Posts Tagged ‘Jobs’

The Most Common Questions Teachers Are Asked at Job Interviews

January 29, 2014

job interview

I stumbled on a brilliant article in the Guardian where Head Teachers share the questions they regularly ask at job interviews and the rationale behind their questions.

I hope this article comes in handy next time you interview for a new teaching position:

If I walked into your classroom during an outstanding lesson, what would I see and hear?

“I’d like to hear about: animated discussions, students clearly making progress as evidenced in oral and written contributions. High quality visual displays of students’ work showing progress. High levels of engagement. Behaviour that supports learning.”

Helen Anthony, head teacher, Fortismere school

“After hearing a candidate’s response I try to get them to talk about their experiences in the classroom. I try to get a sense of the impact that they have had on pupils’ achievement.”

Tim Browse, head teacher, Hillcrest primary school

• Why do we teach x in schools?

“This question really throws people. If it is maths or English they sometimes look back at you as if you are mad. They assume it is obvious – a very dangerous assumption – and then completely fail to justify the subject’s existence.

“Whatever the subject, I expect to hear things like: to improve skills and independent learning; to encourage team work; to gain a qualification; for enjoyment (very important, rarely mentioned); to enhance other subjects; to develop literacy, numeracy and ICT skills; to improve career prospects; self discipline; memory development; to encourage life-long learning in that subject. The list goes on…”

John Kendall, head teacher, Risca community comprehensive school

• Can you tell me about a successful behaviour management strategy you have used in the past that helped engage a pupil or group of pupils?

“This allows candidates to give a theoretical answer – one that anyone who swotted up could give you – balanced with a personal reflection that shows how effective they are.”

Tim Browse, head teacher, Hillcrest primary school

• If you overheard some colleagues talking about you, what would they say?

“This is one of my favourite questions (it’s based on a question my National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH) coach used to ask me) because it gets candidates to think about their contribution to the school organisation and their team spirit. If I’m interviewing for a senior leader I would follow this up with: what would you want them to say about you in three years time? This way I can get a sense of where they want to develop as leaders.”

Tim Browse, head teacher, Hillcrest primary school

• Why do you want to work in special education?

“We’re looking to see that the person genuinely recognises that we’re in the business of education as opposed to simply caring for the children (surprisingly, some applicants don’t really see it that way).”

Sean O’Sullivan, head teacher, Frank Wise school

• Why do you want to work in this school?

“We want to see clear indications that candidates have done background work about our school and can talk about why the way we work appeals to them. We’d always want candidates to have visited the school so they should be able to flesh this out with specific examples of what they thought based on their visit.”

Sean O’Sullivan, head teacher, Frank Wise school

• A question that is specific to the candidate’s letter of application

“A candidate may have made a grand statement in their letter, but not gone into details about ‘how’ or the impact it had.”

Tim Browse, head teacher, Hillcrest primary school

• What are the key qualities and skills that students look for in teachers?

“Liking young people. Fairness. Consistency. Sense of humour. Passion for their subject. Good at explaining new concepts/ideas. Able to make the topic or subject relevant. Able to make everyone feel comfortable and confident about contributing.”

Helen Anthony, head teacher, Fortismere school

• Evaluate your lesson

“Teaching a one-off lesson in an unfamiliar school with students you have never met before is a difficult task, but a useful one for candidates and those making the appointment. The evaluation of the lesson by the candidate is crucial. I need to see someone who can be self-critical but who also recognises when things go well. Someone who makes suggestions as to how the lesson may have gone better, what they would do differently with hindsight. I like to hear them talk of the individual student’s progress in the lesson, and how they would follow it up. Remembering pupils’ names is always impressive. I’d rather see an ambitious lesson that goes a bit awry than a safe boring one.”

John Kendall, head teacher, Risca community comprehensive school

• If we decided not to appoint you, what would we be missing out on?

“This is great as it enables candidates to sell themselves and really tell us what they are about.”

Brett Dye, head teacher, Parc Eglos school

Click on the link to read The Profession You Choose When You Don’t Want to Get Fired

Click on the link to read The School They Dub the “Worst Primary School in the World”

Click on the link to read Education New Year’s Resolutions 2014

Click on the link to read Eight Fundamentals that Every Student Deserves

Click on the link to read 21 Reasons to Become a Teacher

Preparing Students for the Real World

December 2, 2011

Sometimes I find it hard to decide whether to expose my students to the realities of the real world or protect them from disappointment.

Never is the conundrum stronger than when it comes to the issue of competition in the classroom.

Society loves to paint clear labels. Winners and losers, successful and unsuccessful, popular and unpopular, beautiful and ugly. The pressures that these labels bring is certainly prevalent in the classroom and is a great cause of anxiety among the students. No matter how tactful the teacher can be, the students are aware that they are graded, levelled and streamed, and with the help of their parents, take a strong interest as to where they stand in the pecking order.

There are many teachers who use competition as a motivating force. Everything from star charts and games to public assessments and evaluations are intended to get students to ignore the often mind numblingly boring lesson presentation and instead, concentrate on beating their fellow classmates.

