We all know that any interview can be daunting; the night-before-nerves, not knowing what to expect and the side-ball questions that leave you stuttering. An interview to become a trainee teacher is no different. I remember rolling up at the UCL Institute of Education for my interview, hot off the back of leaving a good job in Parliament, feeling mildly confident that I knew enough about Politics to teach. It was the teaching part that, it turned out, I knew absolutely nothing about.
Where you could have your interview
This usually depends on the type of ITT course you are doing. The most common are:
- PGCE – you will have your interview at the university you are applying to. You will then, usually, have two contrasting placement schools throughout your ITT year, although you will not have interviews at these.
- School Direct – a majority of school direct applicants apply to a teaching alliance (a group of schools in the same are) or to a specific school, who run the ITT programme with a university partner. My school, for example, runs a teaching alliance in Richmond, London, and works in partnership with the IOE. You will be at this school for most of your ITT year. You may have two interviews – once with the teaching school alliance and one with their university partner.
Either way, make sure you research the place you will be training with.
What to expect on the day
Depending on how early the interview is in the ITT yearly recruitment process, you will likely have a day of interviews, mock lessons, group activities and a written task. The latter is likely to either be a literacy/numeracy test or, more likely, a past GCSE/A-Level paper for the subject you are applying to teach. Don’t panic – if you are applying to teach something you haven’t studied for a while, you don’t have to swot up. Knowledge isn’t everything here – the school/university is looking to see your interest in the subject.
Again, this entirely depends on where you are having your interview, but a combination of two or more of the following separate interviews often take place:
- An interview with the course leader/Head of Department/Faculty. This interview is designed to see why you want to become a teacher and the what you can bring to the job. Common questions asked here are:
- What challenges do you think you will face as a trainee? How will you overcome these?
- What are the key issues facing education in the UK today?
- Why do you want to be a teacher? (Avoid the ‘I want to make a difference’ avenue, however true it may be!)
- Give an example of a time when you have learnt from a school experience.
- What transferable skills could you bring to teaching?
- An interview with former ITT students from the course who are now full time teachers in that subject/a school student panel:
- This tends to be a *slightly* more informal setting, away from the “scary” adults. This is where you have the opportunity to ask questions about the university/school. They are likely to ask you questions about your subject knowledge, and why you want to teach the subject you have chosen. TIP: some trainees can overcompensate in the student panel interviews, and feel it’s important to impress the students and get them to like them. This is definitely not something you should do. Always be genuine.
The mock lesson
I remember this being the highlight (failure highlight, I may add) of my ITT interview. I wrongly presumed that I could just stand and speak about all the amazing Politics facts I knew, and blow the other candidates/interviewer away. How wrong I was! (Note: I did well in my interview and managed to get onto the IOE course, so don’t worry if this doesn’t go well for you either!)
IMPORTANT: A small but significant amount of other candidates will have worked in a school environment before (are likely to have been teaching assistants etc) so will have been in the classroom before, and seen how lessons are taught. They may have even worked with teachers in their school on their mock lesson. DO NOT be daunted by this – although this puts them at a slight advantage, you can easily match them by remembering the following:
- The mock lesson will be a 10 minute ‘short’ lesson which should include an activity for the rest of the candidates to complete. The activity should be engaging. This could be a worksheet, a card sort or similar.
- Lessons in schools are usually 50-60 minutes. DO NOT try and fit an entire lesson into 10 minutes. Pick a small easy topic that can be introduced (starter), developed (main) and the learned knowledge can be shown (plenary). This is the structure of lessons most schools in the world! For example: A 10 minute lesson on the differences between the suffragists and suffragettes –
- 2 minute starter activity – ask the “students” to brainstorm their prior knowledge for 1 minute, then come together and share prior knowledge as a class (e.g. it’s something to do with getting women the vote)
- 6 minute main activity – introduce NEW information here, through a worksheet, for example. Get the “students” to complete an activity around this new information.
- 2 minute plenary activity – SHOW the interviewer what you have taught your “students”. This could be as simple as getting them to answer questions based around the information, write down 3 things they have learned or drawing a picture to represent their learning over the 10 minutes.
- You will be expected to provide a lesson plan, which shows you have planned what you will do in your 10 minutes. Don’t spend too long creating this. There are lots of examples of these online, the most widely used being the 5 Minute Lesson Plan by @TeacherToolkit.
Educational acronyms/key words
I went into my interview knowing NONE of these. In fact, after many years of teaching, I still don’t think I know all of them. Here are some of the key ones you need to know for your interview:
SEN = Special Educational Need e.g. dyslexia.
Differentiation = Something you do to help students access the work. You can differentiate for higher ability students by, for example, setting extension work which pushes them if they finish early. You will need to differentiate for SEN students via their ability (e.g. if a student is dyslexic, they may find it useful to have the key words for the lesson in front of them, with descriptions).
EAL = English As An Additional Language. Some students in your class may not speak English fluently. Although you won’t have to differentiate for this in your interview, you may be asked in your interview how you would help these students. A good start is to say you will translate key words into their mother tongue.
And most importantly? BE YOURSELF. BE GENUINE! GOOD LUCK!