Hello everyone, it's been a while since I've been able to type up a part 2 of my teacher training post, for which I apologise! This is for my readers who are also interested in teaching and todays post will specifically focus on the interview process of the school direct route. Please do read through my part 1, which also covers the skills test which is application, skills test and personal statement - I got a couple of questions on these but Ive already covered them, so have a read ^_^.
So bare in mind that my interview process will be a little different from any other, unless you are applying for the exact same school - but I highly doubt that! Teacher training schools are going to run things differently, however they will be 'testing' and 'asking' similar things, so I'll be going through the way my day went, but just take it with a pinch of salt.
The basic outline of the day was emailed to me about a month before the interview date and below I will be describing each activity and also giving you my top tips for them. We had times when the below activities were slotted into our own schedules, otherwise we would be spending the day with the same class of children and observing.
I was told that I would need to organise a 'learning opportunity' for a group of 12 children in year 5 and they would be giving me lego bricks to use. I was quite nervous about this because I would be observed for 15 minutes and the words learning opportunity, are kinda vague! That could be anything, maths, history, P.E anything at all really. I have my little sister to thank for the idea of doing a quiz, with different questions from across the subjects. I ended up splitting them into three teams of 4 children each and they worked together to answer the questions. Then after about 10 minutes, they added up the number of points and got 5 bricks per point. The team that build the most creative bridge would receive a prize (a 'smelly' sticker!). It went really well actually and although for the first couple of seconds my voice wobbled, once I got into the activity I felt myself relaxing a little, smiling, walking around and feeling like I was in my element. Of course it was a little nerve-wracking to have the headteacher and deputy observing, but I just blocked them out and it worked like a charm - their job is to observe my rapport with children, how I interact, if I am actually listening to them and ensuring they understand or not and so on.
Biggest tip for this part - don't over plan because time goes faster than you might imagine. Speak slowly and clearly - I have the tendency to kinda mumble or speak too fast when I'm feeling apprehensive, so make sure you are reminding yourself to slow down. Also SMILE. Children aswell as adults tend to respond well to smiles, plus the more you smile the more you trick your brain into feeling relaxed - top psychologist tip from yours truly 😋.
Group talking exercise
So on my interview there were around seven other candidates and part of the day involved a group discussion, which I was very apprehensive about. The way they did it was in the meeting room, around a large table the deputy head gave us a set of scenario cards and we had to read them aloud and discuss them. It wasn't just our answers being judged at this point, but also our ability to discuss or debate, to chime in AND to listen to others' and their opinions. There were definitely a few moments where I felt like I was being over shadowed by the three loudest and most confident individuals in the room, however I must have done alright since I got through haha.
Biggest tip - it sounds so obvious but try to think fast in this situation! If you're spending too much time thinking of an articulate way to put your answer, they'll have moved onto the next scenario. So don't overthink, chime in when you can and ensure you're making eye contact with others when listening.
Reading to the class
We were also told to bring in an appropriate book for the year group we had been given and we would have to read for around 5-10 minutes. I picked a Michael Morpurgo book, which I was told was a good one for their age. Again like with the group task, for the first couple of seconds my voice was wobbling, but I did okay. From all of the activities on the day, if I had to redo any of them I would have picked a bit more of a fun book. The story I choose was very serious and in hindsight - HARRY POTTER ALL THE WAY.
Biggest tip - If you've been given a younger year group, choose a book where you can show off your excellent accents! Have fun with it, children from ages 4-11 LOVE to be read to, so the more comfortable you are with the story the better it will go.
Presentation in front of the group
We were given a title and told to prepare a short presentation, which we would be giving to the rest of the applicants and to the head teacher and other staff involved on the day. The title was something along the lines of 'what are your expectations of the training year'. I was one of the last to do mine and my palms were drenched, I was sooo nervous. To be really honest I'm pretty terrible at presenting infront of adults, talking to a whole class of kids if not so scary, but adults - my heart starts pumping at 1000 miles an hour and I really do worry! I ended up writing brief bullet points on small note cards, but tried my hardest to make brief eye contact with people around the room, whilst I was talking about my expectations.
