Tales from the Head’s Office!#2

Having retired as a primary head teacher & following the suggestion of my dear friend Paula I have decided to write an occasional series about the highs & lows of my headship career. It spanned 13 years & included 3 schools. I hope you enjoy my tales!


Desert Island Question!

I have interviewed numerous people for a variety of posts. Obviously most were for teaching vacancies but there were also secretaries, bursars, caretakers & various support staff roles. Wherever possible, we involved a task of some sort or an additional hoop to jump through. Although this may seem unfair, it is very difficult to see the whole person & assess their suitability just in a set of questions. Of course, as the jobs were always based in a school, children were always going to be involved. We liked to see the candidates with children just to check that they didn’t come out in a rash! There was one potential caretaker who told me that his job had nothing to do with children. He was so adamant that I feared what would happen if he actually had to meet one (you know the occasion – with a bucket & sand when they’d been sick!)

Teachers were easy to find tasks for. They would often be observed teaching & sometimes had to show how they would plan for lessons. Secretaries were a bit more difficult. A lot depended on their approach to the various people they met during the interview. Sitting candidates in the staffroom made sure they would get a feel of the community & staff could make their judgements too.

For all but the teaching posts, we would often put together an ‘in-tray’ exercise. This is just a list of events or actions pertinent to the role which have to be prioritised. Schools have routines but once you put children, parents & the rest of the world into the mix, you sometimes have to think on your feet! A horizontal ‘to do list’ is quite restrictive isn’t it?!

However, one thing that ALL candidates were subjected to was the Desert Island Question. It came right at the end of the formal question session, just before the ‘If offered this post would you accept?’ question. It has caused a variety of reactions. Some folk have frozen, clearly thinking there was a ‘correct’ answer. Others have laughed, thinking it was a trick. One poor candidate for a secretarial post cried when she thought of her answers! So, what caused all these reactions?

You are being sent to a Desert Island & can take:

One person (living/dead/known to you/famous etc)
One piece of music
One book or item of reading

It is really interesting how the answers can give you an insight into the person. Some of the youngsters took their boyfriends / girlfriends. The secretaries had crushes on George Clooney I remember. One man would take his wife ‘because she does all the cooking & cleaning’. Thankfully, the rest of his performance was such that he wasn’t appointed! A successful candidate chose ’Billy Connelly’ (person) ‘Walking on Sunshine’ (music) & ‘Notes from a Small Island (book)’. She was one of the most cheery teachers I’ve known! The candidate who cried couldn’t decide between her children so we let her take them all!

It always finished the interview off on a high note & usually had the contender leaving with a smile. It was certainly remarked upon & revisited when staff reflected on THEIR interviews.

My 3 would be:

Stephen Fry – he’s such a wonderful wordsmith & makes me laugh
Rachmaninov 18th variation on a theme by Paganini – I want to play it myself!
Lord of the Rings – I could never tire of the tapestry Tolkein weaves

So what would your Desert Island answers be? I’m going to tag the following because I think this would make an interesting but short meme! If you’re not on the list feel free to have a go just link it back here!

Emily at Pants with names Carol at New Mummy Heather at Younger & Younger

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  • You precisely saved me atleast 1 hour of time. I am making a project in this particular topic and your contribute has helped me through one of the topics of my project. I will browse to the other pages now.

  • Just read this again and noticed that you’ve mentioned the same tune that I linked to in this post
    No-one I know has EVER known the original name for that tune!!

    • I had an old 78 version of it which I played on a wind up ‘gramaphone’! The record was very thick & they smashed if dropped!

  • What a great idea, I don’t think I would have got the job though….:0S

  • i have to say ref stephen fry that since i subsribed to him on twitter (who isn’t?) i do fear he suffers a little from the verbal diarrhea. I’m not sure i could put up with him alone on an island tho’ i do love him so!

  • Love this. When I used interview for nurses in the healthcare industry, I would always ask if you could be or do anything you wanted with your life, what would it be? That evoked some very interesting answers and too says a lot about a person.

    Oh and I couldn’t pick between my boys either so would likely pick my mum as she’s funny and VERY resourceful!

  • Thanks for the tag – I love the idea of this meme. Will let you know when I’ve posted it!

  • One person (living/dead/known to you/famous etc)

    I would take my Mum and get to know her as an adult to adult ( she died when I was 16) and answer all the questions that I have as an adult and say sorry for being a horrid teenager.

    One piece of music

    You raise me up by Josh Grogan this song is to me just amazing can’t say as I dont know why but it just is. MM having said that It could also be Vivaldi Four seasons such a variety to listen to . Actually I am going for Vivaldi will learn the Josh Grogan song and sing it to my Mum.

    One book or item of reading

    The Bible sounds a cliche but It would be a chance to read it un interrupted NIV Bible
    Thanks for provoking my thoughts. I have done as my blog today and linked to you

  • That poor lady who cried, I wouldn’t be able to choose between my children either! Jen.

  • Thanks for the tag, the one piece of music is that a song or album?

  • Michelle Hill

    Great post that brought a smile to my face as I recall my reaction to being confronted with it! The question completely took me by surprise and I remember being slightly put out that it wasn’t an education question. Crime & Punishment would have been my book response, but I have no idea what I said for the other two choices.

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