Teaching in a goldfish bowl

19th May 2006 at 01:00
Advice for teachers in their early career

Teaching at interview is terrifying! But think about what a great insight it gives you into the pupils and staff. Do the kids look interested and on best behaviour for a visitor? Or, despite the presence of senior staff, are they rowdy? Do you want to work in a place where you're told to teach "anything" for an hour with no information about the class?

No one will deny that it's an artificial situation. As Dr Kevan Bleach, assistant head of Sneyd School in Walsall. says, "Schools aren't looking for a 'super-lesson'. Indeed, if they do, the danger is that they'll end up appointing a showmanwoman rather than a good, sound teacher."

So, what are people looking for? Read the person specification. Think about how you can show that you're professional, have a rapport with children and manage them well, are enthusiastic, plan well, use effective teaching strategies, and reflect on learning and teaching. But the bottom line is how you relate to the kids.

Planning: keep it simple but interesting and do it well. Dr Bleach advises against zapping the kids' brains with too much technological wizardry, especially as something's bound to go wrong.

Give the interviewers a word-processed copy of your plan - check for spelling errors. Make sure you have a plainly phrased learning objective and some useful motivating activities that will allow the kids to meet it.

Bring your own (or borrowed) resources rather than assuming that the classroom will have them, including spare pencils and paper. Some schools go into a hissy fit if you ask to photocopy worksheets.

The first few minutes are vital: remember to smile, make eye-contact, and be up-beat. Learn a few names. Colin Ward, a drama teacher, remembers: 'When a little tike was talking over me, I stopped and said: "I'm sorry Owen, would you like to explain why you are talking over me? (Silence.) No? (Silence.) Well, there you go, that was a good moment of dramatic tension, wasn't it!" The two observers scribbled away at that point.

Afterwards, reflect on the lesson honestly and intelligently showing that you can assess children's answers, and think of ways to improve your teaching. Lastly, be modest when it goes superbly - "They are lovely children, aren't they? And so very well taught."

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