Perfect platform

4th April 2003 at 01:00
Be prepared for whatever an interview panel throws at you, writes Sara Bubb.

Despite the recruitment crisis, schools are demanding more and more from potential employees. As well as the traditional face-to-face grilling, you have an increasing chance of being asked to teach a class while some of the interview panel sit at the back and analyse you. Some schools take account of pupils' views. Suddenly, stacking shelves at Tesco seems an attractive option.

It makes you wonder what you'll be expected to do when you get paid for working there, doesn't it? It's a ridiculous expectation of someone who has yet to complete a teacher training course and isn't yet qualified. Still, you need to be prepared: some students have been asked to teach a 15-minute maths introduction to a Year 2 class; a lesson based on Kipper's Birthday to Year 1; drama games to Year 8.

Your appearance is most important. You've got to feel good, and look the part in front of the kids and the interview panel. Wear smart clothes, but make sure you'll be comfortable - shoes can be a problem. Go for a reasonably professional look but jazz it up with interesting jewellery or a tie to express your personality.

Smell is also valuable - don't go in reeking of cigarettes or perfume. Have emergency painkillers, tissues and mints along with your application form, lesson plan and resources. Eat breakfast and turn off that mobile as soon as you get to the school.

Consider what the interviewers are looking for, and plan to give them what they want. What will go down well with the class you're going to teach? Find out a little about them: how many there are, what the ability spread is, who is at an early stage of understanding or speaking English, and what they've been doing recently. Ask for the names of children to watch out for: a low and high attainer, or anyone with behaviour or attention problems.

Think about how you can show you are a professional, have a rapport with children and can manage them well, are enthusiastic, plan well, use effective teaching strategies, and reflect on learning and teaching. Write a clear plan - that helps lodge it in your mind; keep it to hand; rehearse the lesson structure in your mind. Give the people who are observing you a typed copy of your plan - check spelling and grammar. Make sure the plan has a clear learning objective, that you know what you want the pupils to get out of your short lesson, and they do too, and think of motivating activities. Keep the lesson simple and do it well.

Bring your own resources rather than assume the classroom will have them.

Have attention-grabbing devices in case your favourite doesn't work. Think of challenging questions for the able and simpler ones for those with special needs. Make sure your behaviour management is good. Make lots of eye contact with the children, smile, and use praise to reinforce the behaviour you want. Act confidently, even if you're terrified.

Afterwards, reflect on the lesson honestly and intelligently, showing that you can assess children's answers, and think of ways to improve your teaching. No one expects you to be perfect, but your interviewers want to see that you're enthusiastic and can approach and reflect on unfamiliar situations with verve. Oh, and be modest when it goes superbly - they are lovely children, aren't they?

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