Happy teachers, happy school: the Arcadia method – part 2

Early to market
I have to say that our recruitment process was exceptional: during my 25 years in education with a variety of international schools, I’ve never seen anything as thorough — or, ultimately, as successful.

We went early to the recruitment market — November/December rather than January/February, when most schools recruit — with a global search via the Times Educational Supplement (TES) online, in partnership with our recruitment agency, Gabbitas Educational Consultants, who helped promote the opportunity to be part of the best primary school in Dubai. The response rate was very high: 850 applicants from all over the world.

If the numbers were high, so was the calibre. It was a challenge selecting just 50 applicants for an initial interview, which we conducted via Skype.

That was an exhaustive — and exhausting — process, but it gave us the chance to identify not just the technical abilities of our prospective colleagues but whether they had the all-important ‘fit’ with our school ethos. We wanted to be clear that they understood the unique nature of a startup school; the need for people to get heavily involved and multi-task across the school during its formative years.

Anyone who’s been involved with a startup will understand that it’s not for everybody. You have to be willing to take on a challenge, and that boils down to attitude and character. So I was looking for team players who were adaptable, flexible, able to cope with unexpected situations and lead by example.

Final interviews
From the initial 50 candidates, we selected 35 for final interviews: for the UK-based teachers, a face-to-face in London, with a high-profile consultant from Gabbitas joining our interview panel; for those located in other countries, an extended Skype interview. We interviewed teachers working in Singapore, China, Thailand, Turkey and Qatar as part of this final selection process.

Before the interviews, we asked all our candidates to review the package of benefits and familiarise themselves with our facilities, approach and vision, so that we could use the interview to learn about them.

I’ve always found that people relax better if the interview process can incorporate storytelling . So we asked our final 35 to read a book called ‘Move Your Bus’ by Ron Clark, which uses metaphors and parables to characterise one’s professional journey. We asked them to be prepared to speak to us for five minutes about their own journey.

We planned it this way in order to engage our candidates from the outset, and to reinforce that we are a learning-focused organisation and very interested in gaining from the skills and knowledge of all. We wanted to be certain that our teachers understood Arcadia’s high aspirations for our students.

We also asked them to tell us what ‘outstanding’ meant for them in the context of the role for which they were applying. This was both interesting and instructive. One teacher with international experience told us that, for her, ‘outstanding’ meant seeing each child rise to a personal challenge within a secure and warm learning environment; another said it was the feeling of accomplishment from completing a supposedly impossible task; a third related ‘outstanding’ in teaching to her own experience as an athlete representing her country… (to be continued)…

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