A bend in the river

An English teacher is actually a fairly easy thing to hire, compared to a lot of other kinds of teachers.  Hiring a really good one, as we’ve seen, is not always simple, but hiring an okay one is not too hard; if we were willing to settle for okay ones, some of our previous searches would have been shorter.

So it is that the school wants to hire the third candidate they saw for the [One of Several Fields That’s Harder to Hire in than English] Department, and have made Mr. Candidate an offer.  And what is the obstacle to Mr. Candidate’s taking the job?  He works in another city in our state, and his wife teaches–English, of course–at the same school.

So!  I spoke with Mrs. Candidate yesterday, and she sounds–on paper, as well as on the phone–like a perfectly acceptable candidate.  A dozen years of high school teaching experience.  Some other teaching experience before that, including some college.  So we’re having her down to teach a sample class and have her do the circuit of meeting all the usual people.

I’m not in love yet, but I understand that we need to give this a fair shake.  Dorothea read Mrs. C’s materials and said, “Wow, she seems very…confident.”  There are sentences in the letter that struck me, too, as a little much, a little like “I have found the magic key of good teaching and it works in every door.”  She sounds like she’s been very successful at her current institution, and she didn’t address why she wants to move–I gather it’s basically because Mr. C wants to go in a different direction in [One of Several Fields That’s Harder to Hire in than English] than their current school wants to support.

I’d put the 40 applications we had so far into a spreadsheet, and assigned most of them a number.  One or two were 6, for “Get a look at this person fast, before they get snapped up!”  5 was “Looks like this person could totally come in and do this job.”  4 was “Realistic candidate who doesn’t quite fit my view of what we need.”  I would have rated Mrs. C toward the top of the 4 pile, in part because of the tonal issue in the letter (it reminded me, faintly but unmistakably, of Alpha), and in part because I didn’t see anything in the letter and resume that would be really fresh and new to the department.  Knowing, as I now do, that Mrs. C’s job search is only happening because Mr. C wants to move doesn’t make me more enthusiastic.  I know the power of becoming a known quantity in a school–do I really want as a new faculty member a highly confident late-mid-career person who doesn’t have a strong interest in changing institutions?  I would definitely want to see how well this person plays with others.  So I guess that’s something we’ll need to try to assess while she’s here, along with seeing her teach.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Very interesting — I’ll be interested to hear what you think of her in person. In theory, it seems a department should welcome a confident, long-term teacher, but moving to a new institution does require a certain flexibility. When we hired Dead Poet Society teacher, we got a very confident, very experienced teacher … who it turns out only assigned personal essays and also told students that he had little respect for the kinds of essays that the rest of us assigned. Not a happy scenario! Fortunately, he’s moved on now, and I hope for his sake (because he was an interesting, smart, nice guy when one didn’t have to be his colleague) that he’s getting to be the Grand Old Man that he clearly wants to be.

    Anyway, I like your rating system; I’ll have to remember that if I’m ever on the hiring side again. Good luck with the search!

    Reply

  2. We’re hiring too– it’s amazing how different a candidate can be in person and on paper. Makes me glad I’m not on the market myself.

    Reply

  3. […] a few additional people on the phone and one on campus during spring break.)  We saw the spousal candidate, who wasn’t the fit we were looking for (after she had another offer, I broke this news to […]

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