Best of times, worst of times

8th June 2001 at 01:00
TONY JONES. Head of The Aveley school, Thurrock, Essex

'I went into teaching for the most frivolous reasons. When all my friends went off to university I worked in industry. Every summer when they came home I would resign from my job so that I could have a long holiday with them and then I'd look for another job when they went off in September.

It took me three years to realise that resigning every year to take a long holiday probably wasn't the best way forward. My girlfriend at the time was leaving school and just going off to teacher training college, so I thought what good fun to go off to college with her. As it happened, I ended up in Liverpool, she ended up in Kent.

In my later career I had some silly experiences with interviews. Once in an interview for a deputy headship I made the mistake of being over-familiar with one of the advisers, who was a good friend.

Asked a question, with all the rest of the panel, governrs and other advisers, looking on, I said: "You know me well enough, Simon, you know the answer to that." It was a totally inappropriate, ridiculous response. Needless to say, I didn't get the job.

Interviews can be very unpredictable. I went for one for a headship about four years ago and the chair of governors took an instant dislike to me. I reciprocated. I found out later that he wouldn't even entertain me as a possibility, though other people on the interview panel thought I was worth considering. You just can't plan for something like that.

I spend quite a lot of time advising and mentoring people for interviews. The thing to remember is that for most of the time in the interview, people are not listening to what you are saying, they're just gaining an impression, so body language and inflection and being animated are very important. You make an impression in so many ways other than your words.

Martin Whittaker


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