Tuesday, 2 December 2014

It Is Only Our Perception

Yesterday I went for a teaching interview, and also yesterday I was turned down for a job.

It's not the best thing to have happened. It ranks pretty high up on my giant board of 'Shit Times I've Had.' (if you're interested in what the leader board looks like. It looks like the deranged creation of someone who worked simultaneously on SMTV live and Eurotrash)

The school was exactly what I am not: Refined, traditional, reserved. It was wonderfully, Britshly, lavish, but not quite in the way I'd have liked to be. I imagine it had a poor outlook on standing on chairs to teach and using books with swear words in as stimulus material. I didn't fit in. The school that I left in August was pretty new and fairly rough cut in places, but one of its primary ethics was to try new things in teaching. It tried hard to be a bit unusual and new in the way that it practiced. This didn't always work out, but there were a lot of teachers on board with it. One of the things it really valued was the relationship between students and teachers. The school was in an area where a lot of students had difficult backgrounds; for them, the staff there often treated like members of their family, and teachers really put an emphasis on building relationships with students based on positivity and happiness. I liked this. To leave that school was a wrench. (13 to 28mm adjustable, thrown straight at the head)

In light of my old school, my behaviour management ethic can be summed up with a statement I have appropriated from the deputy head of one of my PGCE placement schools: 'Try your hardest not to put them in detention'. So how do I manage behaviour? I try my absolute hardest to form positive in-classroom relationships. So what did I do in my interview lesson? I taught a deadpan and almost threatening lesson.

Wait. No I didn't. I taught as I teach; Light-hearted. I tried to demonstrate who I am as a teacher. And I am pretty pleased I did. In a way.

I received the classic feedback call last night. I knew I hadn't got the job because they had six candidates and sent three of us home at lunchtime. I find it a giveaway that the job's not yours when you don't make the final interview. I was pretty interested to hear what they said and tried to be as gracious as possible when I got the feedback, particularly as I was pretty despondent, and they also managed to ring me while I was on the toilet. What they said you've probably already guessed. They told me that I was too quick to be humorous in my lesson. I was too loud. (Read between lines: I was too energetic, perhaps. Or not traditional enough) The three candidates that got taken through to the afternoon were all quite reserved, quite meek people. Perfectly lovely, but very... conventional. I am none of these. 

The irony, perhaps, is that the very reason that they didn't like me was the very reason that about 18 months ago OSTED told me I was outstanding. The lesson I taught in front of OFSTED was, if anything, a lot more mental. When the inspector came in I was stood, on a chair, shouting and laughing.

The strange thing is that they were totally right not to hire me, even in my tear-stained eyes. The school performs insanely well every year. It was judged Outstanding fairly recently, and regularly comes in high up the league tables. They can clearly recognise talent in staff. So, why was an Outstanding school right to not hire a formally Outstanding teacher? Because we both would have regretted it.

They would have kept trying to make me teach in a manner I didn't enjoy and I would've been pushing against them to do something completely different. It would've been a catastrophe. That doesn't mean that I am happy with their choice because I don't personally view the teaching onus in that school (as I experienced it) as being particularly positive. But I don't know that for sure. I saw a little slice of life there. An amuse bouche of the school. And any rejection, be it by Amy, in year 7 in 2001 when I asked her to dance at the school disco, or being cut from an interview, is pretty galling. perhaps, then, I am only telling myself that the school did the right thing because it stymies the nagging insecurity of being told that you are not good enough. But the insecurity is often misplaced. it is not that you are not good enough. It is that you are not right for that setting. Schools must be art galleries well curated. Starry Night does not belong in a room of conceptual sculpture in the same way Rock Drill should never be in a room of Goya.it is all about, to coin one of the Head Teacher's own words, perception.

Moral: forget OSTED judgements and apply to schools or hire teachers, that fit in with your ethic because happy staff are as important as happy students. 

1 comment:

  1. "It is not that you are not good enough. It is that you are not right for that setting." Absolutely - or that, even if you were right, sometimes another candidate was 'righter'.

    Having been on both sides of the selection panel a fair few times over the years, I totally agree with that. It IS about match/fit and, if the match isn't right, you won't be as happy or successful as you could be. Hard to see that sometimes when you're disappointed not to have been successful (it's always tough to feel 'rejected' - but maybe Amy has regretted it ever since???) but I think you're absolutely right.

    Or as I have sometimes said, 'I wouldn't want to work for anyone who didn't have the good sense to choose me....'

    Enjoyed your post, and thanks to Harry F-W for recommending it.