How great teachers make exceptional schools
It goes without saying that “Great Teachers are Essential” (learn more in our previous blog) for creating a positive school environment, educational excellence and exceptional schools. Find out a little more about International School Bangkok (ISB)’s hiring process – and why we think it’s important to hire the best teachers for the job – through a short Q&A with ISB Deputy Head of School for Learning, Debi Caskey.
Q. How and why teachers are important and considered the basis of creating an exceptional platform for education and student development?
John Hattie, a leading education researcher, has spent years evaluating educational research to determine the factors that have the greatest impact on student learning. His work has identified hundreds of practices in schools, rating their effectiveness in promoting student achievement, and “excellent teachers come to the fore – as such excellence in teaching is the single most powerful influence on achievement.” ISB is known throughout the international education community as a place where teachers of the highest quality come to teach and grow. Students deserve the very best, so when we are recruiting, we carefully screen every candidate for experience, proven success (rigorous reference checking), collaborative spirit, alignment to our mission and values, and an attitude of caring for students through compassionate practices.
Teachers are the most important part of a students’ school experience. They are the people who not only work with students every day, but who develop the curriculum and learning experiences that prepare our learners for the futures of their choosing. Highly skilled educators are very clear about WHAT they are to teach and they are able to utilize the most effective practices for HOW they provide learning opportunities.
Quality teachers really do make a difference:
Q. What do you define as a quality teacher? What do you look for in a teacher that defines them as “exceptional”?
- Exceptional teachers love working with children, they see teaching as the highest calling and are dedicated to providing relevant learning opportunities for every student.
- They are creative and innovative.
- They work hard to know their students as learners and people, they study their content and design intentional learning opportunities that motivate students while improving learning.
- They are true learners themselves, seeking opportunities to improve their craft and become even better at what they do for students.
- Their beliefs align with ISB’s Vision, Values, and Focus on Learning
Q. How do you make sure your teachers are of the highest quality?
ISB has clear requirements for experience and certifications for all of our teachers. In order for a candidate to be considered for a position, they must provide evidence that they meet those requirements. Recruiting teams look at experience–where did the candidate teach? Are their experiences in line with the areas for which we are hiring? Does the candidate have a pattern of professional learning and ongoing growth as an educator? What do references say about this educator?
ISB utilizes several quality teacher recruitment agencies that work to connect educators and schools. These companies require complete documentation, but it is our responsibility as a school to review these files carefully and follow a thorough process for interviewing and screening applicants.
Q. What is our hiring process – how do we make sure we get the cream of the crop?
Positions are posted both internally, and externally, using our ISB website and international teacher recruitment agencies. ISB gets many applications for every vacancy. Our competitive package in combination with excellent school reputation and desirable host country lead to ISB being a top choice for many international educators. As a result, top teachers see us as a destination school, where the teaching and learning are excellent, they can contribute powerfully, and they will grow professionally.
The applications are carefully reviewed and experience, professional learning, and references are evaluated.
Those candidates meeting our requirements, and standing out as potential great fits for our team, are interviewed. The interview process is generally done in multiple stages–initial interviews are usually conducted by the division administrator and a team of other school leaders (admin and / or teacher leaders) and teachers. Often, there is a second interview, followed by a final interview by the Head of School and Deputy Head of School for Learning.
Multiple references are checked–phone calls are made and conversations held around a common list of questions that allows us to assess expertise in supporting student learning, professionalism–including participation as part of a team, work ethic, and student safeguarding.
Final discussions are held with all of the interviewers to determine the very best candidate to offer a position with our ISB team.
The next, very important part of the hiring process includes careful, thoughtful, and thorough processes for supporting the transition to ISB and life in Thailand along with a professional practices program that promotes ongoing professional learning and growth.
Q. What is our screening process and how do we ensure our teachers are “safe”
Every teacher hired undergoes a thorough background check by the McDowell Agency (http://mcdowellagency.com) that includes checks for a minimum of ten years plus the teacher’s home country.
Our reference interviews with previous employers and supervisors include specific safeguarding questions.
Interview questions also include specific questions around safeguarding.
All of our school leaders involved in hiring have taken an online course on safe recruiting to ensure that our processes encompass best practices.
Professional Development at ISB
Q. How do you support professional learning for your teachers?
ISB employs a Director of Curriculum and Professional Learning. This position brings together the WHAT we teach and the HOW. The role of Director of Curriculum and Professional Learning is to lead, manage and oversee curricular aspects of PreK-12 learning and to promote professional learning that aligns with all aspects of ISB’s Vision, Mission and Definition of Learning.
Every teacher has a professional learning allowance of $1850 per year to fund courses, workshops, and resources to help them improve their practice. Additionally, we have an instructional coach who works with teachers one on one and in small groups. Teachers participate in book studies, action research projects, and peer observations (Team Pineapple). ISB has several dedicated professional learning days that allow teams to collaborate for extended periods of time, we have in-house workshops conducted by our expert teachers, and Professional Learning (PL) sessions that include every member of our ISB classified and certified staff.
Because we know that a healthy, active, balanced life is important for everyone, our professional learning also incorporates wellness. Faculty PL days include wellness sessions and a portion of a teacher’s professional learning allowance can be used to promote wellness.
ISB requires all teachers to participate in the Professional Practices Program (PPP) that focuses on professional growth and improvement in areas identified by teachers and teams. Within this learning focused school, the PPP is designed to facilitate professional growth, assist faculty to continue to meet ISB’s Professional Standards, and ultimately, improve student learning. Teachers receive feedback from school administrators and colleagues following formal and informal observations with specific focus on how we can do even better for our students.
Q. Why is this important? How does this benefit ISB, our teachers and students?
It’s quite simple, the best teachers provide the best learning for our students. We want to ensure that we hire the best and that we develop them so that they continue to remain at the forefront of the implementing the best learning practices for students.
Q. What specialised teacher roles do we have at ISB?
We have trained and experienced specialists who support students who are acquiring English. We have 4 College Counselors in the High School. ISB also have onsite speech language pathologists, dedicated High School College Counselors, dedicated High School Social and Emotional Counselors, an Elementary School Instructional Coach, and an Intensive Needs Teacher, to name a few.
Q. Why are these roles important? Why do we have these teachers and how does it contribute to a GREAT education?
ISB is an inclusive school and we want to include all of the students in our community for whom we can best meet their learning needs. In order to maximize our ability to provide the best learning environment for students, ISB employs educators with specialized skills who provide direct services and support to students while working as consultants with teachers to add to their skill sets in working with students with different learning needs.
Q. From your experience, can you discuss why you think we have exceptional teachers and explain your role in helping teachers, to ensure we maintain this standard.
ISB is known throughout the world as a top school which makes it a highly desirable location for international educators. The hiring process at ISB is a team effort. Divisional leaders work with the Head of School and Deputy Heads of School to determine the staffing needs that will allow us to provide the highest quality programs for our learners. Interviews are done by teams and discussions take place about which candidate(s) best fit with our school culture and bring the highest levels of experience and expertise to contribute to our students’ learning and our professional collaborative culture.
ISB has exceptional teachers because we also have exceptional administrators who are skilled recruiters and who dedicate the time and thought to hiring the absolute best teachers.