“He threw hitches, slants, drags, curls, crosses, dips, comebacks, slots and posts. And he threw them well Thursday, completing 45 of 50. Matthew Stafford zipped the football with power and accuracy into a sturdy, quartering wind on the University of Georgia’s practice field,” wrote Lynn Henning of The Detroit News, describing Matthew Stafford’s recent performance in front of Lions coaching staff.
Somebody is going to draft this youngster out of Georgia partly on his performance during this workout. The NFL combine is a unique phenomenon. Team representatives chart how fast these potential draft picks can run 40 yards, how far these potential payroll players can blend, how high these potential employees can jump and how many double slants these potential money magnets can complete. Considering the millions of dollars at stake, considering the Lions’ 0-16 past, considering their looming future, there is a lot at stake for Matthew Stafford, for the Detroit Lions, for everyone.
So why not do the same when hiring teachers? Considering the future of these young men and women, considering the paltry results of too many schools, considering the invaluable worth of education, considering the declining math, science and reading scores, there is a lot at stake for students, for schools, for parents, for everyone.
An interview isn’t enough for teams that will invest millions into first round draft picks because the risk of failure is too great. Can you imagine drafting these athletes without watching any game films, without scouting any games, without attending any NFL workouts? If you did that you probably wouldn’t win a single game…oh, wait. I digress.
So instead of reading a resume and phoning sycophantic contacts, I say put your potential hires through an NFL-like experience. The typical combine has numerous stations evaluating skills deemed vital for the team’s success. Instead of stations, use rooms that represent skills effective teachers must possess.
Gather the most unruly hombres south of Hall Road and let the budding teacher enter the fray. Does screaming replace authority? Are detentions threatened but never given? Do curses surface? Are pages 203 –243 covered no matter what? Does the interviewee hand out a word-search while frantically searching the Help Wanted ads in Google? Or does he find methods that engage and challenge students? Does he demonstrate compassion and confidence? Does he remember what it was like to be an immature adolescent? Does he harness that energy while establishing and maintaining a classroom environment that demands, nurtures, challenges, invigorates?
Using a lesson plan from your best educator, lead the Potential Youth Nurturer PYN into Room 3 and just before closing the door whisper, “Teach what’s important”. What do you see as you peer from one side of the two-way mirror? Are ScornTron sheets handed out fifteen minutes later probing ever-important questions like, What year was the author born? What is the third word on line seven? What color is the main character’s coat? How many Bs are in Babar? Or does the PYN connect content with community by asking students to make literary, personal or global connections? Does the PYN ask students to demonstrate learning by applying concepts to ideas, works and experiences outside the classroom’s scope? Does the PYN intellectually challenge students in relevant, rigorous ways? Do questions work their way up the ladder of Bloom’s taxonomy or ignorantly sit on the first rung of recall?
The Assistant Principal’s Office:
Lead your gruntled, potential molder-of-young-lives – PMYL - into the assistant principal’s office where two very disgruntled parents wait, wanting to know why the new teacher gives so much homework. What reasons does PMYL give? Does he immediately play the authoritative because-that’s-how-I-teach card? Listen for his explanation. If it’s grounded in kill-and-drill philosophy, beware. Sharpen the pencil so you can write down names of other candidates. If his answer reveals a genuine and rigorous connection to learning, sharpen your pencil. You will need to get his social security number, address and other personal information for his contract.
Tell the potential onstage sage – POS - that it’s the first day of class and the students are excited about seeing their friends, excited about the first football game, excited about the Mixer Dance theme and excited about the cute transfer student. Excited about class? Well, that depends on how the POS handles day one. Monitor the closed-circuit classroom camera from your office to see the tone established on day one. Does POS attempt to scare kids into dropping the class or does POS reveal a firm command of every minute in an organized manner?
Inform the prospective – PR - recruit the students he’s about to teach are the school’s brightest, teeming with potential Harvards, Yales, Michigans and MITs. The MCCs, MSUs and EIEIOs have all been expunged – nothing but the best. Press a lesson plan into his palms and whisper, “Make me proud.” What the recruit doesn’t know is these students are really leftovers from 118. Will he press autopilot and watch his classroom crash into a Lost island, never to be heard from again? Will he be at his creative and cognitive best to guide instruction and develop independent and critical thinking no matter the audience?
Room - Small Groups:
The only goal here is to use small groups to teach. Open the door and nudge Potential Teacher Person – PTP - into the room. How are groups formed? Are instructions and expectations of group behavior modeled? How is accountability created? Does the mayhem result in sharing of the ignorance? Do small groups become an excuse to finish the Christmas letter, last hour’s quiz? Does PTP engage discussion or update GradeBookDemon, FaceNovel, HisCorner and then whine about kids these days?
The juniors are taking tests so that leaves the remaining students sitting in class, ready to learn. Open the door for the Prospective Professional Educator – PPE – and let him teach. Does he call it a day, turn on ESPN and justify that if not every student is in class, learning isn’t valuable? Does he tell the educational refugees that it’s too much work to teach only the students that are in class? Perhaps PPE asks the students to debate an issue related to current classroom content. Perhaps PPE brings in some ancillary lesson that further strengthens current content being studied. Perhaps PPE contracts a severe case of Charles-I-Got-My-Money-Now-Out-My-Face Rogers-itis.
Before any contract is concocted, proffered or inked, the NFL combines require potential athletes to prove their worth.
Hiring teachers should be no different.