Last Friday I had my first teaching job interview. I was very humbled to get to this stage of the process as I know the school had received a huge amount of interest not mention applications from all over the North Island and some from the South as well! But this was a job interview with a difference, it was a group one.
The prospect of having my first job interview with 10 other student teachers vying for 1 or maybe 2 jobs was always going to be a double-edged sword.
On one hand being an online student means that I don’t spend much time physically hanging out with other student teacher so I was looking forward to spending time with student teachers. But there was a rather large elephant in the room, we were in competition with each other for a plum teaching position.
From the outset it was clear that all the applicants had something we were passionate about and had something different to offer the school. There were teachers who were interested in dance, music, sports, fine art and drama. One of the students gave a fantastic mihimihi and a number of us had lived overseas at some point in our lives.
I was dumbstruck by the thoughtful and interesting feedback as well as the creative ideas generated for learning. To say I was intimidated by the talent amassed in that room would be an understatement. If I was a principal, I would want to hire us all! I must confess I spent half the time wondering what on earth I was doing in a room full of awesomeness.
So it was just as well our session didn’t feel at all like a job interview. It was run with clear learning intentions and success criteria, there were individual tasks, group tasks, pair tasks. We were planning lessons, talking pedagogy and learning about leadership. If nothing else comes from the interview, I got a free afternoon of professional development run by some amazing school leaders with some brilliant student teachers. That’s the first time I’ve ever come out of a job interview and immediately wished I could go back for another session.
The only downside was that there was no internet access and most of our work was done with pen and paper. However there were physical reasons for this and by end of the session I had access a laptop which made me realize that yes more than anything I’m an e-learner. I like being able to move text around a screen far more than jotting ideas down on paper. Not having a device made me feel literally disconnected from my style of learning.
I’m sure there will be a lot of experienced teachers out there scratching their heads wondering if this is the future of HR practices. I would say yes. Collaboration is an essential ingredient for 21st century educator but traditional 1 on 1 interviews don’t effectively assess this quality except perhaps at the reference check stage. From an interviewee’s perspective it is easy to talk in an interview by yourself about being collaborative. Walking the talk with people you are competing against? That’s tough. But the thing with principles is that they only mean something if you stick by them when they are inconvenient.
The group interviews undoubtedly gives huge amount of qualitative data about you as a person which just isn’t there in the traditional set up. As a interviewee you need to strike a delicate balance between talking and listening. You want to get your ideas across (I’m a special snowflake! La, la, la! Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!) but at the same time you need to show that you can use ideas that come from other people in the room. In short you are being tested on knowing when is a teachable moment that you need to speak up and when is a learning moment and you need to listen. Do I think I got the mix 100% right? Nope but I’m still learning to make the most of teachable moments. Nevertheless the interview had lots of teachable and more importantly learnable moments.
I wondered whether I should post on this experience because I don’t yet know the outcome of the interview and job hunting is such a secretive process. You don’t want prospective employers to know you are talking to other schools when you are in the process of searching for a job because all your job applications proclaim love for that school and that school alone. To say that not only only are you seeing someone else but they said no seems risky. It puts a big scarlet F on our forehead in a society that doesn’t do well with failure. Someone has said no? Maybe there’s something wrong with you. In reality everyone at some point has experienced failure or had a set back in life and it isn’t the end of the world. Picking yourself up and asking what you can do differently to generate another opportunity is what counts.
In fact through the interview process I know that getting a knock back for this job might not come down to anything specific about me but that the school needs to get the right mix of teachers on staff. The Korean-speaking e-learning nerd might not be quite right in the mix when there are sports teams that need to be coached and productions that need to be staged. I know from the interview process that there are other Beginning Teachers who are far more passionate about sports/music/drama/art than I am. However if creating digital content, engaging online communities and using technology to learn is something schools need, then I’m the best Beginning Teacher in New Zealand to fill that particular niche. A bold claim to make, but I can totally back it up.
So that’s why I’m posting about the interview because this is what I’ve been doing for the last 8 months, blogging about my learning. I don’t know if it makes a difference but this is my teaspoon.
Hopefully the awesome teachers I met last Friday will find ways to utilize our collective talents and I will be doing a happy dance for whoever gets the job/s. That’s another great thing about group interviews, you really don’t have any hard feelings if you get a ‘no.’ Because rather than competing against an unknown entity you know the other applicants and in fact find yourself cheering for them.