So you love kids? Great, but take it from an expert: If you’re interviewing for a job at Spokane Public Schools, don’t say that’s why you chose to be a teacher.
For one thing, says Angela Brown with a laugh, there will be days in the classroom when you won’t like the little so-and-sos.
Brown is head of recruiting for the Spokane school district. A 1994 secondary education graduate of Washington State University, she calls herself a “hover mother” – someone who cares passionately about children. But emotional connection is only one hallmark of a great teacher, she says. Along with that and instructional ability, she looks for a touch of idealism.
“Social justice is at the core of what we do,” Brown says of the state’s second-largest school district. “Every teacher needs to meet every student where they’re at. The class clown, the kid who comes to school dirty … it doesn’t matter. The teacher needs to have the same high expectations and high support for them all. You need to give them all a fair chance.”
Despite the tough economy, Brown hired 100 teachers last year. Competition was stiff. “I get 240 applicants for every elementary teaching position, but only 20-30 applicants for math, science and special education openings.” So she is on the hunt for teachers with endorsements in those areas.
She definitely wants to hear from bilingual teachers. Spokane’s growing immigrant community means students speak 55 languages. The school district needs more teachers who can successfully work with students and families who do not speak or are still learning English.
For those applicants lucky enough to get a job interview, Brown offers this additional advice:
- Do your research. For example, you might find out what the district is doing to close the achievement gap between students of color and their peers. “Some applicants haven’t even Googled the school they’re applying for,” Brown says.
- Be prepared to show that you are responsive and reflective on issues such as race, ethnicity, disability, gender and sexual orientation. “We often get a deer-in-the-headlights look when we ask how an applicant would help students of color improve in math.” The right answer, in Brown’s book: “The same way I help all students improve in math.”
- Be confident. “You may have a unique skill a teacher with 10 years of experience doesn’t have.”
- And be authentic. “We know when people are blowing smoke.”