You say you want a school staff that mirrors your student population. You say you want culturally competent educators. You say you want social studies lessons that are inclusive of all people from history, not just those who are telling the story. But what are you actually doing about it? Read on to find out what’s been working for Greater Brunswick Charter School (GBCS) and how you might be able to find the type of teacher you’re looking for, too.
How Greater Brunswick Charter School Finds Diverse Candidates
In an effort to become an anti-racist institution, we formed a Race Equity Team in 2017. And since becoming intentional about this work, we’ve begun to look at things differently, including hiring. Initially, we worked to find ways to recruit a more diverse staff. But we soon realized that there was something lacking within our actual interview process. Once we had candidates of color at an interview, like all candidates, we wanted our process to allow them to feel supported and to do their best - unfortunately, we weren’t providing an environment for this to live out.
So, we decided to create racially diverse hiring committees - typically composed of two People of Color and two White members - to support our goal. In addition to improving the interview experience for our candidates, a critical aim of this structure is to help minimize the impact of unconscious biases in the hiring process.
During any teacher hiring process, we assess the candidate’s strengths and the areas in which we believe they will need support in order to be successful. For example, we may find a teacher who is strong with content, but needs support with classroom management. We know that in order to meet our student achievement and school climate goals, we must have a professional development plan for each teacher. At GBCS we now consider cultural competence just as critical to a teacher’s overall success as content knowledge and classroom management. In order to assess this competency, we knew that we would have to fine tune our hiring questions. And we knew what we wanted to ask each candidate in order to better understand their cultural competence, including their understanding of White privilege and becoming an anti-racist educator.
And when there is a lack of understanding or skill set in any one of these areas, we offer training and support to guide the educator.
GBCS Sample Hiring Questions
- Describe your personal philosophy of Social Studies instruction. How do you address the challenge of social studies in the United States not having a balanced perspective, historically and in the present? (Including recognizing people of color.)
- What is your understanding of white privilege. How does that inform your teaching and/or interactions with students?
- What is an anti-racist school? What is an educator’s role in creating this?
- What is your understanding of cultural competence?
These questions are not typical hiring questions. And often, candidates are initially uncomfortable when articulating their answers. It sometimes requires scaffolding to help them unpack what it is they are trying to say. During our new staff orientation, we discussed this process with our newest teachers. Several White teachers openly shared how uncomfortable they were, but how appreciative they felt that the questions are being asked. They also highlighted the fact that the questions reflect the values of the school - something we hoped they would all feel.
Some of our teachers recognized that they did not answer the questions with ease, but found the experience impactful. One teacher jumped up during orientation and shared with the group,
“I was blown away by that question [white privilege]. I didn’t know how to respond, I was fumbling with my words. When I told the committee that I don’t see color I was told, “What if I want you to see color?” and I can’t stop thinking about it. That question was life changing.”
At Greater Brunswick Charter School we are in the beginning stages of weaving cultural competence, equity, and anti-racist institutional goals into the many layers of our hiring process. While it is a work in progress, the powerful dialogues we are having with our candidates - and the educators with whom we are sharing this process - lets us know that we are onto something powerful. And we are excited about that. We encourage everyone involved in their institution’s hiring process to re-think what they are doing. Be brave. Make sure your values are reflected in your process.