My advice to those seeking to establish a thriving culture in their schools at the same time that they promote high academic achievement for our most underserved students: Hire well.
Transforming the adult learning community isn’t all that difficult when you hire adults who aren’t afraid to be human with youth, and when you create working conditions that nurture collaboration, creativity, trust, and respect.
That may sound obvious, but when you put “connection” and “sincerity” at the top of your criteria, you read resumes differently. Hiring at BDEA involves two steps.
First, the interview team (different for each position) conducts a 30-minute meeting with each of the top 10 candidates. The interview is an opportunity to make sure all parties see this match as a good fit. In this initial meeting, we’re determining whether a candidate is philosophically aligned with our mission, and the extent to which he or she knows the content. This process usually yields three to five really great candidates, such that picking one over the others is close to impossible. So we’ve added a second step.
Step two requires each candidate teach a 15-minute demonstration lesson, followed by Q & A, to a small group of BDEA students. We think this is the ultimate, foolproof step for hiring the right person for the position. No matter how crunched for time, we never skip this step, because it’s here that we can assess perhaps the most important quality: a candidate’s ability to connect with students and colleagues.
We assess perhaps the most important quality: a candidate’s ability to connect with students and colleagues.
After each candidate has given a demonstration lesson, our students meet to discuss the candidates and rank them based on strengths and challenges. Without fail, the students’ pick is the one we move on. Students know what they need. They know what they want. They know what good teaching looks like. Consequently, the candidate we select generally becomes a great addition to the BDEA community.
Obviously, this step requires hiring autonomy, so if you don’t have this freedom within your district, we highly recommend you work with your central office to obtain it. Our experience suggests that the necessary conditions for schools to serve their students well is the ability to hire staff committed to students, who support your mission, and who are capable of doing whatever it takes to help your students progress.
Want to learn more about Student-Centered Learning in New England or school and district-based examples of student-centered learning? Check out our map.
Alison Hramiec is one the Student-Centered Learning Research Collaborative‘s advisors and has spent the last 15 years re-defining what school looks like for Boston’s most at-risk high school population. Her tenure at Boston Day and Evening Academy began in 2004 as one of the founding science teachers for the Day program and in 2015 became Head of School. Through her leadership, she has helped bring clarity to the school’s competency-based program methodology, helping it become known nationwide.