When the topic of conversation is teaching, many are quick to discuss student engagement, critical thinking, student achievement and curricular content. With good reason. These are important aspects of education.
But none of them, in my opinion, really get to the heart of what it means to teach.
Those of us in school leadership positions seek out teachers who can excel in those areas and who have a toolbox full of ways to bring these elements to life. And when asked what is in their “toolbox”, most teachers will be prepared to answer with such things as dynamic lessons, use of technology, differentiated instruction and project-based learning experiences (I hope!).
In addition, many teachers are prepared to speak of the importance of character development and the social-emotional well-being of their students. Most will also be prepared to explain the ways that they will go about building positive and trusting relationships with and among their students.
But as I said, I don’t think we have really gotten to the heart of what it means to teach.
That is why I believe that the most important interview question a teacher can ever be asked is this: “What will you do to bring joy to your classroom?”
Joy - a feeling of great pleasure and happiness with synonyms such as: delight, bliss, glee, elation, euphoria, rejoicing, exultation, happiness and exhilaration.
We need teachers who are thinking about joy.
Content can be taught. I can provide a teacher with the resources needed to grow more in any given subject area.
Lesson planning is a skill that can be developed. I can mentor a teacher to create more dynamic lessons.
I can support a teacher who is seeking new ways to engage students and promote their critical thinking skills.
But you can’t teach joy. And if a teacher isn’t prepared to think about what it means to help students find and experience joy in his/her class EVERY DAY, then that might not be the teacher I want to hire.
Start asking, “What will you do to bring joy to your classroom?” You will know quickly if you have found a teacher who confuses joy with fun. And you will know immediately if this is a teacher who truly knows what it means to help students find joy.
I think this question can be a game changer. It was for me.