The email pops up in your inbox and you punch the air. You’ve got an interview! And then, almost as quickly as the joy rushed in, out it goes. The realisation hits: you have the interview lesson to prepare.
No stranger beast exists than the school interview lesson. It’s a bit like dressing up as Father Christmas for teenagers: you know it’s fake, they know it’s fake, but we’re all going to smile and pretend anyway.
So, how do you go about planning for a class of children you have never met and potentially will never see again? Try these suggested steps for tackling that interview lesson:
1. Ask questions first
Details of what the school expects from you will vary massively. If you feel you need to ask a clarifying question, pick up the phone, or email and ask. Do bear in mind that elements such as student data probably won’t be shared under the new general data protection regulation guidelines, so focus more on what the topic is, what prior learning the students have had, desk arrangements, etc.
2. Use tried and tested activities
The obvious difference between your normal classes and the interview class is that you won’t know the children. Therefore, all planning needs to be undertaken with this in mind.
Elaborate group activities where the students have to work together, or complicated independent tasks with numerous steps may work brilliantly in your normal classes, where your routines are embedded, or even in your current school, where you are a known “face”, but in an interview situation, it is best to leave nothing to chance.
Keeping things simple, and using activities you have tried and tested may be playing it safe but it is also playing to your strengths. Don’t bother trying to wow them with the complexities of what you’re doing – instead, wow them with your presence and knowledge.
3. Be prepared with resources
Communicate with the school prior to the interview and let them know what you’ll need.
Don’t assume that they have any specialist kit that you have at your school. Every school you’ve previously taught in may have had visualisers, but it would be unwise to take a gamble that the school interviewing you will, too – the day is too important to take such a risk.
Even the basics should be requested in advance. It is no good letting the person organising the interview know on the morning that you will need 16 glue sticks and an interactive whiteboard.
Printing any resources at your current school might not go down very well either, so ask the interviewing school to print them or pay for it to be done privately.
4. Plan the back-up lesson
Once you’ve planned, write your back-up plan. “What if” every scenario, and think about what you would do if it all went wrong. It is easier to stay cool under pressure and think clearly if you have already thought through a Plan B.
It is highly unlikely that the students won’t already have covered, in some form, what you’re teaching them in the interview lesson. Be ready with a breezy “we’re just recapping it”, and plough on. The final thing you should do is look over your lesson and think about whether it can stand alone: if you think it can, you’re on the right track.
Grainne Hallahan has been teaching English in Essex for 10 years. She is part of the #TeamEnglish Twitter group