Teacher training interviews: How I prepared

Sally is a Childhood Studies student applying for teacher training. This is her second post for us:

Well the day arrived… I had received all three interviews for teacher training places to start in September 2015! As you can imagine I was over the moon, however, the nerves and worry kicked in straight away. I printed everything off that I was sent in emails and highlighted all the important information, which at the time felt like the whole sheet! Before I went to my interviews I spent lots of time reading through The Teaching Educational Supplement (TES). This was so I was aware of everything that was happening in the world of teaching and I would feel confident answering questions around teaching in the media. I also used twitter to keep track of news within education by following organisations such as – BBC Education (@bbceducation) and Department for Education (@educationgovuk). I also printed off lots of practice questions and practised them with my cousin and countless cups of tea!

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For my first interview for a PGCE course, I had to teach ‘something new’ for 8 minutes to a group of other candidates,  have an individual interview, and read a 12 page article about studying at Masters Level and present on it for 5 minutes. As you can imagine I was totally overwhelmed and petrified. I’ve not had an interview since I started my job in retail nearly 5 years ago. Straight away I booked myself  an appointment with Andrew Walton, our university Employment Advisor. We spent some time generally talking through the tasks that I would have to complete on the day but also about how the day would most likely be structured. Straight away after the meeting I felt much calmer as Andrew explained I was lucky to have been selected just on the basis of my personal statement.

When I arrived at the PGCE interview I was very apprehensive, mainly because I just didn’t know what to expect or how my day would turn out. All I kept thinking was – What if I’m rubbish? What if straight away they decided I’m not the right person for this course? I knew I had to stop thinking like this and tried to think as positively as possible. My first task was the teaching activity. Eight  minutes is such a short period of time that I was actually worried I wouldn’t be able to ‘teach’ anything, never mind something! I felt that my teaching task went fairly well, but as soon as I had finished I knew areas where I could improve. Next was the individual interview, which was the part I was most nervous about. As soon as I entered the room I instantly felt at ease. It was not at all what I expected, fairly informal and the interviewer was lovely.

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Next interview was for a School Direct place, which was completely different. As well as a teaching task and  individual interview, I also had to complete a written task, which was a reflection on my teaching activity, and about my educational philosophies. After this I had a Maths and English test. Probably like most people, I have not studied Maths since I finished my GCSE’s in year 11, so straight away the Maths was going to be my biggest problem, especially when I had less than a week to revise. Thankfully the day ran smoothly and my teaching task, which was 20 minutes, was a lot better than my first interview. This was mainly because I’d had chance to improve my resources and probably because I was more relaxed.

My last interview was for another School Direct place. I felt as though this was the best and most enjoyable interview day that I had, perhaps because I felt a lot more comfortable and confident within myself. My teaching task was 15 minutes long and due to the fact it was the third time I taught it I felt as though it ran really smoothly. I even received positive feedback from both the children and the interviewers. Following from this was a 30 minutes written task about OFSTED and behaviour management within the classroom setting. I also felt that my individual interview, even though it was the most formal and had 3 people on the panel, went very well. This was probably due to the fact my confidence had built up during the other interview days and I knew what to expect.

My advice to anyone who has an interview coming up is – make sure you are totally up to date with everything that is current in the news. Also, I would advise going through practice questions just so you can be prepared. Interviewers aren’t trying to trick you, but they may ask you questions that may never even have crossed your mind. I would also strongly recommend practising your teaching task, whether this is in front of a friend/family member or just stood in front of the mirror in the privacy of your own bedroom. This way you can see exactly how you are coming across and you can time yourself.

Thankfully I had my mum and other supportive members of the family around me constantly encouraging me to strive to do the best that I could during the interviews. It is a stressful and worrying process, especially when you have other university work to worry about. It’s important to make time for yourself, whether this is having a bath featuring a glass of wine and some Shania Twain playing or just reading a book. Spending too much time worrying about interviews will only make you more nervous for the day. Hopefully my next blog will feature positive news of some teacher training offers as I am currently in the waiting process. Good luck to anyone who has an upcoming interview… Remember positive mental attitude!

 Up-date: Good news – Sally has received offers, and is currently considering her choices!