By Tarek Razik and Pauline O'Brien
Tarek Razik’s biography on our Board of Trustees page says that he is “focused on progressive and innovation education” and he certainly seems to be living up to this in the way he approaches educator recruitment.
As head of school at Jakarta Intercultural School in Indonesia, Tarek ensures that there is student representation in the interview process for new staff. In fact, it’s more than representation, Tarek puts a student ambassador (recruiter) at the front and centre of the process, welcoming and encouraging their leadership in the recruitment process. Pauline O'Brien, CIS Director of Career & Recruitment Services learned about Tarek's approach to recruiting on a recent visit to the school as part of our service to find and recruit new educators for our members. She asked Tarek to share his innovative approach to his recruitment process.
It started four years ago in China when Tarek was head of the International School of Beijing. He was concerned that when asked if a new teacher would be good for the students, he couldn’t really be sure. No matter how engaging and experienced the individual, they had only been interviewed in an adult-to-adult setting, and there was no real gauge for how they would behave and operate in the classroom setting, with the kids.
As a parent, Tarek's litmus test was "would I want this person teaching my kid?"
What he realised was missing from the recruitment experience was student representation and started to wonder what would it look like if he involved his students in the staff recruitment process, even at educator recruitment fairs overseas?
There was a lot to consider, not least the well-being and safety of the student.
Four years and a new school later, Tarek has implemented the approach with positive results. So just how does it work in practice? Here’s what Tarek told us …
You need to find the right student ambassador
We look for a student who has been at the school long enough to have a broad experience of the teaching and learning style and environment. We also look for a student whose opinions we respect and is a good representative for their peers—not too mature nor too immature, perhaps a little goofy but articulate. We don’t necessarily want another “adult” in the room and we are not looking for the top academic student, but someone who represents the JIS mission and vision in real life. We do this by liaising with our staff colleagues to create a shortlist of possible student ambassadors, we then invite them to show interest in the role and then we interview them to make sure they understand what it involves.
Besides a student’s willingness to be involved, they must also be fully prepared to present to a room full of potential candidates at the educator recruitment fair—perhaps 20-30 potential candidates—on the merits of our wonderful school. My colleague, usually a principal and I, have little involvement during the presentation itself because our student recruiter leads the show; they introduce me and the principal(s) and our roles at the school before continuing with their presentation. And later, they are the ones that lead and facilitate the interview itself, with myself and my colleague as contributing interview panel members. We are sure to invest plenty of time with them in advance to help them prepare.
And, of course, their parents must have a full consultation about what we are asking of their child and agree to join them on any trips as part of the recruitment process. We are careful to plan our trips so that we don’t overlap with holiday time wherever possible. We absolutely do not want to waste their holiday time—both for the children’s and parent’s sake. However, we also balance this with potential academic time missed.
Two unexpected and rewarding outcomes
- You immediately notice a dynamic shift in the behaviour of the interviewee when they realise that one of our students is not only sitting in on the interview process but is fully involved in it. You get the opportunity to observe how they interact with a student and get a better visualisation of how that will translate to the classroom setting. You get to see how they articulate themselves to students.
- One of the most rewarding aspects of the experience is how brutally honest the kids can be in giving feedback! Almost as soon as the interviewee has left the room, we’ll get a very clear signal on how the interview has gone, before we dive into the details. The first question I have after the candidate leaves is for the student recruiter, “would you want that person teaching you?” The response is always very powerful and insightful.
Benefits for students
Student ambassadors have told me that they feel privileged to be involved, that school leadership values what they think and has their best interests at heart when they are seeking new educators. They also have a keen sense of responsibility to their peers in representing them as best they can to attract the best teachers. The chance to travel is also appealing, and they get the opportunity to hone their writing skills on return by writing about the experience for the school website. They also speak at various parent meetings on the challenges and competitiveness of recruiting teachers.
The initiative has only been running for one year at my new school so it’s likely that much of the wider student body is unaware that this initiative is taking place, but back in Beijing, the student body was very supportive. I am sure, in time, the concept will catch on in JIS as well.
Benefits for the school
By experiencing first-hand the behaviour of our interviewees when interacting with our student ambassador, we get that extra layer of insight and understanding that we would not have seen in the usual adult-to-adult interview setting. It gives me an extra degree of confidence about whether we are interviewing the right candidate for the role.
Benefits for the candidate
Candidates get to experience the kinds of students that they may have the privilege of teaching. We’ve been complemented by candidates at the fairs who say that our approach to recruitment is appealing because it shows how student-centred our school is and how the experience gives them a real sense of what we are offering them.
It’s not an exact science
Reflecting on my original concern—when asked if a new teacher would be good for the students—I still can’t be certain that I am making the right choice. But by including the student stakeholder in the process, I can be sure that I am one step closer to serving their needs.