Zia Hassan

The Problem With Teacher Auditions

+++ title = “03” date = 2019 +++

When I was applying at schools as a teacher, there was a pretty standard application process. You’d send your resume and cover letter like always, and then you’d have an initial interview. If you made it past that stage, you’d move onto something that was called a “demo teach.”

In a demo teach, you teach a group of kids at the school at which you’re applying. Administrators watch you to see if your style matches what they are seeking and this is all considered when they make hiring decision in the end. Sometimes this can be substituted by a video of you teaching, but in most cases, you’re going in cold.

I went to one school on a Saturday. I was told that my goal was to create something fun, so I did an activity about first person and third person that involved drawing. It seemed fun, and the students seemed to understand my learning objective.

After the demo, you are usually interviewed and asked to reflect on what you did well and what you didn’t do so well. After I gave my reflections, the assistant principal said:

“I thought that lesson was worthless. I would never ever want you to teach something so pointless to students. It was a waste of everyone’s time, including ours.”

I froze up. Had it really gone that poorly? I was told to make it fun, and I did. The entire room stood still.

Then, all of a sudden, the administrator admitted to me that she had said that just to see how I’d react to harsh criticism, and that I could relax now. But I didn’t relax. I finished the interview but left feeling tense for about a week. She’d activated my fight or flight, my amygdala, and while it was a simulation, it felt just as real to me as being attacked by a wild animal. I figured there was no way I was going to get the job.

A few days later, the school called me (it was someone other than the administrator who yelled at me) to offer me the job. I had already decided I wouldn’t accept it even if it was offered. When I told the administrator that I was not interested, they seemed shocked and asked why.

I told them that being yelled at in the interview, especially when I had followed the guidelines given to me, left me feeling really low, and that I couldn’t imagine feeling like that all the time.

I think I started getting borderline defensive over the comments, and so the administrator then said: “Well, when you do a demo teach, we really are looking for your best teaching. Even though the criticism you got was exaggerated, it’s important to know that we will call you out when you feel like you aren’t doing your best teaching.”

I responded by saying:

“Then I’m afraid you’ll be let down with every interview you do. Because a teacher’s best teaching can’t happen with a group of students that they don’t know. Teaching is an iterative process. You learn what to do and what not to do every time you teach a group of kids. You try to understand them as people as best you can, and by the end of the year, you have some idea of what your best teaching looks like, but only for that group. And then the next year comes and you’re back to square one. Not with your skills, but with your relationships. I wish you luck.”

There was a pause and then: “So, that’s a definite no?”

Their loss.