Brain stops play for an interview washout

22nd October 2004 at 01:00
I've taught the lesson and had the tour of the school; all that's left is the interview. I've learned to dread interviews but I reassure myself that this time it will be different. We're all teachers: excellent communicators, educated, confident individuals. Except in interviews. At 40-something, I'm going for my first interview for a teaching post, so I've read and re-read my university booklet, How to get a Job in Teaching.

Predictable first question: "Why did you apply for this job?" I launch into my prepared answer. "Obviously it complies with my criteria for location and hours, but mainly because..." I mention the school's reputation and cleverly explain why the school's language college status will be of help to a science NQT. I'm about to start on the school ethos and how having a lab of my own will be of great benefit to the students when I notice that my two interviewers (the deputy head and head of science) are frantically trying to write at the same ridiculous speed I'm talking. I recognise the action and the expression of exam candidates who have just been told "you have five more minutes".

I pause to let them catch up. The "communications" part of my brain (Com B) decides to make some facetious remark about learning shorthand, but it is over-ruled by the Overall Command part of my brain. Disaster. Com Breacts in its usual manner, goes into a sulk and refuses to utter another word.

The "science" part of my brain (Sci B) has to take over and the inevitable happens. The next three questions are answered with short, factual sentences. The interviewers' writing slows down. Too soon I'm asked the predictable final question: "Is there anything you would like to ask us?"

How do I explain that I have prepared several excellent questions on induction, schemes of work and so on, but they are safely stored in Com B, which is still sulking? Sci B does its best and asks a bizarre question about class sizes and whether students sit with their backs to the front.

Then it's over and I'm escorted to reception 20 minutes ahead of schedule.

Later in the day comes the phone call and the feedback. They liked my lesson, despite my lack of "persona", but the interview let me down. Even my first answer, which I began with such confidence, was wrong. Apparently, I should have started by praising the school's ethos and mentioned location and hours last. Sci B is indignant; there are plenty of schools in Scotland and Wales with the right ethos, but I won't be applying to them because I can't commute that far. Meanwhile, Com B has stopped sulking. But Overall Command refuses to give my feedback to the deputy head: that I had the distinct impression the outcome of the interview was a foregone conclusion.

Chris Wardle is a part-time PGCE student in the Midlands

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