There are students that excel when offered this incentive. These students love the modern trend of standardised testing.  For them, it’s an opportunity to show how dominant they are over their peers.

But then there’s the student that collapses in a heap under the threatening and potentially confidence sapping pressures of being compared to others. These students watch their fellow classmates reading at level 30 while they are in the late teens and decide that they hate reading and have no interest in practicing or improving.  These students claim that they are stupid, so what is the point.

I was a student who struggled to cope in an environment of “dog eat dog” competition.  My classmates left me in my wake as I struggled with the labels that came with constant comparison and the humiliation of being repeatedly streamed in the bottom group. That is why I modify my teaching to cater for students sick of the constant intrusion of grades in education.

When testing the kids, I don’t give them a letter or number grade, instead I chose to give them clear feedback on skills they performed well in and found challenging.  This not only prevents students from comparing themselves to others, but also provides clear feedback on what they can do and what skills require further practise.

The question is, if real world experiences feature competition, comparisons, labels and winners and losers, am I protecting my students from experiences they need to learn? Eventually they will need to compete against others for jobs and promotions. If I protect them from real life situations am I not doing them a disservice?

Another issue I have on this topic is that I don’t approve of many of the behaviours prevalent in the “real world”.  Just because there is bullying, gossiping, bad manners and selfishness outside my classroom doesn’t mean that I will stand for it in my classroom. At some point I want to ignore what goes on outside the four walls of my classroom and instead, help my students change the rules of society rather than simply prepare them for it.

Study: Teachers Are Overpaid

November 3, 2011

I am not writing this in the guise of a victim.  I did not become a teacher for the money, nor do I ever expect to be paid a great deal more than I am currently getting.  But let’s not fool ourselves here.  Teachers are not overpaid.  To call them overpaid
is absolutely ludicrous!

Despite the public perception that public school teachers in general are underpaid, Jason Richwine, senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation and co-author of “Assessing the Compensation of Public-School Teachers,” says “the reality is that it’s just not true. There’s no way to look at the data and conclude that they are underpaid. They are certainly paid more than they can get if they work in the private sector…” In fact, Richwine found that “public-school teachers receive compensation about 52% higher than their skills would otherwise garner in the private sector.”

When working out how much a teacher is making an hour the following assumptions are normally made:

  • Teachers work a 9 to 5 job – This is certainly not true.  Unlike many professions a teacher’s job is not done at the end of the workday.  We have to take our essays and tests home with us.  We have to write reports.  We are also required to do our planning in our own time.
  • Teachers get generous holidays – Whilst this is essentially true, many fail to realise the amount of work we do during the holidays.  From setting up the classroom, attending handover meetings and planning, much of my vacation time is dedicated to preparing for the following term or year.  In the holidays, I write-up yearly planners, term planners, literacy planners, numeracy planners and integrated unit planners.  Most professionals would hate to do any job related work over their vacation time.  We have no choice.
  • Teaching is a fairly undemanding profession – Teaching is known to be an exceptionally stressful job with the highest reported rate of bullying of any profession.  Teachers can be bullied by a number of sources; from parents, students, bosses, administrators to fellow colleagues.

You can’t afford to give us a pay rise? Fine.  But don’t you dare call us overpaid!

I’m Glad I’m a Teacher and Not a Parking Inspector

October 31, 2011

Today I was fined by a parking officer for parking in a permit zone. I had only left my car for a few minutes, and clearly that’s all it takes.

On my way back from the shops I noticed a parking inspector processing a ticket by my car. I asked him what I did wrong. I pointed out the 1 hour parking sign. He pointed to another small sign among others that notified those with good eyesight that the spot was a permit zone on weekends but fine during the week.

I told him that I was only gone for a second and that I had made an innocent mistake. He didn’t pay attention. My daughter cried sensing something was wrong and becoming unsettled by the man’s presence. The man ignored her and kept on typing.

$75 – that’s what the tiny mistake cost me!

I realise that the man was doing his job. He probably has a wife and family to take care of and bills to pay. I don’t blame him for his actions or diminish his right to take on this job.

But ultimately, I’m so glad that I am a teacher and not a parking officer.

Parking officers serve no real value to the community. They are employed by council workers who should have enough revenue to waste through our overpriced rates. But no, through parking infringements, they have another steam of revenue they can waste in good measure.

Nobody is glad to see a parking inspector walking around. Nobody goes to lengths to welcome them or engage in small talk. Their job is to prey on people’s mistake and slug for an inordinate amount of money.

Teaching can be so much more than that. We can represent all that’s positive about this world. We can be mentors and role models. We can help children grow to reach their potential.

Unfortunately, we can also do a lot of damage. If we are not good at our job or our heart isn’t in it, we can be the manifestation of what is wrong with this world.

That’s the great challenge for teachers. To be the polar opposite of a parking inspector.

Why Teachers Want Out of the Profession

April 6, 2011

It’s such a tragedy to read that nearly two-thirds of teachers want to quit. I love the profession, and recommend it to anyone that has an interest in teaching, but it is clear that no matter how wonderful this vocation is, the support and welfare of teachers is, more often than not, missing from the equation.

