First encounters

18th June 1999 at 01:00
Nick Lind applies for a job... and nearly wins an Oscar

Outside the theatre, spotlights flood the Los Angeles sky. The entrance is flanked by two golden figures standing on giant rolls of gold film. Inside, the auditorium is packed with celebs: Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon, Vinnie Jones - they are all here, applauding as Whoopi Goldberg introduces the next category.

Cameron Diaz glides onstage, opens the golden envelope and reads out the nominees. I freeze. My name is on the list.

There's no doubt about it, the job-hunting season is in full swing. Every Friday our seminar room is buzzing with talk of where the latest jobs are advertised. "Keri, you want to stay in the area - have you seen this school?" "Adrian, this place sounds just what you're looking for."

Applying for teaching jobs has introduced me to many new phenomena. The first shock is that you are in direct competition with everyone else on your course. This can be seriously weird. My strategy has been to delay the job search for as long as possible in the hope that everyone else has got one by the time I start applying.

This plan had been going excellently until my tutor's nagging forced me to join the fray. So every Friday I scan the job sections and phone schools for details. Since I live with two other PGCE students, this means our post now consists entirely of beige envelopes bearing details and application forms.

Application forms - who designs these things? But you battle through to the bit where you write the "statement supporting your application". This is where you promise you would be willing to teach not only history but geography, RE, food tech and synchronised swimming if required.

Then you post them and wait. And wait. And wait.

Then, just as you have given up hope, a letter arrives. "Further to your application you are invited to the interview."

We were warned at the beginning of the year that teaching interviews are unique, but, over the past couple of weeks I think I have discovered where education borrowed its interviewing technique from...the Oscars.

Just come with me on this one. The senior management team at each school is the Academy; the job applications, the films. The Academy shortlists these down to a few nominations. We, the nominees, feign modesty at being chosen - "Obviously it's an honour, but we all know Dame Judi will get it" - and then start plotting our success.

As distributor of Shakespeare in Love, it is rumoured that Miramax spent close to $30 million on its PR campaign for the Oscars. While that's slightly outside my budget, PR schmoozing is definitely part of the game. Every interview has a group tour of the school and discussion of schemes of work and so on. And what do we do? We ensure we ask the right amount of thoughtful questions at the right times and laugh at the HODs jokes. PR schmoozing.

Then there is the observed lesson. This is where we leave the comparison with the Oscars, because here we get to choose which Oscar we want. Are we best director, ensuring pupils follow the script exactly as we envisage? Or are we best supporting actoractress feeding the pupils the lines that make them look the stars? Added to this is the pressure that we do not know what kind of performance the Academy is looking for. Dramatic or comedic?

The main interview follows the same pattern as Hollywood press interviews in the last weeks before the awards. We are asked about our roles, how we have built on our experiences from other parts, what attracted us to the role in the first place and where we see our careers going next. The only difference is that I have yet to convince Ralph Lauren to lend me an outfit for the proceedings.

Finally we have the decision. As with the Oscars, all the nominees sit together, waiting for one name to be read out. Will there be a "Paltrowesque" thank you weep from the winner? In my mind I practise the dignified nod of the head, the handshake and the "I always knew you would get it" interplay with the chosen one. Then the door from the interview room opens.

The blue sequin dress follows every curve of Miss Diaz's body as she elegantly opens the golden envelope. "And the winner of the Best Teacher of History at Interview is..."

Bollocks. Didn't want the bloody job anyway.

Nick Lind is a secondary PGCEstudent in history at Bristol University

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