Best of times, worst of times

23rd March 2001 at 00:00
'I came out of university with no intention of becoming a teacher. I went into the pharmaceutical industry.

One of the joys of going to university is that it teaches you to question everything. Going to work in the commercialindustrial sector where you weren't expected to question everything did cause me some personal difficulties, coupled with boredom. I stayed a year. I thought there has to be more to life than this, so I applied to do a PGCE.

My first teaching job was in Hull. It was a very innovative school, a purpose-built comprehensive with a strong, mixed ability ethos and it had some very challenging youngsters, but because of that it was a very well organised school. It was a really good start to one's career to be in that sort of environment.

As I worked my way up the ladder to interviews for head of department, I can remember a room with 13 people arranged in a horseshoe and you sat in the middle. They all had their own prepard questions which they asked in turn. I sometimes wonder that they may have appointed the best candidate but did they appoint the best person?

I had one interview for a headship where I had got through to the final three. I was told that I would be seen at quarter to two. At a quarter to, the adviser from the area came in and said 'Sorry, we're not ready yet, it will be two o'clock.' At two o'clock he came and said 'Sorry, we're not ready yet, but would you like to come and wait outside the door?' And then his head kept popping out at three-minute intervals telling me they wouldn't be long. By the time I finally went into the room, I didn't have a single coherent thought left in my head. I just wanted to get it over and done with.

In retrospect I should have stopped the bloke and said, if this interview is this important I'm going to go away, gather my thoughts and when you're ready you can come and collect me.

Martin Whittaker


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