The past few years have been pretty tough in our house. When I was pregnant with our first child, MVNTH (My Very Nearly Teacher Husband) was made redundant. To pass the time between finishing his job and finding a new one, he volunteered at local infant school. And there began his love of the teaching profession. At first, he was a volunteer, then they employed him as a TA. Then, when he decided that teaching was for him, he enrolled on a Foundation Degree in Education. That done, and an additional Honours year to top it up, he eventually found himself on a Schools Direct placement. All this was done while working in school, bringing up our two young children and dealing with an exhausted full-time teaching wife.
Well, this long path is finally nearing its end, but the stress is not yet over. Now comes the interview process. Now, I have worked in my school for 15 years, so it has been a long time since I had an interview, but it seems that everything has changed. For my job, I went on a nice tour around the school with a bunch of lovely people and we had a nice chat. I don’t recall spending ages thinking up intelligent questions to ask (perhaps they just came naturally!) or trying to get myself noticed. I didn’t have to teach a lesson – I just read a class of children a story – and I certainly didn’t have to do any presentations. I remember there being a panel at the interview: if I remember correctly, it was the Head, Deputy Head, potential teaching partner and Chair of Governors. Despite there being 4 people, it was all fairly low key. Stressful enough, but nowhere near as bad as the interview process today.
I wonder whether the interview process, as it stands, shows the best of potential candidates? Does a 30 minute lesson with a class of unfamiliar children really show off what you can do? So much of a lesson is based around the knowledge you have of your children: picking up on their misconceptions, using the relationship you have with them and the knowledge of how they learn to help them to understand. With your own class, you know where they have come from and where they are going, and what you need to do to get them there. Even interview observations in your own class, it seems, can’t be run as a normal lesson. They have to have a specific focus, a particular objective and a specific desired outcome. All designed to add to the pressure load. Surely it would be far more beneficial to just spend a “normal” morning or afternoon in a classroom watching a “normal” day? You could see how the teacher relates to the children, manages the class during registration and transition times, deals with parents and those inevitable dramas that happen most mornings. See how they get the children to line up and walk down the corridor to assembly. See what lessons look like on a day-to-day basis, how the teacher interacts with TAs and other teachers. Surely that would give you so much more of a picture of the whole teacher, not just of someone performing for half an hour. Of course there would be issues with this: time scale for one, as it would take far longer to see candidates. People coming from out of the area, NQTs, the list of complications would be endless, but surely there must be a better way than expecting someone to put on a show for half an hour? For me, I don’t have to worry about interviews for the time being, but for MVNTH, he’s got a heck of a week to come. Whatever happens, it’s all good experience. Wish him luck, and we’ll see you on the other side!