Unlike what some may think, teachers aren’t leaving because of the money (even though we clearly don’t make very much).  A recent survey spell it out:

Centre for Marketing Schools director Dr Linda Vining said the survey confirmed the “deeper issues” of concern to teachers.

They included a lack of communication between staff and principals, and feeling undervalued and not being consulted.

“Teachers are feeling steamrollered . . . they are feeling that things are happening too quickly,” Dr Vining said.

“Through my research comes a sense they feel they are not valued members of the team – they are simply there to work and for many of them that’s not fulfilling.”

The findings are a sad indication of why so many teachers are unhappy:

  • SIXTY per cent of teachers said the school’s direction was not clearly communicated.
  • FIFTY-ONE per cent did not feel part of a close-knit school community.
  • FIFTY-FOUR per cent said communication between staff and management was poor.
  • TWENTY-SEVEN per cent said the school principal was not approachable.

The tragedy of this situation is that teachers are leaving for reasons which should be easily rectifiable. They are not leaving because they don’t enjoy teaching, aren’t happy in a classroom or find that they are not up to the day-to-day demands of the profession. They are leaving because they are feeling unappreciated, ignored, not properly consulted and have difficulties with colleagues.

These issues should be able to be addressed and corrected, so that teachers can enjoy the same kinds of working conditions as I do. The fact that they aren’t is a strong condemnation on the way schools and administrators operate. They are often inflexible, unaccommodating and cold.

And this is supposed to be the warm, friendly and caring environment for our children?

Time to Take Better Care of Our New Teachers

January 6, 2011

My school recently employed a teacher straight out of University.  He will commence teaching his first ever class in February.  As I moved out of my classroom, so he could move in, I spotted him staring at the room in adulation.  I asked him what was going through his mind, to which he replied, “This is it.  This is my classroom!”

I know how he feels.  Whilst I was going through the rigours of teaching training, I would drive past schools along the way and be filled with envy at the teachers already able to ply their trade.  I so much wanted to skip the rest of my course and move straight it to my first classroom.  People told me I was an idealist and those feelings towards teaching would erode two weeks into my first school year.  It didn’t.  It still hasn’t.

This leads me to a very important issue.  If young teachers like my colleague have such a love for the craft and such a desire to become effective teachers, why is it so hard for them to get jobs?

I was reading an article which illustrates the plight a teacher has to face, to get their first solid job:

LAST year Melbourne Magazine named teacher Michael Stuchbery one of its top 100 Melburnians for using social media to revolutionise the teaching of civics.

His year 8 students at Caroline Chisholm Catholic College, many of whom previously could not name the electorate in which they lived, transformed into political animals, using blogs and Twitter to follow the federal election, and were interviewed on Channel Ten’s The 7pm Project.

But instead of being rewarded for his innovation, Mr Stuchbery, along with thousands of other Victorian teachers on short-term contracts, is out of a job.

January is a fraught month for teachers employed on fixed-term contracts – about 18 per cent of the workforce – who are faced with job interviews and uncertainty about their future.

”A lot of positions are filled in January, which is why contract teachers are nowhere near the beach right now,” Australian Education Union state president Mary Bluett said.

Annual surveys by the union repeatedly show contract employment is the top reason beginning teachers give for why they do not see themselves teaching in five years.

It took me a year to get my first job.  I had the hunger, the good University grades, I was well read, an excellent communicator – but not what they were looking for.  Each application required extensive responses to a set of about 8 Key selection criteria. It took me a day to respond to each schools criteria (as each school had different selection criteria I couldn’t cut and paste).  Most of those applications didn’t even land me an interview.

Why is this the case?

A number of reasons.

1.  The University training offered is completely and utterly inadequate.  The training is so useless, I can’t recall an important fact or skill I learnt from my training.  Schools know they would be employing a very raw teacher that will require a lot of patience and support.  They are too lazy for such an undertaking.

2. With initiatives like the My School Website which ranks every school against each other on how they perform in the national test, the NAPLAN, schools are careful not to select a teachers they don’t have confidence will show their worth from the outset.  They have their reputation to uphold.

3. Parents tend to be weary when a first-year teacher gets appointed to teach their child, in the same way a patient prefers to see some wrinkles in their surgeon.  Schools like to avoid parent intervention by making safe, low risk choices.

All these factors are completely beyond the prospective new teacher’s control.  They have no say in the strength or weakness of their course, the can’t control Government initiatives like the NAPLAN and My School Website and if a school wants to avoid risk, there is nothing they can do about it.

This reality is a crying shame.  I would have thought that the best, most vibrant staff rooms feature teachers of all ages and experience.  Surely, the horrendous plan to make new teachers “school cloggers” by shipping them off to a under-funded and under-performing rural school is exactly not how to deal with the problem.  The answer is for schools to show some backbone and create a framework where these teachers feel welcome, supported and mentored.

The new teacher that enters their classroom for the first time with a sense of joy and calm.  Isn’t that what it’s all about?


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