Teacher Staffroom Episode 34: Job seeking and recruitment

This podcast from Teacher is supported by Bank First – the bank that exists to serve the education community. Visit bankfirst.com.au to find out how they can help you to reach your financial goals.

Thanks for tuning in to this episode of Teacher Staffroom, where we catch you up on the latest evidence, insight, and action in education. I'm Dominique Russell.

As a school leader, recruiting new staff has likely always been a complex issue and pressing problem. Add the disruption and lifestyle changes brought on by COVID-19 to the mix, and you’ve got an even more complicated picture.

We’ve been taking a look at this issue this month at Teacher. In today’s episode I’m going to get you up to speed on these stories, and also some more of my highlights. And, like all episodes of Teacher Staffroom, I’ll be posing some questions throughout the podcast, so feel free to pause the audio as you go, gather some colleagues and discuss together how these stories might be relevant to your school context. Let's jump in.

The first story I’d like to highlight with you in this episode is a story from my colleague Zoe Kaskamanidis who spoke with Peggy Mahy, who is Principal at Tranby College in Western Australia. Before moving to Perth, Peggy worked in New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT and she shared her insights with us on how broadening her search for jobs interstate allowed her to progress her career.

In the article, she spoke about deciding to move for your career, the differences between moving schools and moving states and some challenges to consider. She made some fantastic points, but there’s one that sticks out to me that I’d like to share with you. When talking about making the ultimate decision to move, Peggy said reflecting on your life and career goals can help you put your decision into perspective and bring your options into focus. Here’s what Peggy said when she elaborated on this point:

I would just start with what your aspirations are and why you would leave the school you’re in … You might be seeking a new opportunity or to progress your career, or you might have an adventurous spirit and you want to see what's out there. So what's the why of why you would leave?

So, that brings me to a question for you to think about. Take some time to reflect on your career goals as a teacher or leader and consider the steps you could take to get there – which of your goals can be achieved in your current school?

The next story I’d like to share with you is from the United States. We spoke with Keishia Thorpe, the winner of the 2021 Global Teacher Prize, in a Q&A article recently. She was recognised for her work supporting disadvantaged senior students at International High School Langley Park in Maryland to successfully apply for college scholarships.

As an English teacher, she also completely redesigned the English curriculum to make it more culturally relevant. Here’s what Keishia told us about the impact of these initiatives:

For the students that I teach in the classroom, I usually dedicate the first unit of my curriculum to help them craft their personal statement essays for their college applications and guide them through the process of applying to college and how to access various scholarships. I was proud to help senior students, in 2018-19 alone, win over US$6.7 million in scholarships to 11 different colleges with almost 100 per cent of them going tuition-free.

My school and fellow teachers have been incredibly supportive as I proposed the idea to redesign the 12th Grade curriculum for the English department to make it culturally relevant for our students. With everyone’s involvement, we helped students feel more valued, affirmed, and safe in the classroom, as well as better connected to the content. As a result of these interventions, our English Language Learners have shown a 40 per cent increase in their reading. More than 50 per cent of the students were able to receive college credit for the course and I was proud to help my school to graduate its first group of students

On this topic, here’s a question for you to reflect on. As a secondary school teacher, can you think of an example when you have helped a student to realise their potential? What impact did this have on their learning and their wellbeing? What about their plans for after school?

Remember, we always love to hear about the current initiatives at your school that are having an impact on student learning and wellbeing. If you have a story you’d like to share with us, you can email us at any time at teachereditorial@acer.org.

Coming up, we’ll circle back to our theme of recruitment to talk about strategies for promoting your school to plan for recruitment. But first, here’s a quick message from our sponsor.

You’re listening to a podcast from Teacher magazine, supported by Bank First. Bank First is proud to be the bank that supports your purpose. They’ve been financially empowering educators to realise their dreams since 1972, and understand that your passion, dedication and expertise make a real difference to people’s lives. Visit bankfirst.com.au to find out how they can help you to reach your financial goals.

The next story I’d like to highlight with you is one we published after a reader got in touch with us to share how her school is working to improve student writing. Mary Semaan is Head of Primary and Head of Learning Support/Enrichment at Al Sadiq College in South Western Sydney, where all students have a non-English speaking background.

Their aim was to reach state level in NAPLAN and to impart a love for writing on the students. They implemented an external writing program called Seven Steps with students, which has seen them enjoy and develop a passion for writing, which, in turn, has resulted in improvement in structure, a range of descriptive language, extended vocabulary and a greater focus on reader engagement.

An important element to the success of this program was connecting the writing process to students’ everyday lives. Here’s Mary giving some examples of how they did this:

So, if that means walking out of the classroom and seeing a puddle – “think of a sizzling start, if someone you know falls over in the puddle, think about the raindrops coming down and use your five senses to describe them”. … We show them videos, we look at books, we look at pictures – a lot of visuals. For example, we’ll say, “let's look at this Australian rainforest, describe it to me. What type of creatures would live there?” If they wanted to write about the snow, they’d have to research it … it has actually opened up a whole new world for the kids.

So, what strategies and materials do you use to support your teaching of narrative writing and to encourage students to be more creative in their storytelling? How do you link learning to students’ everyday lives and experiences?

And finally, a highlight from Teacher for me recently is our article with Gail Smith on the topic of teacher recruitment. That name might sound familiar to you – we’ve spoken to Gail before back in 2019 for an episode in our Teaching Methods podcast series all about her school’s approach to co-teaching. If you want to look up that episode, it’s titled co-teaching to improve student outcomes.

At the time, she was principal at Rosebery Primary School in the Northern Territory, but she is now working as an education consultant.

In this article, Gail shared some strategies on how to effectively promote your school to potential candidates, some examples of innovative recruitment approaches, and also the method she used for planning for future staffing needs. Here’s just one strategy from Gail that she shared in the article. She said this:

You've got to try and stand out from the crowd. You can't just be the same as everyone else and just advertise the same way anymore. It might be “this is our position we've got available, join me on this webinar where you can ask questions about our school, I’ll present to you what we do and any interested candidates, this is the time”. That type of thing is now starting to really take off and I think that's a brilliant way to do it.

But I think probably one of the most practical things she shared in this piece was a reminder to school leaders about the messaging around the focus of your school. When she was principal, she spent a lot of time working with staff to refine the messaging around the key focus of their school to avoid mixed messages being promoted to the wider community.

So, that point there brings me to one final point for reflection. As a school leader, if you were to have each member of staff write down one focus of your school, do you think they would answer consistently? If the answer is no, what are some strategies you could employ to refine the messaging coming out of your school?

That's all for this episode, and you're now all caught up on the latest evidence, insight and action. Links to all the content and the resources I’ve mentioned will be in the transcript of this podcast available over at our website, teachermagazine.com.

We’ll be back next week with an episodes of The Research Files, where we speak with Professor Scott Eacott from UNSW about his three-phase research project looking at the key attributes of high-impact leaders in rural, regional and remote schools. Be sure to subscribe to our podcast channel wherever you get your podcasts so you don’t miss it.

You’ve been listening to a podcast from Teacher, supported by Bank First – the bank that exists to serve the education community. Visit bankfirst.com.au to find out how they can help you to reach your financial goals.