Biggest tip - write down your key points in note form and ensure that you've actually answered the question haha! Also rehearse as much as you can, the more confident you become with WHAT you're saying, the easier it'll flow when you present for real.
The actual interview!
And finally, the interview itself with the headteacher of the school you're in and the head of the teaching school organisation. This lasts for about 15-20 minutes and you will definitely need to prepare. I recommend having a read of this site here, for some sample questions. Jot down some answers and again rehearse saying them out loud. There are only realistically so many topics they'll cover and want to know, so the more time you spend preparing and reading up on this the better. Some of the answers will come to you naturally, like 'why do you want to teach?' - although its well worth having a long think about his before hand mind you! A key question they'll probably ask is can you tell me about a current issue in education? One you'll definitely have to do some reading up on. The main thing with the interview is to accept that you will feel nervous, but essentially they want to find out if you really want to teach, your passion for education and for working with children, as well as if you have a good idea of what the year will take.
Biggest tip - read read read, practice with a friend or family member and when you're actually in the interview sit up straight, smile but not too much and speak slower - don't let your words run away with you. Give yourself a moment to think about the question and most of all answer honestly.
- Dress smartly, you're being judged from the moment you walk into the school and your appearance counts. Trousers, a plain shirt or non-figure hugging top and a smart cardigan will work really well. Sensible and comfortable shoes are a must too, you don't know how much of the day will involve being on your feet
- Arrive early and mingle with other candidates, it'll calm your nerves and also remind you that you're not the only one going through this day.
- If you're asked to bring in any documents or photocopies, make sure they're organised so this process is quick and simple.
- pack a big lunch because you'll be surprised how hungry you may get throughout the day
- when you're in class, try to interact with the children rather than taking a back seat, even if the class teacher doesn't specifically give you a place to be - s/he has a lot to think about, but they will be observing you from a distance and feeding back to the headteacher, so just relax, be yourself and talk to the children!
Answering your questions
1. How much experience did you do?
- You're supposed to have at least 2 weeks of experience in a school, within the past two years. However I've been working with kids for the past 5 years, spending my whole 4 years of student life as a tutor so I was able to get away with using that. However I did spent my entire year of (year 12) volunteering an afternoon a week at a school. I would strongly recommend you begin volunteering at a local school, it'll give you a great idea of what the classroom is like and yes although we have all been in classrooms, it's been over a decade at least since you were in your primary school...and believe it or not things have changed. Definitely start voluntary work asap, obviously right now it's the xmas holidays - HORRAAAAAY! But get on your emails and start emailing around. Most schools are happy to have a volunteer.
2. What were you most nervous about?
A hard one! Probably the presentation though, because like I said I'm just not great at it. However it went okay, it's a hurdle I had to jump through and it didn't last too long either. You might not enjoy every aspect of it, but theres a good reason for each part, so just try and go with the flow.
3. When did you know the results?
We were told at the start of the day that we would be told the very next day if we had been successful or not. However the headteacher actually came up to me at the end of the day and asked me which year group I had mentioned I would want to work in, which made me so incredibly happy! Obviously this wasn't exact confirmation but it did make me feel like the day had gone well.
4. What types of questions did they ask you?
I feel like I've kind of covered this above, but they will ask you questions like, 'why do you want to teach?', 'when did you realise you want to be a teacher?', 'when was the last time you felt like you had failed and how did you recover from this?'. So you can tell that they're really trying to get to know you from all angles and also trying to suss out how you handle difficult situations too. Preparation is key again here, just prepare and try to think logically.
Final words for you all is that, as scary as the day will feel, make sure you take it as an opportunity to show your passion for teaching and for working with children. There was one lady who went through the same day and at the end she turned to me and said, 'I've blown it, I have completely failed to show my personality because I was so nervous.' And I really really felt for her because she then wasn't accepted onto the course - which just reiterated my point that you just gotta be yourself and realise that this is your chance to shine ^_^
I hope I've answered your questions everyone, please let me know if theres anything else I've missed out!