Considering Talent in Education


“What do you look for when hiring a new teacher?”

I was recently asked this question, and I had to think before I gave an initial response.


I wanted a quick and easy way to respond to this question, because the real answer is pretty complicated. After walking away from the conversation, I began to give the subject more thought. I determined that my answer was not a good one, and that when asked the same question in the future, I would need to provide a better answer. After all, hiring great teachers is one of the most important things we do.


If I needed a better answer, then I would have to carefully consider another question:

What SHOULD we look for when hiring?


It seems as if many in education look for standard answers from applicants about classroom management and discipline, lesson planning, technology usage, and pedagogy.


Should we consider creativity or innovation when hiring a teacher?

How about resourcefulness or imagination?


In looking for standard answers, we have been looking for teachers who are willing to fit into a system that has not changed in many years. Now, more than ever, our students and classrooms are changing, and therefore, we need to reconsider the teachers we are hiring to work in these situations.

Consider the following interview exchange between administrator and potential teacher:

Administrator: What does an effective lesson look like?

Teaching Candidate: An effective lesson is one in which students are engaged, formative assessment is taking place throughout the lesson, and the lesson is differentiated based on student strengths and needs.


While this candidate may have stated some of the key components of an effective lesson, this response does nothing to help the administrator determine whether the teacher brings anything different to the table, any talent or resourcefulness that will make the candidate a great teacher.

We must look for talent. We must explore ways to find candidates who are different. We must reconsider the questions we ask of potential teachers in order to find people who are truly talented. When we find those truly talented people, we must hire them, instead of choosing candidates who will fit into our standard system.


So now, I have a different answer to the question, “What do you look for when hiring a new teacher?”


I want teachers who are going to be resourceful…

who are going to model imagination and innovation for their students…

who are going to bring their talents to their students…

who are going to inspire…

who are going to make and create…

and solve problems…



Let’s start the conversation. How can we better consider talent in education? Add your thoughts in the comments section below.

Rich (@RACzyz)

3 thoughts on “Considering Talent in Education

  1. I agree with all of this. It’s taking the leap and actually investing in these types of teachers. There’s a difference between wanting these types of teachers and actually taking initiative to seek them out and hire them.

    In a world that places far too much emphasis on the letters attached to people’s names in their bios and on their CVs (Masters, PHD etc), the truly innovative, creative, and passionate teachers are often times overlooked.

    The real challenge is to take the chance to hire someone who may not glow academically, but have a massively large heart for the profession.

  2. I think that’s a great question to be asking and I really like your idea of looking for someone who is resourceful and imaginative, inspirational, creative and talented. I don’t know about hiring practices where you are, but in Ontario, we have some policies in place right now based on the seniority of the candidate that often prevent us from hiring deeper within the pool, but instead, restrict us to the more experienced choices. Sadly, often the older hires are a bit set in their ways and traditional in their thinking. I am NOT suggesting that older experienced teachers can be all that you suggest (I’m quite long in the tooth myself), but usually if they have that talent and risk taking outlook, they’re already in a classroom.
    I’m in a position where I can observe teachers preparing for their TPA (teacher performance appraisal) and often they will prepare a “canned” lesson they’ve retrieved from the internet. Why don’t we ask for original lessons and fresh thinking when we’re assessing performance?
    Thanks for the thought provocation.

  3. How are you going to look for talent, creativity, imagination, resourcefulness, and ability to inspire in an interview? Don’t get me wrong some of these you’ll get a feel for, but much of this is easier to look for in theory.

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