Diary of a jobseeker

Monday 25th May 2008
I have suddenly realised that my PGCE course will soon come to an end and I will officially be a teacher so I need to start applying for jobs. Today I made a start and I had a look on the TES website and council websites. I sent self-addressed envelopes to a few schools, and completed online applications for the others. I had to keep adjusting my supporting statement to suit the school of application so it took me hours to do. The head teacher of my school placement checked it through for me and said that she would give me an interview if she was looking for a teacher, so that was very reassuring.

While I wait I think I’ll carry on looking on the internet and in the papers for jobs, I think the more applications I put in - the more chance I have of hearing from one school at least!

Tuesday 3rd June
Today as I was leaving my placement school, I checked my phone and there was a voicemail from a school! They’ve invited me in for an interview this Friday. I ran back into school to tell my mentor, Sarah, and ended up leaping all over the playground at the thought of possibly having my own class. The interview is for a year 4 class, they’ve asked me to do a lesson on anything for 30 minutes with the whole class. Sarah was really pleased for me and said I can practise my lesson on one of the year4 classes in the school. The day will also include a meeting with the school council and a formal interview with a panel including the head, the deputy head and a parent governor., I’m really excited but also very nervous. I need to think of a brilliant lesson which will make them want to hire me! There’s so much to think about in very little time. Luckily, Sarah has said I could leave early on Thursday so that I could take time to prepare. I’m just sitting at my desk now trying to think of a good lesson. I’ve picked literacy as my main subject as I think it’s a good idea to stick to the core subjects in this situation. My brother lives in Antarctica so I’d really like to do something based around that, but I need some ideas really. I think I might be here for a while…

Thursday 5th June
I’ve just left school at lunch time and dashed into town to try and find some sort of interview outfit. The most promising shop in town seems to be a food store with the smallest clothes section ever. I think the way to go would be smart-casual and brightly coloured. I did pick up a red and white stripy wrap around top which looked nice on the hanger, however when I tried it on, I looked like an oversized human candy cane so that idea had to go out of the window. In the end I settled for a white linen sleeveless top. I’ll wear it with my bright blue cardigan and black trousers. I think that’ll look quite smart.

I’ve eventually settled on the idea of film settings as my lesson. Last night I made a power point using wonderful pictures of Antarctica in order to get the children to talk about the different moods of the pictures and what genre films might be filmed there, and write a story about it. When I practised it earlier today on a class, they all became fixated on the picture of penguins and the lesson became about penguins instead of films. I may have to take that picture out; I don’t want the lesson to go in a completely different direction to that I have planned! So here I go, the interview is tomorrow and I’m really looking forward to it. I’m going to have to leave at 7-00am to make sure I’m there on time. I’m going to spend tonight going over my plan, making some changes and generally worrying and feeling nervous. I need some chocolate first though…

Friday 6th June
Today is the day! I woke up at 5am and sprang out of bed thinking I was late, it turns out I’m very early. So I got in my car and here I am on my way to the interview. After getting slightly lost, I pull up at a long grey building which looks like a factory. It is, in fact, the school.

As I come up the stairs, I’m met by the deputy head who says, “You went to the same secondary school as me. In fact, I know your brother!” Oh great - this makes it more personal. He then starts regaling me with wonderful anecdotes from his school days and then shows me into a tiny l office with three female candidates already waiting in it. I’m told that I will be third in to teach so have a short period before I will be given a tour of the school. I say ‘hi’ to everyone and sit down, while shaking slightly. There is silence as we all size each other up and await our fate.

Suddenly, two year 6 children come to the door and ask for me; they’ve come to take me on a tour of the school and I ask them questions and try to appear calm. We then walk past some lovely little stalls in the playground. Scratched into one of them is a rude word, the girl immediately tries to cover it up and says “You weren’t meant to see that! That’s the big kids, they come down here drinking when school’s finished.” “See what?” I say and look in the other direction. My tour is finished in the year cloakroom where the carpet has been pulled up because children keep going to the toilet in the corner. I’m starting to wonder whether if I would accept the job if I was offered it.

