A teacher doesn’t spend most of his working hours with school principal or colleagues who are traditionally involved in recruiting a new teacher. The most important interaction happens in the classroom with students and it can be said that a teacher and his students form a team that works together to achieve their daily goals. Today, it is common that members of a working team can express their opinion when new employees are chosen. Why can’t students choose their own teacher?
Changing work environment sets enormous challenges to learning and especially to teaching. In our previous blog post, we wrote about a teacher’s role in modern school. Since today the most important task for a teacher isn’t to share information, but also to motivate students to search and understand the information as a part of bigger entity. We know that every knowledge in the world is available even for the smallest hands and that learning happens everywhere - even after school - so a teacher must know how to wake up students’ inner motivation and curiosity. Youngsters need to be guided to search, critically assess and use knowledge in a meaningful way. Changing environment puts a lot of weight on choosing the right teacher for the future schools.
Principle of Havukoski school in Finland, Arto Martikainen, has taken a brave step towards the future of recruitment. He has given students the possibility of participating in recruiting teachers. “Our students are between the ages of 12 and 16 and according to my experiences, they have quite precise and well-grounded opinions on what a teacher should be like”, writes Martikainen in his blog. Arto Martikainen has hired five new teachers during last spring with the help of three students. The students were selected based on their involvement in other school activities, such as being a member of the student board, however in the future more students will be given a possibility to influence on recruitments.
How did the recruitment proceed in practise?
Open posts for teachers were announced traditionally in municipal recruitment system and applications were gathered there. Based on applications, approximately twenty applicants got an invitation to answer to video interview questions. “We got so excited about the video interviews, that in the first recruitments we recorded too many questions. I’d say that three or four questions are enough to find out whether you want to meet this person or not”, Martikainen recounts. He says that they would not have been able to invite twenty teacher candidates into a face-to-face meeting, but video interviews gave them the opportunity to assess several candidates more. It also gave colleagues a chance to participate in the recruitment more closely. For example mother tongue teachers got an invitation to their e-mail to assess candidates applying to mother tongue teacher post. Current teachers logged into the video interview tool and wrote their own comments under each applicant’s videos.
Martikainen says, that the answers in the videos varied a lot, but the thing that is more important than lighting or the applicant’s hairdo, is what and how a person communicates. The video answers showed immediately whether applicant was knowledgeable about issues in second school or not. Martikainen had recorded video questions himself and he laughs that recordings were made with probably the worst camera in the school and that he didn’t set the bar too high for the candidates.
Depending on the open post, four to seven applicants were invited into a face-to-face interview based on their video answers. But in addition to adults, there were three students as job interviewers and they had picked their own job interview questions instead of just told what to ask. Applicants knew about participation of the students beforehand but questions of students were positive surprise to everyone. Instead of asking how much laziness teacher candidates allowed and how little homework they gave, students were more interested into how candidates were planning to ensure peaceful working environment in classroom and what they consider as a most important thing when being a teacher. Martikainen feels proud of his students and tells that he would have asked similar questions himself but now he had an opportunity to stand by and inspect the communication between the candidate and students.
Students participated during first half of the interview and left after they had asked their questions which allowed adults to talk practical issues during last half of the interview. Later on students were asked to describe teacher candidates but they didn’t have a vote in the final decision. “We weren’t that brave yet, that we would have let students to participate in the final decision. Though it felt that they fancied same applicants whom we decided to hire”, Martikainen appraises.
What would be a better way to foster learning and increase motivation than to let students to participate in recruitment of their own teachers? We wish felicitous teacher recruitments to Havukoski school!