How can you stand out among hundreds of other applicants? Read what Larry Lobert, an HR director with 30 years of experience in school districts ranging from small to large, says about qualities he looks for in new teachers, college grades, letters of recommendations, why he wouldnâ€™t hire someone, and more.
PLT: What interview advice would you offer to new teachers?
Larry: Donâ€™t be like anybody except exactly who you are. If you get hired, you will get hired, but you will hate the profession.
Key qualities and skills
PLT: What qualities do you look for in new teachers?
Larry: We call on the universities to prepare people with content knowledge, and depending on age level and area, content is not as critical. More important is the teaching personality. What are some of the core values, the core personality traits that a person brings to the profession? When I talk about those kind of traits, theyâ€™re universal to any teacher, whether itâ€™s high school French or a 1st-grade classroom teacher. What makes a great teacher a great teacher? Itâ€™s a blend of some of the core teacher traits that arenâ€™t really taught and knowledge of the content area. Itâ€™s knowledge of pedagogy. You can have a content expert who really just doesnâ€™t know how to build rapport with kids or like being around them. Youâ€™re going to have a huge problem and the person isnâ€™t going to be successful.
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PLT: What soft skills do you want in a teacher that youâ€™re hiring?
Larry: It sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how many people donâ€™t display that theyâ€™re passionate about working with kids. Itâ€™s not a bad thing if youâ€™re not somebody who can spend 12 hours with kids and have the patience necessary to be great with them, but we all know those people who can do that endlessly. I put that very high: just loving being around kids and being passionate about their growth. You canâ€™t fake that in an interview, but you should display it.
Teachers are deeply empathetic. Great teachers may be wonderful at mathematics, but if theyâ€™re not deeply empathetic about where a kid comes from and what he brings to the table and what his needs are, theyâ€™re missing something. Iâ€™m also looking for someone who can really appreciate differences and see kids as individuals.
I want someone who is enormously innovative. When we ask questions like, â€śTell me about a lesson that you thought was imaginative or inspirational or innovative,â€ť I really want to hear about something innovative. I donâ€™t want to hear about some rote idea that you picked up from a magazine or something somebody else showed you in a class.
Iâ€™m also looking for someone whoâ€™s approachable. How important is it to you that kids like you and kids like being around you? Iâ€™ll be honest with you: I hate when people answer that it doesnâ€™t matter, and youâ€™d be amazed how many people think that way. They think that theyâ€™re there to deliver their content and thatâ€™s what matters. Of course that matters, but what that personality type doesnâ€™t understand is that you wonâ€™t do all you can do for kids if they donâ€™t love being around you.