Three men in a boat

Friday’s candidate came and went, and the results were inconclusive.  We could work with him, I think, but the responses were decidedly mixed.  Dr. Tea and Dinah–the longest-serving and newest members of the department, funnily enough–were the most positive about him.  Dr. Tea liked his level of content mastery and found him personable.  Dinah was impressed by aspects of his teaching and felt she could work with him on a team.  I found him fine to talk with, but I was not enthusiastic about his teaching demonstration.  It was competent both in terms of content and skills, but here’s what concerned me:

  • Dinah (whose class he was teaching) had given him information about what the students already knew about the subject, and made some suggestions about what she thought would make a successful lesson with the group.  He spent a large chunk (fifteen or twenty minutes) of the class reviewing historical context that she had told him they already had, and while this gave him lots of opportunities to praise what they knew (because they were able to answer his questions), it didn’t speak well for his collaborative skills.  
  • He spent an awful lot of time eliciting brief, factual answers.  He didn’t take many risks in terms of asking the students controversial or difficult questions.  He was aiming for particular answers, not trying to give them an idea or a piece of text to wrestle with.  Though he had a pleasant manner with the students, his approach was top-down almost all the way through.
  • I did like the way he set up a discussion question, and when he broke them into groups, I could see that they were engaged with the question, but that was only about six or seven minutes of the time.
  • Perhaps the most worrisome of all, I became a little bored while he was teaching.  And it wasn’t because I already knew the text well or could see where he was going with it–it was because there was nothing at stake.  There was no likelihood of surprise.  There was no emotional hook.  Nothing really depended on the students’ engagement, as long as they were willing to toss him brief answers to his questions (and they were–they are usually very kind to visitors).  
  • Romola was the most skeptical of us all.  And he’d probably have to work pretty closely with her.  She said she didn’t get the sense that he really liked working with kids.  Now, this may just be a question of personal style–and I could see that she was perceiving him as stiff and stuck-up, and that he was probably triggering some of her insecurity issues–but such a difference is real, and for the two of them to work together on a grade-level team would take some serious management.  (By me.)

So we are not offering him the job–yet.  We are going to look at another person this coming week–another man, also relatively young.  (No, we’re not only looking at men for this job, either despite or because of the fact that all of the high-school faculty in English are women.  Obviously, that’s illegal.  All three of these guys have skills, at least on paper, that we want.  The next one has a lot of theater in his background, which is appealing.  Anyway, this year–as opposed to previous years–the best-fitting candidates in our area seem to be men.)  Soon, though, the GGE tells me, the best candidates will be off the market.  Elinor just sealed the deal on her job for the fall, for example.  (It’s a terrific one–I’m so glad for her.)  So, in practical terms, if we don’t love guy #3, or if we love him and can’t get him, we’ll probably offer to #2.

If that ends up happening, I think we’ll manage fine.  I would consider rejiggering deployment so that he would work on Dinah’s team and not Romola’s.  I would consider asking Romola to be his peer mentor, actually–I think she would have a lot to offer him, particularly if she didn’t need to rely on him as a co-teacher of a grade.  I think that as the teacher he is, he could flourish at SA with the right support–I do think he likes kids, but that he’s a more remote personality and would need to take care not to be misinterpreted as “not liking” individual students.

Still, my fingers are crossed for #3.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Such a useful blog post for me to read, both because tomorrow and next Monday I get to meet with candidates for our MS position, in my role as not-currently-head-but-next-year-will-be-temporarily-in-that-role (whew, that’s a mouthful!), and because I’m going to share the link with D. before she has to go do any teaching demonstrations (God willing).

    Now, I’m interested to hear that you all are thinking the best candidates will be off the market by spring break, because in my neck of the woods, April is still a big time for hiring. Regional difference?


    • Posted by meansomething on March 4, 2013 at 1:12 am

      Well, I’m not sure. The GGE sometimes edits reality to suit his purposes (as which of us does not), and his saying that the best candidates will be off the market soon might just be an expression of his eagerness to have our hire locked in soonest. It seems as though March is when many schools find out that they will have openings, anyway, and when people make up their minds about leaving–at least in my area, that seems to be when next year’s contracts are due. I do know that there have been two pretty big hiring events in the area recently–meet-and-greets that the GGE attends, one of which I believe is put on by a regional placement agency, so maybe that is a regional difference?


  2. […] for each stanza) there wasn’t any momentum to the discussion–again, as with the previous candidate, not much was at stake.  The dominant pattern of the […]


  3. […] This guy came back onto the GGE’s desk–I guess he didn’t end up changing jobs last year (he’s local, and he has a pretty good job, so he didn’t absolutely have to move).  I went back over all the emails and his CV and couldn’t work up a roaring enthusiasm, but it’s good to know he’s nearby and still available and interested, just in case. […]


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