In the past year I've exercised my privilege of interviewing potential teachers for a range of posts at the school where I am on the board of governors. What a revelation.
As a governor I come in at the short-listed stage, and I must give credit to the staff and head for saving me the tedious task of sifting the wheat from the chaff. And there appears to be a veritable grain silo of chaff for every pound (or should that be kilo?) of good wheat.
It astounds me to see some of the application forms. Messy, incorrectly completed (or incomplete) forms; crossings out, spelling errors; and frequent instances of total ignorance of the nuances of English grammar.
Mark you, these are the ones that get through to the interview stage.
Before you say a school gains the applications it merits, let me point out that we're one of the "best-performing schools" in the area. Heaven knows the state of the rejected applications.
Come on, teachers (and it's not just newly-qualified teachers who let the side down): you wouldn't accept these shoddy standards from your students, so why should we take it from you? And why is it so many of you provide handwritten, virtually illegible submissions - especially since most of you seem to use either reasonably well-trained but bedraggled and ink-spattered spiders to crawl across the page, or the free ball-point pen enclosed with the latest junk mailing? How many of you remember how to use a dictionary? There really is no excuse in this profession for such basic technical ineptitude. Call me old fashioned, but if you can't be bothered, or worse, can't do it, why should I even consider you? Our duty is to find the best for our students. We would rather not appoint, and struggle through with what we have, than accept second-class candidates.
Maybe I'm being unfair. After all, a neat, spell-checked and grammatically correct application form doesn't automatically indicate that the candidate is right for the job. But what it does say is that here is a person who is at least worthy of consideration; someone who is prepared to make more than a token gesture towards showing that he or she is worth employing.
We want the best teachers, and we know you're out there. So respond to the challenge, and give us less of a challenge by producing the kind of application that sings out loud and clear: "I'm really very good. Can you afford not to employ me?" Getting through the door is often the hardest part of the selection process. Surely it's worth pulling out all the stops (and putting all the stops in the right places).
Dr Michael-Joseph Mc-Dade is a governor of a large boys' secondary school in the north-east of England