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Best of times, worst of times

PAMELA ILES Head of St Dunstans Community School, Glastonbury, Somerset 'My mother was a teacher and I'd spent a long time resisting the thought that I might like to teach. But eventually I came to the conclusion that that was actually what I wanted to do.

I finished my education and I was three days too young to do my teacher training, so had to wait a year. I did temporary office work, then went out to the Channel Islands, then did volunteer work. I also worked in a factory. I decided I would try and experience different types of work to get some experience of life.

I trained for middle school and did my teaching practices in primaries. I was looking for a job in 1976-7. Then the job situation was the complete opposite of now: people were writing back saying we've had 100 applications, sorry. Finally I got a job teaching religious education at a secondary school.

Interviews can be very constructiv. I was interviewed for a deputy headship at a grammar school and they took a long time to choose between me and their internal candidate. They chose the other candidate, but gave me this incredible debrief, saying I had a lot of potential, that it had been a difficult decision. I went away feeling buoyed up. The next day I had an interview at my own school and, because that experience gave me confidence, I got the job.

Being interviewed is like being tested. Often in an interview you find things in yourself that you don't necessarily know are there. For me it's a growing process by which you develop your career.

So I think getting a good debrief is essential. It can be painful to ask "Why didn't I get the job? What did you think about me?" But I would advise anybody to do it because you often hear very positive things about yourself and you'll sometimes think "I could easily put that right."

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