Archive for the ‘hiring’ Category

Begin again

Oh hai.  I’m still here. Like my friend What Now?, I’m thinking it might be good to get back to blogging more; I could use the reflection time, since politics have me…reacting a lot..  Unlike WN?, however, I’m not on break yet.  Two more weeks to go.  And an exciting but inconvenient three-day professional-development-related absence right in the middle of those two weeks–so I’m spending quite a bit of this bleary Sunday after the Daylight Savings “spring forward” planning the next several days of grading, prepping, and sub plans.

Before I knew about the absence, I signed up to chaperone a concert right before it, which now seems fairly inconvenient but not quite worth trying to find someone to swap with.  So a fairly demanding week is going to end at about 9:30 PM on Friday, several hours too late, if you ask me.

Things in my small world are basically holding steady.  One small mercy seems to be that we might not need to hire this year, which, if true, probably gives me 30+ hours back this spring as compared to my previous springs as chair.  However, not needing to hire is predicated on the expectation that both of our colleagues on maternity leave–Dorothea, who had a baby in January, and Romola, who had one last week (a while in the making, not quite on the timeline she anticipated when I first mentioned the possibility)–return to school full-time in August.  Each says that’s her plan, but would we be shocked if a baby changed someone’s plans?  It certainly wouldn’t be the first time.


  • Got an actual letter informing me I didn’t get the thing I didn’t get, with a handwritten note thanking me for applying and letting me know I had been a finalist.  That was nice.
  • Put in another application for a summer thing.
  • Got the hiring process underway.  One person coming Friday, one Tuesday.
  • Had good conversations in my AP Lit classes on this Rebecca Mead article about “relatability.”
  • Oh my gosh the awesomeness of the creative projects on Paradise Lost.  Poems, paintings, a sculpture of a human brain cradled in two hands.  A scene in Lego.  Oh my gosh.

Tiny beautiful things

Mazel tov to What Now?, who converted to Judaism on Wednesday!

My happiest moment today was when Lucinda came in after school to tell me that she and her husband decided that they’re not going to leave the area when he retires from the military this year and that she’d like to stay at SA for at least one more year.  Sweet!  With Olivia returning from maternity leave, it is possible that we won’t need to hire this year, but of course it is way too early to tell.  I know of at least two teachers who would like to have a baby and one who will probably go to grad school at some point–and those are just the most obvious candidates for change.

My second-happiest was reading some short personal essays responding to Hazlitt’s essay on Hamlet–in a few students the assignment seemed to evoke a particularly thoughtful and genuine response, and these were students who are not usually the most eloquent about literature.  I might want to play around with more short essays like this–more mindful of an audience than journal entries, more freedom to use a personal perspective. I do need to write that rant about the word “relatable,” though.

I wanted to go to yoga tonight, but I think I’m just too tired.  I haven’t gotten a full night’s sleep since we started back to school.  Every day has been a solid block of prepping, teaching, grading, and meeting–except I did get to take 35 minutes for lunch with colleagues on Tuesday and Wednesday. I submitted my first residency application, and I have worked on the book every day in January.  I have work to do before class tomorrow, but I think an early night followed by an early start is my best plan for getting it all done with some measure of serenity.  Yoga-induced serenity will have to wait for tomorrow.

The casual vacancy

We did make our hire, after seeing a total of four candidates for campus visits.  (I interviewed 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 her on the phone, as warmly and gently as possible, because she will still be a part of the SA community and I want to be welcoming).

We saw a second candidate who was energetic and engaging, but about whom we had reservations: he was a bit erratic in his communication, somewhat haphazard in his sample class (some great moments, but also some slackness), and he showed some questionable judgment while he was here.  The thing that struck me the most was that he complained freely about a dean at his current job–and went on about it well past the point at which most people not on a job interview would have stopped.

The third candidate was a newly minted M.A.T. who gave a pretty dull sample class based on a lesson plan full of inscrutable acronyms (most of which Romola and Olivia explained to me).  She got an offer from another school about a week later, though, which let me gently release her.

We were still thinking and talking about the second candidate when candidate number four came in.  She taught a solid, engaging sample class with genuine warmth and humor, and connected well with everyone she met.  We made the offer pretty quickly, and sealed the deal this week.

