Teeing off for a career in teaching

It's interview time again, and writing references prompts me to look back over my own career. It was, of course, a lot different in days of yore.

My original interviews, back in the 1970s, took place in the Gothic pile that was Edinburgh's Dean Education Centre. Before its use as an education centre, it had been an orphanage - its windows thoughtfully placed high, so that the weans would be unable to look at the world outside. You didn't so much turn up for an interview there as orienteer your way round the false floors, metal staircases and dark souterrain corridors. Now it houses the National Museum of Modern Art - with exhibits every bit as impenetrable as its late advisory team.

Starting out on my teaching adventure, I found myself facing the adviser across a desk in a mezzanine broom cupboard. These being the days of plenty jobs, he suggested I sign up for school A. With the ignorance of youth, I responded that, having enjoyed my practice at school B, I would prefer to teach there.

We skated round the point delicately for a quarter of an hour, my insouciance a good counter to his growing irascibility. Eventually, with the need for lunch overwhelming his innate good nature, he leaned across the desk and hissed: "School B dinnae want ye!"

The light went on and I gratefully accepted the offer to commence my career at school A, where I spent 16 very happy years. And talking of lights, in the same building two years later, the guidance adviser had just asked me how I would deal with the unpredictable in a pastoral post when all the lights went out. We continued the interview in the dark - some would say the perfect prelude to my subsequent career.

A pal once arrived for an interview during the holidays. He was met in the silent school by two walking adverts for Borders knitware - pastel jumpers and bright slacks. He was thinking along the lines of Palmer and Nicklaus when they revealed themselves as head and depute. The interview was in the head's office, with matching golf bags beside the interrogators. Within seven minutes, he had a job and they were on their way to the first tee.

Nowadays, would it be called, er, course skills?

Sean McPartlin, is depute head of St Margaret's Academy, Livingston.

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