Back in the distant recesses of my memory, I recall commencing my school-centred initial teacher training (Scitt) course with such idealistic and optimistic notions of getting a job.
I’d walk into a school and there would be a mutual and immediate falling in love. The other candidates would fade into a blurry insignificance as the principal shook my hand and said how delighted they were to have found me.
I’d be the best history NQT they’d ever appointed, my interview lesson would blow them away, with my interview technique second to none. In staff briefing the next day they would announce the great appointment, full of hope and excitement. I would spend the summer decorating my classroom, and come September my place would be secured – an asset to the department.
Fast-forward nine months, and yesterday I had my fith rejection. As I sat in reception pre-interview, I feared I would vomit over the faux leather sofa. I’m naturally chatty: that candidate who has to break the awkward silence by asking names and where we’ve come from. Perhaps I should learn to be quiet, we’re after the same job, it doesn’t matter what they think of the weather or traffic situation. I tend to approach it as a Guide Camp, in it together – may the best person win. Only, one day it would be quite nice if that person was me.
The trials of teacher job interviews
As far as interviews go, yesterday was quite civilised. We had a room with tea and coffee, and raspberry and apple flapjacks – they even delivered lunch that none of us could really swallow. A definite improvement on interview number four, when we were dumped in the staffroom oblivious to who was watching our interactions, without a drink. Interview number three was a very orderly and civilised affair with department coffee [filtered] and biscuits. There wasn’t time for refreshments during interview two, and interview one was an excruciating nine-hour saga when I wished I’d sneaked in gin in my water bottle.
After the first rejection – “you were great, everyone really liked you, but someone else was a better fit on the day” – I decided I would never allow myself to envisage getting the job. I would be ambivalent, but teaching interviews are anything but ambivalent. There’s the lesson planning – three in one week with less than 24 hours to prepare for each – and post mortem, the firing squad of the student panel, and that’s before the “proper” interview. Not to mention all the hanging around, making small talk with the competition before the (inevitable) disappointment. Interview 1 culled at lunch, and the poor chap sitting next to me had to leave before finishing his remaining egg and cress sandwich.
The weirdest student panel question? “If you were a pencil and stuck in a blender, how would you get out?” or “If you could be a dessert, which would you be and why?”
Feedback is precarious and so subjective: someone else was a better fit, the lesson was too teacher-led or it lacked teacher input, it was too creative, or too dull, I was too idealistic in interview, someone else just performed better on the day, blah, blah, blah.
As I drove home yesterday afternoon, I questioned why we put ourselves through it, and if I had the energy to continue with this process at all. When the feedback isn't good, it’s easy to interpret this as a personal attack against the person and teacher you are.
So for the remaining fellow jobless NQTs for September, I salute you.
Verity Worthington is a trainee teacher in Worcestershire