I’ve just emailed candidate number two to let him know, as kindly as I could, that we have made our hire.  I do think he’s a pretty impressive guy, and I enjoyed our conversations, apart from the ranty bits.  With Ivanhoe‘s support–which we had–I would have been up for what felt like the slightly risky business of hiring him, knowing that this was a person who might not get all his grades in on time or who might disappear from email for a couple of days.  But I couldn’t pick him over number four.

I wasn’t happy to tell candidates one and two that we wouldn’t be hiring them, but I am satisfied with the way I handled both–and, indeed, with the communication with candidates in general.  I followed up with everyone with whom I had contact during the process, and let them know if we wouldn’t be moving forward with them.  I let the GGE do more of this (or not do it) last year because that’s the way it seemed to work, and I didn’t have any urge to challenge the process, but I recognize now that there might not have been follow-up with people who should have been followed up with.  This year, with more autonomy, I have stepped in and done what I thought needed to be done, usually without asking permission, but keeping people informed with cc’s and forwards.  Having the authority seems to give me the ability to disappoint people as kindly as possible.

Perhaps of interest to any job-seekers reading this: we had about 150 applications for this position–local, regional, national, and international–including many that were submitted to us by agencies, but also lots from NAIS and our own website posting.  I also got a couple by reaching out to two graduate programs in the area where I have contacts.  Of the four who came to campus for the full day experience, one (the young M.A.T.) was from one of the placement agencies; the spousal candidate came through the spouse, candidate number two applied via NAIS (which is not the prettiest format for an application, but it doesn’t really matter), and candidate number four responded to our website posting.  I tried to look closely at every application because one of my explicit goals was to have a diverse candidate pool, and we did: about half of the people I contacted, and two of the four campus visitors, were people of color, one of whom is the actual hire.  She is someone I overlooked on the first go-round, actually, in part because her resume highlighted her most recent jobs in residence life at local colleges rather than her teaching experience.  After candidate two, another pass through the still-expanding spreadsheet I’d been using to keep track of applications brought her name up again.  Orsino was reading over my shoulder, and actually it was his enthusiasm that made me reach out to her via email and then phone.  So thanks, Orsino, and welcome, as-yet-unpseudonymed colleague.  Glad it’s over for this year (we think), but even gladder that it feels like a success.

The beautiful and the damned

I was feeling pretty awesome on Thursday night.  I came back from a short visit to Hometown on Sunday, met various teaching and administrative challenges during the week (including fluffing up my AP students, who start taking exams on Monday), and on Thursday hosted a job candidate–a successful visit that may result in an actual hire.  Then I came home and wrote and submitted an AWP 2016 proposal I’d managed to pull together over the past couple of weeks (deadline was Friday).  So although I was a little underslept on Friday morning, I waltzed into school feeling pretty good, considering that it’s the Friday before AP exams and all.  charlie

And then Sebastian told me that he might be leaving.

As I told Dorothea (the only person I can talk to about this, as it’s confidential among the three of us for now), it was a Charlie Brown moment:  AUUUUGGHHH!

Sebastian might have told Orlando, with whom he shares a classroom, but I won’t talk with Orlando about it.  I would love to share this with Dr. Tea, but I won’t until it becomes more real.  The situation is that Sebastian’s partner works at a school near where they live, and there’s a sudden opening that looks quite Sebastian-shaped and…well, we’ll see what happens.

I broached the subject of Sebastian’s partner last year when we were hiring three people, but there didn’t seem to be much interest (on their part).  It wasn’t clear to me that they really wanted to teach at the same school, but it sounds like they do.  And they are a little more connected to the partner’s school community because they live close by…and the geographical advantage is a big one.  (I think we’re a better school, but then I would, wouldn’t I?)

Of course I understand why he needs to try this out, and I know we’ll manage another hire if we need to (or two if this one doesn’t go through).  This is hard for me to contemplate, though, because Sebastian is a terrific teacher and has just started to dig in and get more involved in SA (it’s his second year).  And because he is a good colleague.  But perhaps most of all because the Snork Maiden really loves him.  He taught her last year and she trusts him and takes her writing to him.  She showed him her submission for the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards this year, for example, and rejoiced with him when she got an honorable mention.  Several of the people who have left or are leaving (faculty and graduating students) are people she’s been close to, and she’s had a hard time with that.  I wish I could keep her from losing him, but I know I can’t.

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.