My lesson goes well, the children are responsive, they listen carefully and all manage to fulfill my learning intentions. I think it was neither spectacularly good nor spectacularly crap. I came out feeling OK and flopped into one of the chairs in the tiny office. By now the other women are feeling a bit more sociable and they start chatting. One of the candidates seems very knowledgeable and she tries to dish out advice and uses scare tactics, telling us things she’s heard about the school. It puts me off her slightly because I think it’s a bit of a mean thing to do to three people who are at their first interview! One of the PGCE students is incredibly nervous. She’s bright red and sitting on the edge of her seat. She’s very nice and I feel a bit sorry for her. She says she can’t stop shaking and is drinking a lot of water. I’m nervous too but I hope I’m containing myself slightly better than she is.

Suddenly it’s time for the interview with the student council. One by one the other applicants go in, and then come out looking terrorised. One of them compares it to “being in The Apprentice.” I’m not sure what she means by that but I soon find out. As I walk into the classroom, there is a horseshoe of tables set out with 12 children sitting around it. There is one chair for me in the middle of the horse shoe. Behind me are two teachers and then another three sitting behind the children. This is terrifying. The council fires questions at me which it clearly didn’t write tbecause, as I answer in child-friendly language, the members yawn, fidget and poke each other. One boy tells me a joke: “Why did the crab blush? - because the sea weed” and I roar with fake laughter and say “oh yes, that’s such a funny joke!” in a bit of an over-the-top, pantomime way. They then give me 60 seconds to sell myself to them. I frantically tell them I love practical activities and having fun learning in the classroom and finish with 10 seconds to spare. What an ordeal. Inside I’m freaking out and wanting to run away. This is so intimidating; no one told me interviews would be this stressful!

Eventually I return to the safety of the tiny office. There I spend two hours with the other candidates, eating lunch, chatting and trying to figure out who has got the job. By now the NQT has gone very quiet. She says her lesson didn’t go very well, and looks like she’s about to cry.
Suddenly it’s my turn. So in I go, I shake the panel members’ hands and look them in the eyes as my mentor said. I have a big cheesy grin on my face to show them that I’m fun and approachable, too. They are sitting behind a large table and no one smiles at me as I sit down. The head is wearing a power suit and I think to myself that she’s quite intimidating. They ask me all sorts of questions along the lines of “What would you do to ensure children progress?” and “What would you do if a child was being bullied?” “How would you involve parents in the learning process?” I answer these questions as best I can. All the time my heart is beating very fast and my palms are sweating. I feel very put on the spot and try to make jokes and answer with good humour. I’m also flinging my arms around wildly whilst talking. I must look mad. Finally it all comes to an end and I’m ushered out by the deputy head who shakes my hand, thanks me and tells me he will call me. So I gather my belongings together and leave.

At 3:20pm I receive a phone call from the head teacher. Sadly, they will not be offering me the job this time. She offers me feedback, and although I don’t want it, I feel like I’d better listen. The reason they didn’t offer me the job was because I talked too fast. She said that I did the quickest interview they’d ever done. And when I’d left the student council meeting, one of the children had commented on how fast I spoke. She said she knew that I probably wasn’t like that normally and it was probably just nerves, but it meant that I didn’t stop to think about the answers I was giving and give them in enough depth. I think that’s a fair point. I do speak fast when I’m nervous and I’ve definitely learnt something new about myself today: I need to practice speaking very slowly when nervous! I cheekily ask who did get the job… Take a guess? You got it; the very nervous PGCE student. Well done to her. I’m genuinely pleased for her. Onwards and upwards for me!

Ellie is currently looking for a teaching job in a primary school, ideally working in in key stage one. She would eventually like to take on the role of special educational needs coordinator.

If you have a jobseeking experience you’d like to share, please contact jennifer.beckles@tes.co.uk

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