Another Question for Interviews…

[This post has generated a lot of conversation, at least partly because it was rather quickly and poorly written, masking its original intent. I have taken the liberty of editing it, a bit, in an attempt to clarify what I was getting at. Can I do that? Of course. It’s my blog. Added text is italicized and deleted text is striked]

More than a year ago, I wrote about questions that school administrators might ask prospective teachers, to determine their 21st century literacy skills.  In seven or eight months, I’ll be posing a new one, questions that prospective teacher employees might ask their interviewers to determine the school’s environment with regard to teaching 21st century literacy.  I’ll be posting that message, at least partly, because my daughter will be entering the education job market and partly because in many parts of my country, we are experiencing a severe teacher shortage.  Future-ready schools might serve to attract talented new teachers.

At this point, might daughter starts classes next week, a number of which are education methods courses.  During the first day, the instructor will introduce the course, its goals, a syllabus, and her formula for grading.  She or he will then ask if the class has any questions.  I would suggest that someone ask,

What blogs do you read? Do you read any blogs? If so, which ones?

I would pose this question primarily to get to know the professor. Learn which journals she reads, the blogs, and other sources of professional discourse, and then read them yourself. It’s a strategy that I was taught early in my college years (30 years ago).
If the instructor stammers or in any other way answers in the unknowing or the untrusting, then there’s opportunity for everyone in this class to learn. 

Of course, you do not want to be the one who asked the question that the instructor couldn’t answer — especially if it might seem, in any way, loaded.  So immediately ask what journals he or she reads.  Save face!

2¢ Worth!

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21 thoughts on “Another Question for Interviews…”

  1. As an interviewer, it is always amazing to me how slow colleges are to catch up to even high schools. I typically ask several questions about technology of candidates. More often than not, the candidate feels they are on the cutting edge because they use PowerPoint or have done grades on the computer. That is because their education professors and their cooperating teachers believe that this is cutting edge.
    Now I have learned to ask about how they use technology in their everyday lives. When they speak at length about IMs, Facebook, IPods and the like, then we have something to talk about in terms of what they can bring to the classroom.
    Why aren’t they making these connections on their own?

  2. Really?

    Why are blogs privileged texts?

    I’ve met many a school administrator whose head explodes when I ask them to tell me their favorite book about learning. I would have been delighted if my children’s teachers read the newspaper regularly.

    Many in the edtech blogosphere are skating dangerously close to being the digital equivalent of E.D. Hirsch. We need much more than computer cultural literacy.

    How about asking new teachers what they can do?

    I look on resumes for teacher candidates who worked at a summer camp. This means that they can inspire children without curriculum and like kids enough to spend a lot of time with them for very little remuneration.

    Who would be honest in a job interview about the blogs they read since so many blogs represent a political preference or personal fetishes? Should I say, “Andrew Sullivan or Drudge or The Huffington Post or Fleshbot or Wonkette?”

    I know that the correct answer is, “I read David Warlick’s blog,” but should a different answer disqualify a teacher candidate?

  3. What a great post! I don’t really understand Gary Stager’s negative reaction. After all, teachers today are the product of an educational system that was all about printed reading material, so folks who started their professional lives back in the 90s or earlier have had to ADD the digital world to their repertoire. The problem is that many folks simply REFUSE to add to what they were trained in.

    So, asking about blogs is very legitimate: it is a way to see if people have made the effort to extend their professional formation from the past into the future.

    Sadly, very few of my colleagues seem willing to do that, and they are training graduate students right now just as they were trained, trapping us in a vicious cycle indeed.


  4. Graham,

    Sorry about the US-centric reference. E.D. Hirsch popularized through numerous bestselling books the idea that education was about familarity with a grab bag of topics (almost all White and Western) that indicate your level of literacy.


    Sure teachers should be congiscent of the world in which they live, but using blog reading as a barometer of fitness to teach seems over-reaching. The inherent biases in blogs also makes such a question potentially invasive or dangerous to the applicant.

    Again, I think there are a lot of more important questions I would ask a teacher, mostly about their abilities and experience, in a short interview.

  5. Sorry to be late with this. I actually slept for nine and a half hours last night. Must have been tired.

    I have to confess, Gary, that when I read,

    I know that the correct answer is, “I read David Warlick’s blog,” but should a different answer disqualify a teacher candidate?

    I nearly became ill. But on reflection, that is the right answer — well one answer. Because, if they read David Warlick, then they are also reading Gary Stager, David Thornburg, and Sharon Peters, and Laura, and Graham, and many other thinking educators.

    Blogging isn’t really privileged, but it is special. It doesn’t replace any other reading (journals, e-mails, or the great education thinkers). However, I believe that a reader of blogs is someone who is also engaged in the conversation. At the same time that we need vetted journals and traditionally published and eloquently written books, we also need serious discussion that is daily — often inventing new ways of applying the great ed thinkers to today’s new challenges.

    Of course it isn’t me, and I wouldn’t recommend me. I’d recommend you. You’re smarter and much quicker to the point 😉

  6. …and maybe the second question is “What, if anything, have you/do you contribute to blogs?”

    In interviews, I often ask “What was the last thing you read that inspired you and what was the last thing you read that got you upset?”.

  7. David,

    Thanks for the compliment (and the conversational real estate), but I humbly would prefer if a new teacher was demonstrated what they can do and could answer questions about their personal educational philosophy and their relationship with children.


  8. Why does it have to be either or? Can’t both questions be asked? Is there a time limit?

    Actually, I’d probably have the answers to all these questions by doing a simple search. If I couldn’t find anything…I’d wonder if I wanted to hire this person. I’m not saying I wouldn’t but if they don’t have a grasp of a what connected learning and publishing is, I may not have time to show them.

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