Sunday, 11 October 2009

Slippery Ladders

I wrote the following a little while back, in the immediate fall-out from a failed job interview. Of course, after the pain and frustration had subsided, I was reasonable enough to realise that, okay, maybe it was simply a case of somebody better than me getting the job each time. But I'm not going to edit what I wrote then, because it sums up how I was feeling, and still am to an extent. Here we go:

I’ve got a problem. It’s making me really fed up, and I’m losing motivation. My problem is that I can’t seem to get a promotion. In the past year I’ve been for three promotions at different schools, and been interviewed for all of them. One of them was a small promotion and I didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell up against the internal candidate. The other two were for bigger promotions and have concluded with feedback that it was between me and the candidate who was successful but that the other candidate had more experience in something or tackled an issue better than me or… whatever. Waffle all you like.

But I’m getting worried. Because I hear of younger, less experienced people being given promotions or fast-tracked on special courses for those in the early years of their careers and I feel like I’ve missed the boat. Maybe I’ll never be given a chance. Maybe I’ll always be asked the same question: “So why now, when you’ve been teaching blah-de-blah?” With just that hint of suspicion as to my motives, trying to weed out some little secret that simply doesn’t exist.

Well let me tell you why. I love classroom teaching: I love the banter with the pupils, I love helping them make progress, opening their eyes to new ideas, and I love that they make me open my eyes too. I love thinking on my feet, finding new ways to explain something in ten seconds flat for the one child that “doesn’t get it”, seeing children develop over the year, and making resources and lessons to move the learning on and engage the pupils. I’ve had different responsibilities in different roles, but to me that wasn’t the be all and end all of teaching. I was never upwardly mobile before because I had so many things I was enjoying, from trips to clubs and competitions: how would I get the chance to do all this if I was in charge and bogged down with paperwork and phone-calls, I used to think.

But now I feel the time is right. I’ve stacked up enough experience in different roles to enable me to see that I could do a promoted job very well. I sometimes wish I was in charge because I can see a simple solution to something that others are not willing to try, or because I know that I could do it well – or better. I’m looking forward to five or ten years down the line and I can’t imagine staying in the role I’m currently in because I feel the need for a change and a challenge. I’m going stale and I feel the world moving on past me but the feeling is one of being trapped. I’m top of the pay scale and I want to try something new – so why won’t anybody give me a chance?

So I really don’t know what to do next. There are only so many knock-backs I can take without feeling like a deflated balloon: no longer of use to anyone and hanging around in the corner long after the use-by date. If there’s no way I’m going to be given a chance to move on within teaching, then what should I do? I’m more than ready to move onwards and upwards, but if there are no opportunities for me, then maybe I should look in another direction. I just don’t know what or where.


Northern Teacher said...

Snap! Three applications and three interviews = no job offers.

Snap! I am positive one went to an internal candidate from something a member of staff started to say to me and then abruptly stopped. Gawd knows about the other two.

A colleague of mine mentioned his partner's recent promotion at her school. The school knew who they wanted so the brief was written around that person; the job was advertised; they only interviewed one applicant - guess who this was.

Applying is so apparently timewasting in academia. Now I've given up even though it's obvious I can write a brilliant application and my CV is also fantastic!

I'm thinking of transferring what I do for the uni where I am a visiting lecturer (euphemism for part-time hourly paid therefore no contract) to something similar online. My own business!! Fingers crossed.

I empathise greatly and if I get any ideas for you, I'll drop you a line :-)

Ranting Teacher said...

I worked at one place where it was definitely a case of "who you know" that got you the job. Once I'd been there a few years I was astounded really that I'd ever been given a foot in the door, not having been from "round those parts".

Several jobs were never advertised, but offered to former pupils who had just completed PGCEs. Most promotions were internal, and that was rife with favouritism in itself. Some were nver even advertised internally, beut given seemingly at random to people who had "work-shadowed", ie done the job for nothing for a term or two before it being made official.

When I left, they knew who they wanted as my replacement: a former pupil who was now working at another school nearby. The post was advertised externally, the whole selection and interview process was seemingly adhered to, but the other candidates, including one internal, never had a chance. Scoring was skewed to ensure that this former pupil got the post. Probably would have done anyway, but there was another candidate who did equally well, if perhaps not slightly better in some aspects.

So I'm under no illusion when the feedback includes the phrase: "we needed to consider what fits in with our current team". To me that is such an arbitrary statement, that it really just is a case of "if your face fits" or "we know you from years ago" rather than the more objective scoring process that many other public sector positions employ.