For many, the most stressful element of a teaching interview is the demonstration lesson. With no idea about the class ‘characters’ and often having just received the news that you now have only half the time you expected, you feel you are expected to roll up and blow their socks off.
Firstly, don’t panic. The good news is that you aren’t expected to teach an outstanding lesson. The interviewers are looking for a range of qualities based on what they feel their team would benefit from and their own recent Ofsted feedback. Discipline, leadership, positivity and an environment in which mistakes are a good learning tool are all part of the mix, but most importantly, they are looking for the mood you create in the classroom.
To give yourself your best chance, the success strategy is the same as teaching on a daily basis: prepare the nitty gritty in advance so your mind is free to think and react well on the day.
Here are ten top tips to help you put your mind at rest and best foot forward!
Get the basics
Never approach a class without asking in advance for the details of the children you are about to teach. Consider this sensible research as the first test: email in advance and ask how many there are, what the mix of abilities is and what support is needed. Ask in advance what year (and for primary: subject) you’ll be teaching, and how long you will have.
Expect the time slot to change
It is not unusual to be given a 45 minute slot which then changes to 20. Remember that it’s not your all-singing, all-dancing performance during input they are looking for, it’s more likely to be your questioning and interaction during the task. The best advice is to keep it simple. Make your extension open-ended so you don’t find yourself having to entertain the ones that finish early – such as a creative enrichment task inventing ways to apply the new knowledge.
Ask what behaviour management method the children are already fully trained in
You can simply ask the class teacher, LSA or Head on the day. Also, this is your chance to find out if there is a school-wide policy that you judge to be robust enough: if there isn’t an escalation process involving non-teaching senior management to take the hit on post-playtime dramas, alarm bells should ring for you.
Find out what other adults there are in the room, then expect it to change!
The interviewers are checking that you deploy adults effectively, preferably as teachers and not just supporting the strugglers. Show you collaborate with classroom adults; give them a post-it note for feedback. If you aren’t already in the habit of putting example open questions on your plans, start now because you probably won’t get to pre-discuss the lesson with them.
Print at least 5 copies of your plan
It’s organised and it welcomes the interviewers to your lesson. If you are cut short, it shows your intentions.
Plan for a wide and fluid ability mix
You know the interviewers are looking for differentiation; your lesson needs to offer the chance for progress through clear scaffolding but also challenge everyone. A step-up choice of tasks like a ‘Chilli Challenge’ that children can start (and preferably self-mark) then move up through gets them aiming to out-do each other.
Be ready for the whiz-kid who has done all this before
The current curriculum demands ‘enrichment’ for these pupils rather than simply questions from the year above, so think of ways to get them to practically apply the knowledge instead such as a mystery, or a puzzle.
Make sure you're remembered
Be bold and memorable. If you love dragons and you can teach effectively in role as a famous expert, do it. Today is the day to showcase your strengths.
The best lessons come out of envelopes
This is a tip from a deputy head friend of mine – what she means is that tactile interaction is vital for the students’ engagement and shows you’ve considered a range of learning choices. Get the students engaged from the start with mystery boxes, envelopes, materials or card games. It’s also wise to use some I.T. as a nod to the school’s expectations.
Don't forget to enjoy it
Smile! You’re going to ace it!
About the author
Katie Newell BA(Hons) PGCE is an ex-primary school teacher, Head of Maths, Head of Year five and languages specialist. Katie qualified in Psychology at Liverpool then specialised in Primary Languages for her PGCE at Reading. Before teaching, Katie was a financial commentator and is now the Content Manager for eteach.com and fejobs.com. Katie feels passionately that teachers are the unsung heroes of society; that opening minds to creative timetabling could revolutionise keeping women in teaching, and that a total change to pupil feedback is the key to solving the work life balance issue for the best job in the world.