Little Miss Teacher Blog

By Clara Fiorentini

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Preparing for Interviews

Hello everyone,

This is a well over-due post. I've received so many queries about this recently and I've been promising it for days now but my God, this has been a busy month at school!  Productive, but jam packed.

Anyhow, I wrote a post about preparing for 'Interview Season' around this time last year and it was really well received but rather than just re-sharing, I thought it would be no harm to freshen it up. In a system where there are so many changes and developments now, it's important to be as prepared as you possibly can be.

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How can you prepare for an interview?

1. Research the school your are interviewing for. Consider the ethos. Is it for you? Check the school website - familiarise yourself with routines or activities that you feel you may be able to contribute to. 

2.  Prepare for your Gaeilge question. While a lot of panels don't always ask a 'ceist as Gaeilge' now there's still a possibility you'll be asked - so don't wing it! Plan it out. You can pretty much twist any question to suit what you want to talk about. How would you teach Irish? How would you make it fun? How do you feel about Irish as a subject? How would you differentiate? It's February - what have you planned for Gaeilge?
It will also probably be your luck that the panelist with the strangest sounding dialect will ask your Gaeilge question so concentrate, think and take your time!
What about incidental Irish? It's always a nice way of greeting someone or thanking them.

3.  Dress to impress. It sounds silly but first impressions are EVERYTHING. We're not supposed to judge books by their covers but let's face it, we do. Be polite too. You can tell people all about your wonderful self without sounding arrogant! After all, "Manners maketh the man!"

4. Prepare to be asked about the future. As in, "It's November, what's on your classroom walls?" Think of the time of year, think original.

5. DO NOT lie or exaggerate on your CV. It will haunt you. If you've done grade one on piano and haven't touched it in ten years it doesn't mean you're a pianist! Keep it relevant. Is that weeks work experience you did at the garden centre five years ago relevant? And for the love of God, tell your referees that you have put their name down. I know of so many people who have had calls from principals following up references and had no clue that they had been put down as a referee!

6. Someone will play bad cop. Don't let this throw you. It's an interview oldie. Someone will usually be the tough one and you will find it hard to digest their stony expression but don't take it to heart! Chances are, you'll get the job and meet them again only to find they couldn't be nicer! 

7. Maintain eye contact. Look at who asked the question and answer them. Obviously you need to talk to the whole panel but do so in a natural way, without giving yourself whiplash!

8. Use your strengths to your advantage. Sell them. It's a great way of using your interview time to suit yourself! If you're musical, talk about it. If you're sporty, explain how. If you have a particular area of interest, tell them! How can you make yourself sound different to the five candidates they've seen before you? 

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9. Don't repeat yourself. Pause and think before you launch into answering. When nervous, people have an awful habit of speaking too quickly and getting tongue tied. What's the rush? Do your best to avoid the usual stall words: "like..." "eh...." "you know...." "Um...." If you're really concerned about how you may come across in an interview - why get someone to do a mock one with you or even better - record yourself?
If you're really determined to impress, you can do interview preparation sessions with Carr Communications. They're excellent.

10. Don't waffle. Quit while you're ahead. If you've answered the question sufficiently leave it at that. By continuing to drag on an answer, you're wasting valuable time to answer other questions. Put yourself in the shoes of the panel. They're going to meet a lot of candidates for each post. How can you catch their attention? How can you win them over with the time frame you've got to work with?

11. Don't use clich├ęs or statements that are overused. Yes, teaching is a vocation but you don't need to tell the panel that! Trust me, they've heard it. More importantly, highlight what you're going to bring to the position.

12. Make sure you fully understand the ethos of the school you're applying for. This lets a lot of people down in their interviews because its very clear when they haven't a clue! Research it. You'll probably be asked as to how you would implement it in your teaching etc. Their policies are generally available on the school websites. Being familiar with them is often useful to support some answers in your interview.

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13. PLEASE use a sensible email address. It'll be one of the first things the panel can see on your CV..... so if you're still using, it really won't cut the mustard!

14. Research what's current at the moment and be able to show your understanding of it! Make sure you're aware of things like Aistear, First Steps, new primary digital learning, the new Primary Language Curriculum, team teaching and SEN. Don't leave yourself open to awkward moments of panic. Read the latest Circulars and inform yourself.

15. There's very few of us now who don't use some form of social media. Check your privacy settings. Consider your profile picture. Not everyone will do the Google check but it's best to think that they will.

16. Whatever you do, express your worth ethic and your enthusiasm for teaching. Remember the foundations of our profession are based on respect, care, integrity and trust. Express your awareness that successful teaching is enhanced by lifelong CPD. We must commit to the constant development of our skills to meet the ever-changing needs of our pupils.

Areas to consider:

  • How might you support a child with English as an additional language in your classroom?
  • What might you to put in place to support a child with ASD in your classroom?
  • How important is formative assessment? What might you do in the classroom to help the children to improve their own learning?
  • What might your biggest challenge in the classroom be?
  • How might you involve parents in support of their child's learning?
  • A child protection issue is brought to your attention, what do you do?
  • How will you gel with the staff of the school? How might you collaborate with colleagues?
  • What does it mean to be a professional?

Lastly, SMILE. Make it a pleasant experience. Smile your nerves away. As the poem goes 'smiling is contagious, you catch it like the flu!'. You never know, they might just smile back at you!!

Let's face it, interviews are far from pleasant, especially the application process but we've all been there and you will get through it!

Best of luck.


Monday, 1 May 2017

Classroom Playlist

Do you play music in the classroom? I try to most days. My kids have coined it 'brain music' as we play it when we're doing most forms of seat work, wet breaks and sometimes during play. It keeps noise to a "minimum" (what even is a minimum anymore?!) and more importantly the children really enjoy it and associate it with focus work. It's an added bonus when they request it and when you hear them humming along to some beautiful classical pieces too.

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When a pupil gets lost in the music....

Someone asked me recently about what music I tend to use or play and if I could recommend any CDs. Honestly, I have two baskets full of CDs but I actually don't know when I used a CD last. Apart from Bizzy Breaks now & again, it's generally the laptop I go for!

So, here are a few quick links to some of my go-to classroom, background music.:

  1. Shameless Disney fan like myself? Well here's four hours of  beautiful, relaxing Disney music, played on the piano!

2. My kiddos call this the 'happy music'. It's a nice one for writing time.

3. Xylophone music is always relaxing. This is a nice one for an activity that requires a lot of concentration, like Creative Writing, Art or even cutting or sticking activities with the infants!

4. This is a nice one for 'Tidy Up Time' - and not quite as manic as the Tidy Up Rhumba either.


5. Sometimes it's hard to beat just sticking on some of the Classical Composer's and their most chilled compositions. Once you can hold off doing your wedding march round the classroom when Pachelbel's Canon in D comes on!

 6. This one is always requested in my class - more-so I think because my pupils adore this kitten it has a cat for an image! Just another nice relaxing compilation for seatwork.

Do you have any 'go-to' music for the classroom? Be sure to let me know and I can stick it up here too.

Hope you all had a good first week back after the Easter break. Enjoy the Bank Holiday!

*I know not everyone has access to YouTube at school but you can just let the pieces load on your mobile, hook it up to the jack and play away and once it has buffered, you can play away regardless of internet speed etc! And if you're concerned about your phone ringing over the sound system - just stick it on airplane mode, if the YouTube content has loaded already you'll still be able to play it. True story!*

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