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Best of times, worst of times

Maria Teanby. Headteacher. St Michael's CE primary school. Louth, Lincolnshire

Early in my career, I foundinterviews farcical: either you were the only candidate and you'd get the job if you had one leg and could talk, or you were asked such questions as: "Do you plan to have a family and how will that affect your job?"

You were never asked questions about whether you could teach, what you felt about relationships with children or how you would conduct yourself in the classroom. I was never asked about all the things I wanted to tell people.

I wanted to sell myself - I really did. I used to fill in application forms with pages and pages about what I wanted to do and where I saw education going. But it lost me more interviews than it gained me. So in the end, I just filled in a bog-standard form and left it at that.

When it got to the bit in theinterview where they asked whether you had any questions, I always wanted to say: "Yes, how do you envisage me contributing to the school?I This is what I'd like to do, so how does that square with what you'd like?" But I think at that point I'd probably lost quite a few jobs. I frightened people by being so forthright - people didn't want that in those days.

When I was interviewed for my first headship, it was for an authority "show school" and I was shown around with hallowed reverence. It was a brand new building - anyone would have been bowled over by it.

But I could see all these gaps. I asked questions like: "Can I see what science you do?" and, "Can I see your curriculum planning?" In most cases, my questions tended to be met with embarrassing silences.

At my interview, they said: "You've had a chance to look around, so what do you think?" So I told them - and I got the job. Up to that point, being so forthright certainly went against me. I've lost count of the number ofheadteachers' backs I got up by being forthright - especially before I became a headteacher myself.

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