In my career as an educator I’ve been on both sides – a graduate trying to be the perfect teacher my potential Headmaster was looking for, and a recruiter looking for the best candidates. In this article I wish to share my perspective as a candidate and as a recruiter. I believe this might help you see the bigger picture and inspire you how to deal with the challenges you are about to face.
Proving you are the one when no one listens
As far as I remember this was my biggest problem of all. I was well aware what I was good at, why I plan certain experiences for my students, how to appeal to my students’ interests, what kind of resources to use to achieve the desirable educational goals. The list went on and on. The problem was that very few recruiters did ask me about this at all. They did not seem to be interested how I plan my lessons, which educational approaches work best for me, or how I assess my students. All they wanted to know was whether I had certain diplomas and qualifications at hand. At this point I had already realised that diplomas and certificates are important but do not necessarily mean you are a good teacher, and this made me wonder even more why very few recruiters were willing to learn more about me as a person and about my teaching experience. So, I was only as good as the list of my certificates and diplomas, and there was often nothing I could do about it.
Post job interview depression
I realise that some of you might be facing the same problem and in fact there might also be little you can do simply because you are not in a position to change a recruitment process of your potential employer. However, it matters a lot how you feel about yourself after the job interview as this may affect the way your approach your future job hunt.
The feeling that you were not really given a chance to show the best of yourself might be depressing and even more so when you realise that you have something good to share and no one even gives you a chance to let them know what that is. I know this feeling very well and to be honest with you it has a real power to make you stop believing in yourself. This is the last thing you should do though. My perspective as a recruiter might help you understand why being a good teacher goes far beyond certificates and diplomas, and suggest how you may best approach your future job interviews.
Be ready for a perfect job interview
When you attend your job interview usually you never know who is going to talk to you. You may be aware of the position the person occupies within the company but it is quite unlikely you will know how experienced the person is. I certainly do not mean the years the person spent holding a position in education but rather to what extent this person empowers others by doing their job and to what extent this job is this person’s passion. It might as well happen, as it often happened to me, that you are a more experienced and mature teacher than the person interviewing you. By the same token, your recruiter might be really experienced, looking for passionate teachers and willing to learn as much as they can about you. This is the ideal scenario because then most likely you will be given a chance to show yourself. Whichever scenario unfolds you need to be ready to demonstrate that you are worth investing their time in you. If they don’t want to listen, it might just mean the job is not really for you. But if they do, then you need to be ready!
Characteristics of a Perfect Teacher:
The following are the qualities I always look for in people seeking jobs in education, and answering my questions might help you present yourself as a perfect candidate:
What is the nature of their experience in education?
It is always important for me to learn more about the candidate’s direct hands-on classroom experience, how intensive the experience has been so far, how they approach planning and assessment, and how they make sure they continuously offer meaningful experiences adjusted to their students’ needs and preferences.
Are they reflective?
As teachers need to continuously grow and improve their practice I need to make sure the candidate is able to reflectively observe themselves and their students, and introduce improvements when needed. The perfect candidate must be eager and excited to constantly learn and develop their workshop.
Are they creative and spontaneous?
I always look for candidates who are able to creatively respond to whatever is happening in the classroom, take on board their students’s needs, suggestions and ideas, address challenges, and go beyond their planning. A creative teacher will be passionate about teaching and will always look for ways to offer the most exciting and educational experiences for their students.
Are they able to build positive relationships with students?
A candidate who treats their students as partners will be more likely to build positive relationships with them. These relationships will be based on trust and mutual respect without the need to demonstrate one’s authority as a teacher.
Do they care about their students?
A good candidate places their students’ needs as first and is eager to learn more about their students as individuals. This is all to make sure their teaching style and methods are appropriate for their students to learn, and that the learning environment they offer is empowering individual students.
Do they have clear understanding of the required national frameworks?
Frameworks is something that the candidate needs to be aware of and understand. However, similarly to diplomas and certificates, they never guarantee that someone is a good teacher. For me it is important to know if and how the candidate is able to apply their knowledge of frameworks and standards in their everyday work.
The diplomas and certificates are something that I cannot completely ignore as a recruiter because some of them are legally required to work as a teacher. However, I will always consider if the candidate meets the above but never select one just on the basis of their education background. If the candidate seems suitable but lacks certain important certificates, I would definitely suggest how and where these can be obtained.
Never lose your confidence
As I mentioned before, after an unsuccessful job interview you might feel inadequate as a teacher and a candidate. It is important not to let this feeling settle down. Knowing your talents and being aware of your experience and achievements is all you need to convince your potential employer that you are the best candidate. If they don’t want to give you a chance, keep looking for your perfect job interview. For sure there are recruiters interested to know who you really are and what you have to offer.