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Automatic English For The People

Friday, March 03, 2006

Talent

by AJ

As my school director proceeds to search for a new teacher, I find myself turning to Tom Peters yet again:

"Use the word "Talent" and a certain type of image comes to mind. An image that's about as far away from either 'employee' or Dilbert's 'cubicle slave' as one can imagine.

I think 'talent' and I conjure up a National League Football team. Or the cast and crew whose production of The Lion King I saw in New York a few years ago.

Talent: Attract it. Nurture it. Mentor it. Reward it. Create the context in which it can thrive."

A school is particularly dependent on talent. Teachers, ultimately, make the difference. They are the ones in class everyday with the students. A school with excellent teachers will thrive. One with mediocre teachers will limp along. One with sup-par teachers will flounder. Teaching talent has got to be MISSION NUMBER ONE for every school.

Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Most school admins hire on the basis of paper qualifications. Got the Masters degree and a "solid" (ie. safe, boring, stable) work history.. you're in. I think we've got to raise the bar higher than that. In fact, certificates and degrees are piss-poor measures of teaching excellence. Ive met plenty of horrid teachers with Masters degrees.

Teaching excellence has little to do with degrees. Yeah, I got the Masters... but thats because I know how most admins think. Its my ticket in the door.

But talent.. thats something else entirely. Its a mix of intangibles..... a deep commitment, a passion for the subject, a deep love for the students. Great teachers LOVE teaching. They have infectious energy. They connect with students. They inspire... they have magic, soul... MOJO.

Those are the characteristics Id be looking for in a new teacher.

And lets face it... those traits are hard to find. My school is struggling to find a 'good' teacher to fill the open position, much less a great one.

Which is why I like Tom Peters NFL analogy so much. I like the mentality.... director as 'general manager'. A GM is always scouting, always recruiting, always struggling to assemble the very best talent for the team. GM's are doing this every week of every year..

Perhaps we need to think the same way. Scout year round. Find the best teachers. Attend conferences to scout the teachers in attendance. Scour blogs and websites. Spy on other schools... and poach their top teachers. Build a reputation as a place that takes care of the passionate, the innovative, the best. This is how sports championships are won.

Its how great schools are built too.

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