she mentions job interviews and asking prospective teachers, "what book have you read recently"?

After reading her book, I tried this while interviewing a potential language arts teacher. Her response: "I haven't read anything recently. It's summer vacation!" Ironically, if she hadn't answered that single question in the way she had, she would have gotten the job.

To say the least, I now ask this simple question to every single person I interview for teaching positions. I do this for a couple of reasons. First, I do this to avoid hiring people who answer questions in the manner answered above. Second, I often learn something new. The answer to this question may give me insight to the person I'm about to hire. Frankly, I don't necessarily care what someone reads over the summer, as long as they are reading something, and they are passionate about what they share.

In addition, asking someone what they have read recently may also give me a lead on my own next summer read! From interviews, I've learned about Daniel Pink's Drive, about Tony Dungy's Uncommon and about Jim Knight's Instructional Coaching. The information I gained from these books have been worth so much to me.

The next time you are interviewing possible teacher candidates, ask this question. You may take away more from that question than you do from the entire interview!

By the way, I just finished up Janet Evanovich's Top Seceret Twenty-One and I enjoyed EVERY minute of it!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

How Creative Have You Been Lately?

I haven't blogged in awhile. I have several drafts with some really good content, but I've had some serious trouble bringing any of it to fruition...until now.

I was actually looking for some examples of journal article citations to share with my students when I came across an article on the concept of creativity. In the article, Sligte, deDreu, and Nijstad (2011) discuss power, hierarchy and creativity. The authors even go on to say that power and creativity can be closely related to stability in life.

I think about how unstable educators' lives are in the final weeks of the school year. Gone is the structure of the school day. At the end of the year, regular bell schedules and class periods give way to standardized testing, modified schedules, field days, yearbook signing parties, and awards assemblies. In addition, time must be spent on completing professional growth goals and performance evaluations.

The toll these final weeks take are not limited to the educator's state of mind. Laundry piles up, grocery lists get longer and longer, and weekends become extensions of the workweek. An even larger part of our existence gets engulfed by the profession we are so passionate about. At the end of the twelve, thirteen, or fourteen-hour frenzied days, there is very little room for creativity. Ironically, this tends to be the time of year we often ask teachers to be the most creative in their teaching and learning. 

Have you ever looked at Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs" pyramid? Simply Psychology has a article which discusses Maslow in more detail in case you aren't familiar with the pyramid. There is even a picture of the pyramid. Basically, the concept of Maslow's Hierarchy is that you need to satisfy certain basic needs before you are able to even think about more complex things. By the way, according to the picture on the website, and to Sligte, deDreu, and Nijstad (2011), creativity is at the top of the pyramid. No wonder I haven't had the creative juices to blog! I haven't done a great job of meeting my own basic needs recently. 

This is the first evening in a LONG while when I have been able to sit down in my favorite chair with my cat in my lap, and write about something that I am passionate about. So, the next time you find yourself discouraged about the work your teachers or students are producing, take a moment to put yourself in their shoes. Are they truly in a position to be creative? If not, how can you foster that creativity that is so essential to promote good teaching and learning? 

Sligte, D. (2011). Power, stability of power, and creativity. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, (5), 891-897.