And all over the country there is the annual job-fest that is the merry go round of teacher appointments.
Last term, I worked with a large group of finalist students, all of whom proved that they had the potential to become high grade teacher at an early stage in their career. As the school experience progressed, we began to discuss the need for job applications, as the NQT posts were beginning to appear in the local Council website and some of their colleagues were actively applying.
The process, in itself, can appear, from the point of view of the school, to be relatively straight forward, but in the minds of the applicants there are many potential pitfalls to avoid, if the student teacher is to become one of the few who will eventually walk through the door to the final stages.
The first step is likely to be the initial contact with the school.
Going to have a look around the school is an important step, especially for the applicant, as, whether you feel comfortable in the institution is important. It will be a very large part of your life for the time you are there. Teaching can become all-consuming. You need to be in the right place, especially at the start. Visit, look around, ask questions and discuss professionally. It is a two way process and you are, whether you feel it or not, on and informal interview, even at that stage. You are, after all, selling yourself and the school will be wanting to sell itself too. Remember that schools are experts at selling themselves; they do it all the time to prospective parents, so can tell their story very well.
The written application
Is very important, if you are to get through the door again, as it is the document that will be pored over by the head, deputy, other involved staff and Governors, who will make up the interview panel. The detail and style of your writing is critical. This document is selling you, not some generic prospective teacher, so make sure that you are visible throughout the writing.
Make sure that the school and the headteacher names are correct.
Don’t repeat information that is already asked for in another section of the form.
Order and organisation are key attributes of teachers. Show this in your application.
Tell the story of how you decided to become a teacher, the essential details of what you believe and what you’ve learned through your course of study. If you have a subject specialism, describe how important it is to you and why you feel it’s important to learners too.
You need to get across some idea of what your classroom would be like. This may be linked to ideas about how you think children learn best and may well vary considerably depending on the year group(s) the school caters for.
Have a draft of your personal statement checked and proof read. Errors can creep in, inadvertently and we can skim read and miss them. My advice to students on school experience was to share it with the school management, with a simple question; “Would this get me an interview?” That way, they got advice from the people who make the decisions.
Make sure that your references are strong; use the final teaching practice school. They’ve known you really well.
Be prepared. You need to look, sound and act the part, professionally, standard 8 writ large. Once you are through the door for interview, you are one of a small field, each of whom could do the job required, at least on paper.
You have to teach a short lesson? Make sure that you’ve organised the resources appropriately and preferably had a trial run beforehand to iron out any blips that become apparent. Go back to you final practice school if possible and “borrow” some children.
You have 20-30 minutes to get across the fact that, you can engage with children, have ideas and a manner that captures their interest, get them talking and possibly recording, and that you are getting to know them a little as individuals. There should be an outcome to share and celebrate, but also for you to evaluate afterwards, possibly as part of the oral interview.
The final stage is likely to be the panel interview. This can vary considerably, depending on the school style, from an informal chat around the coffee table, to a formal panel behind a desk. You can ask what to expect of the organisation, for example, how many people will interview, and who they are.
There are so many variations on the questions that can be asked at this stage, but many will be based on how you will be as a teacher in that school.
My priority question, after an early experience, was to ensure that each candidate was asked if they were still a firm candidate for the post and that they would accept the post if offered.
One of my favourite openers was to ask candidates to take me for “a walk” around their ideal classroom. How you view behaviour and learning are likely to be discussed too, as these are bread and butter classroom issues. Working with others, showing team skills, as participant and leader may be probed. Your order and organisation may well also be explored, as a tidy, well-resourced classroom with ease of access and return is very supportive of learning.
What else do you offer the school? This could ultimately be the decider in a close contest. What additional interests do you bring that would complement the school talent pool? Music, PE, Art, Outdoor activities might be useful, but so could reading widely, building computers, the list is endless. It also shows that you might have interests beyond the work environment.
You get offered the job, congratulations!
You are probably surprised, as you’ve seen the other candidates throughout the day and can see their strengths. It can be a little like the winners of the Oscars. However, you need to retain your professionalism and be able to make the decision. You have to tell the school if you will accept the offer.
Then you have to get your head around preparing for the beginning of the school year, but that’s probably another story.