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best practices

What to look for in teaching applicants

When hiring a new teacher, we have to take a lot of factors into consideration.

The checklist naturally includes many considerations, yet topping them all is the requirement for applicants to have had the right kind of experience with children.

This is where a lot of people fall down at the interview stage, for although they have “been around” children, they have not had the kind of valuable interactions that prepare them for life in the classroom. Let me run through a few key ones now to illustrate the importance of this distinction.

Loving the Challenge

Babysitting children while they sleep and overseeing youngsters in the library while they read: these instances count as experience with children, no doubt. But they are relaxing, choreless tasks that don’t stretch your tolerance or challenge your authority.

In order to prove that you love working with children - and you will need to love it, as it can be difficult at times - it helps to have been in a situation where they caused you stress and aggravation. A job such as running a day care centre for toddlers, where you have to cope with kids racing around all day long, is a good example, as it showcases your ability to cope with the stress while simultaneously finding the experience rewarding.

Hard Sell

While working at summer camps and activity days can involve having to employ many skills that a good teacher should have, the roles don’t necessarily show your ability to give what I would call the “hard sell”.

This refers to getting children to do what they don’t want to do, something which, as you can imagine, is a key part of teaching. Proving that you can get children to play a game of football they got out of bed that morning to play is one thing; proving that you got a child to do their homework, wash their hair and all the other menial, everyday chores of a younger person’s life is another.

Diversity Capital

This point technically only applies to culturally diverse areas, although admittedly that definition covers many in Britain today.

Teachers who understand the reality of their pupils’ lives are better able to relate to them on a personal level. Now obviously an applicant cannot change their socio-economic, cultural or religious background - but they can display experience of volunteering, working or even just travelling within the relevant environment, for instance by doing charity work at a local mosque.