We Don’t Need No Education
With the movement of student voice and choice echoing throughout the Edusphere (I hope I’m the first to make up/use that word, but probably am not), many districts, administrators, and teachers are pondering how to balance this with all of the other changes in the air. Let’s push our thinking a bit and see how student voice can be amplified in our hiring and firing process.
We Don’t Need No Thought Control
In my district, we recently underwent a search for a new high school principal. Our interview process starts with qualified candidates interviewing with the superintendent. If they pass that round, then they are scheduled to be interviewed by the hiring committee, which for our building included: the HS/MS counselor, librarian, principal’s secretary, three classroom teachers, and the superintendent. I may have missed someone, but you get the gist. The new wrinkle we added to the process this year was a student interview panel. Yes, you read that correctly.
No Dark Sarcasm In The Classroom
The first day we did this there were two candidates for our HS/MS principal position. Upon completion of the interview with Candidate 1, we tried something new. We turned her over to the students and began interviewing Candidate 2.
Teachers Leave Them Kids Alone
In a discussion between the counselor and the superintendent, they came up with the idea of giving our students a voice in this important decision. After all, students are the most important stakeholders in a school. They are the customers we are here to serve. Without students, schools have no value or purpose. Why not make them more student driven? Our student interview panel was born. Four students were chosen based on a variety of criteria, such as the willingness to stay after school for the interviews, spend a few hours hanging out, dress nicely, and be personable. Our four committed to the process and our incredible journey began.
Hey! Teachers! Leave Them Kids Alone
The student committee took Candidate 1 on a tour of our campus. While on the tour, the students were to ask questions that they had either prepared beforehand or anything they wanted to ask as the tour progressed. Candidate 2 arrived during the tour and completed her interview with our interview committee and once again, the student panel took over. We waited for the students to wrap up the tour and discussed our opinions of the candidates. The students then joined us and gave us their impressions of both candidates. Their insights were eyeopening. Valid. Impressive.
All In All It’s Just Another Brick In The Wall
Another applicant emerged, so we repeated the process with Candidate 3. We then faced the decision of choosing the best person for our school out of three good candidates. Not an easy decision. If only we could see them in action, we would be able to see which of the three would fit better in our district and face the challenges ahead. Turns out, we could. All three candidates were assigned a separate day to, essentially, job shadow our current principal. They all attended meetings, interacted with students and staff, and got a taste for how we do business. Our student body was overjoyed to have some input in this process. Some sought out the candidates to ask them questions, some reacted strongly to the “vibe” they got from one candidate or another, and the staff liked this option as well. Several took the opportunity to talk in length with the candidates. A Google form was placed on the website for students and staff to provide feedback as well.
All In All You’re Just Another Brick In The Wall
It seems like a small thing, allowing students a few minutes during the school day to talk with a prospective principal, but it wasn’t a small thing. It was huge. The students have a better handle on how the hiring process works, and everyone has a vested interest in the new principal. In a district with a large turnover this year, culture is a primary focus for us. Allowing students to have skin in the game, so to speak, during the hiring of a new principal may be just what is needed to give our students and our principal a chance. Get them off on the right foot, so to speak. If you haven’t thought about giving students a voice in any of the hiring process for staff or administration, think again. You may very well be surprised at the outcome. We were.