I’ve noticed quite a few nervous tweets in the last few weeks regarding teaching interviews and I thought it would be worth lending a hand. During this half term, we are usually in the midst of the main teacher transfer window and it’s good to feel prepared for the big day!
I’ve been lucky enough to be on the interview panel for quite a few positions now and feel that there are some simple things that you can do to improve their chances of being shortlisted and then being able to secure and be happy in a job in your dream school. These aren’t intended to patronise at all- just some thoughts based on what I’ve seen and experienced.
For me, the preparation is key- that way, you can afford to be yourself on the day of the interview– there’s no need for a performance.
Here are some top tips:
1.) In the application, make sure you’ve filled it out accurately. I know that sounds obvious, but you would be surprised by how many careless errors are made on application forms. I find it useful to print a copy of the form and complete it by hand before typing it up. Check all boxes have been filled and that there are no gaps (especially in employment/ education history– this rings alarm bells for the shortlisting panel!). If you’re applying for several jobs at the same time, it’s too easy to address a letter to the wrong headteacher– get this bit right, there’s nothing worse!
2.) In the application letter, take the time to personalise this for the school you are applying to (too many candidates think that a standard copy and paste jobs will suffice!). Committing to a full-time job in a school is an important decision so it’s imperative that you do your homework- your letter should reflect the fact that you’ve taken the time to get to know what the school is really about and find out what their vision is for learning.
In writing your application, consider:
- What can I/ will I bring to the table? What can I offer this school community?
- Are there extra-curricular activities that I could join/ run/ be a part of? A gap that I could fill? How could I be a valuable asset to the life of the school?
- Is the school on an interesting journey of improvement where you could play your part? What is it about this school that attracts you/ excites you/ makes you want to be part of it? Be as specific as possible!
In researching the school, look at the following. Be sure to only use this information to inform your judgement, you can only make an informed decision when you weigh up all of the evidence against your own personal feelings about a place (you’ll gain this on the visit and speaking to the students). It’s virtually impossible to accurately sum up any school in a single report/ review, but the more intel you have, the better!
You could check:
- Google reviews/ https://www.schoolguide.co.uk/
- The school’s latest OFSTED report
- Read the school’s website (well!) this will give you huge amounts of information about staffing structures, vision, curriculum and the school’s extra-curricular offer- you can get a good feel for a place by what they choose to present online.
- Ask for a copy of the school’s prospectus
3.) Go and visit the school
The initial visit to a school is so important as you really get a sense of what the place is really about- schedule in a visit as soon as you possibly can. Every bit of communication you have with the school is part of the process, so make sure you are kind and courteous in all correspondence. Speak to cleaners, the receptionist- get a real measure of the place. The research that you’ve completed prior to the visit will help to guide the questions you ask and make sure you do ask- that’s what you’re there for.
4.) Check the journey times
Wherever possible, do a dummy run of the journey and if you can, try it during rush hour. All too often people accept a job and don’t realise the implications of a long journey on their day. Is it something you would feel comfortable with every day?
5.) The interview
After all of the preparation has been done, you can try your best to relax on the day itself. Be nothing but yourself on the day of an interview as the process is as much about you selecting the right school as it is about the school selecting the right candidate.
Take the time to talk to the other candidates, it’s always good to hear what other schools and departments are like and you can learn a lot from these conversations.
I’ve included a list of the sorts of questions that could be included in the subject interview below. Just be yourself. Don’t be afraid to consider your responses before you answer.
- What motivates you to teach your subject?
- What book do you think students here should read (preferably a title they may not have come across) and why?
- How do you ensure there is maximum challenge in the lessons that you teach?
- Could you give an example of how you consider yourself to be a reflective practitioner? How do you encourage others to be reflective?
- Talk to us a little about your A level teaching experience. What do you consider to be the main challenges of teaching at this level?
- What do you consider to be the most significant challenges in English teaching nationally in 2019?
- Finally, if you were to describe your teaching, what do you think are three of the characteristics of your practice?
- Do you have any questions for us?
Finally, I know this bit sounds odd, but enjoy the experience! It’s healthy to be out of where you feel comfortable from time to time- you learn a lot about yourself.
Enjoy the challenge and good luck!