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The interview adventure: Reflections

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Closing time
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.

This is the second in a short series of posts around my successful appointment as an Assistant Headteacher at Patcham High School.  The job starts in September.  This post is a reflection on the process as a whole.  Saying that, I’m not going to delve into the application process before shortlisting.  I’m sharing these things here mainly for me to reflect upon and revisit at a later date, but also as others may benefit from the experience.

Firstly, as well as being very excited and eager to get started, there’s also more than a little melancholy.  Today, I wrote the handover list for Priory Geography, and it is the end of one adventure.  Tomorrow, I’ll don the Priory Geography branded kit for the final fieldtrip, and a small part of me will break.  It’s not that I’m leaving geography behind.  I’m not. I was a geographer long before a teacher.  Also, I’ve always considered myself a teacher of children.  I’ve never been satisfied with the narrow, one hour a week of geography to change the whole child.  That’s why I’ve always been involved in whole school stuff.  It’s leaving behind the team (although I know that they will go on to bigger and better things) and ending the journey that started in January 2008 with a failed geography department.  I last felt like this when I left the Air Training Corps for University. 

So, time for a new adventure. I’ve been appointed as an Assistant Head (Teaching and Learning) and will form part of a team ready to drive creativity and innovation in this area.  My first piece of advice would be to go for the job and school that you really want.  I was once told that going to an interview is putting the school on trial.  For me it is.  If I haven’t liked the feel or direction of a school, I haven’t applied.  I also wanted a Teaching and Learning job focus.  There are those that argue that everyone on a senior team should be focused on teaching and learning, and I don’t disagree.  However, there does need to be an individual or team that needs to take on the accountability for its improvement.  From the moment I first visited Patcham’s website, I knew that this was the school for me.  This was confirmed when I visited on interview.  It was important for me to find the job and the place that I wanted.  I also needed to get the job by being myself and true to the style I want.  As a result I am truly looking forward to September and the new challenges that lay ahead.  I’ve no idea where it will end up but I know that I;’m joining a vibrant and forward looking school driven by an excellent leadership team.

So for the process.  This is the second interview process for a senior post that I have been involved with as a candidate.  These are personal reflections and what worked for me and maybe a list of what went on. It’s just the way I am and shouldn’t be taken as gospel advice. If you’d like a chat about this, do feel free to get in touch.

Day one

Pupil panel

I always enjoy speaking to students.  I can’t remember what I was asked, but my advice would be to talk about what you have done in terms of real examples rather than theory.  I always ask two questions: what is the best feature of the school? and what would you change?

25 minute lesson

See this post.

Lesson observation

I had to observe a lesson for 25 minutes.  Know what learning looks like and think about the advice you would give to develop.  I didn’t have to feedback to the teacher. Take something to write with and on.

Tour of the school

My favourite part as the students are candid away from other adults in the school. Talk to them loads. I asked the same two key questions.  This is an opportunity to get a feel for the school, you should be able to go anywhere. Can you pop in to lessons?  Is this where you want to work? In my case the answer was a resounding YES!

Informal interview with the Headteacher and a governor

Exactly what it says on the tin.  I was myself.

Informal chat with the entire senior team

Always a tricky one, but for me this is about sussing out if this is a group of people that I want to work with.  This was round table and listening was also important to me.  I asked some questions, most of which I can’t remember, apart from:

  • How much is this a school driven by Osfted compared to young people and learning?
  • What is in place for outstanding teachers?
  • What’s next for the school?

Feedback about the observed lesson and my own lesson to the Headteacher, Deputy Headteachers and a Governor.

I enjoyed this session.  Gave feedback on the lesson I had seen, giving a judgement and overall strengths and weaknesses.  I also gave an evaluation of my own lesson and explained why it was important for me to take the risks that I did.

Down time

I wandered around the school (with the permission of the Headteacher) on my own for a good 20-30 minutes.  I looked at everything from the fabric of the building, the displays, classrooms, popped into the library and spoke to some support staff. 

At the end of Day One, three were shortlisted for Day Two.

Day Two

This was an hour in which I had to give a 10 minute presentation on a prescribed topic, essentially linked to what I would do, and a 45 minute in-depth interview.  I left convinced that I wouldn’t be offered the job, how wrong could I be! My only advice here is to really know your stuff'; be honest about your strengths and weaknesses and talk about impact and what you have done rather than theory.  There were about a hundred things I wish I’d said after I;d left the interview, but I tried to stay true to myself.  Make sure you know your own philosophy toward education and your key principles. Know the school as well as you can, but realise that the only way to know a school is to work there.  I was also pushed on the difference between my current post and being a member of the senior team.

Be prepared to be challenged and tested.

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