Most teaching jobs – whether you’re applying for a headship or first position – require candidates to do a presentation.
You may be given a specific topic or a general theme. It might last as little as 10 minutes or as long as half an hour. But whatever the circumstances you will very much be on show and marked on your performance.
Think of the presentation like the structure of a three-act play, with:
1. a beginning,
2. a middle and
3. an end.
Remember your beginning is very important, your middle is important too, but your ending is the most crucial. Get this formula right and you will dramatically increase your chances of success.
The beginning is as simple as A, B, C, D
The first thing to consider is:
A for attention
Get your audience’s attention with a memorable quote, an arresting statement, a fascinating anecdote or a snappy piece of data. For example, you could start with:
“Who said: 'Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world?' (Nelson Mandela) I wanted to become a teacher because I believe that to be true.”
“Only 32% of white working-class boys achieved level 4 in this school last year… and if I am your Year 6 teacher, this is what I will do about it…”
In other words, get their attention and keep it.
B is for benefit
Tell your audience what they will learn from your presentation, even if you have been given the subject by the panel. Say something like:
“In the next 10 minutes… I will briefly show you how I organise my classroom for teaching synthetic phonics; the resources I use for groups and individual progression and how I use assessments to inform future planning… "
“I will explain how we can raise the achievement of white working-class boys in this school through year-on-year, systematic planning, specific input measures and the targets for outcomes…”
C for credentials
Explain why you are the best person to be delivering this information.
For example, you could say:
“I have six years’ experience of working in schools in challenging and disadvantaged areas…”
“I think my background and experience (say what that is) are ideally suited to the challenge of being a new teacher in a school like this.”
D is for direction.
Briefly elaborate on how you will do what you intend.
Say something like:
“I will start by setting out the issues, provide relevant data, give examples of successful approaches and then lay out my strategy for providing better outcomes in your school.”
Write yourself a script, rehearse it and make sure you don’t take more than 20% of your allotted time for the beginning. If your presentation lasts 10 minutes, don’t use up more than two minutes saying all of the above.
The middle – the filling in your sandwich
This is where you talk about what you promised at the beginning.
So in your opening, if you said – “I will explain the issues, provide data, give examples of successful approaches and set out my strategy” – then make sure you do this. And make it interesting and varied. So populate your middle with the following:
An anecdote (keep it short, illustrative and directly relevant).
A chart, table, infographic or other visual image of data in your PowerPoint.
An explanation of how your methods, techniques, approaches and strategy will succeed.
Highlight why your teaching, management or leadership strengths have been successful in the past and how they will be in the future. Be specific.
As with any story, play, movie or novel, the middle is where we understand the plot and character. This is your chance to get across how you will deliver on your promises and get them to believe in you as someone they can trust.
Remember the basics too:
adopt an active body posture;
scan the panel and maintain eye contact;
use hand gestures to emphasise a point, show some passion;
smile (and even crack a joke if appropriate but not a rehearsed one – they never sound funny).
Don’t overuse or talk at your PowerPoint – limit the slides to eight or 10 maximum. It’s you and your story they want to hear about.
The middle section should take up about 60%-70% of your allotted time.
The ending – the most important part
Just like the beginning, script, time and rehearse this section. Try to make a link with your beginning to achieve a narrative arc. This section doesn’t have to be long, in fact it should be the shortest part (about 10% of your allotted time), but it should be the most memorable.
The single most important thing you want to achieve in your ending is a call to action.
For example, you could say:
“My passion for reading and children’s literature combined with my skills, knowledge and understanding for planning and delivering effective synthetic phonics for this age group will make children love reading as well as master it.”
“I said at the beginning that only 32% of white working-class boys achieve level 4. I am convinced that appointing me to systematically implement this strategy will make that statistic an irrelevance for this school.”
If you are a newly-qualified teacher (NQT) you could say something like:
“Please don’t think this arrogant, but I want to be the best NQT this school has ever had. If you appoint me not only will I work tirelessly to achieve that, but I will also bring all my inventiveness and creativity to make sure this Year 2 class gets a wonderful experience while I am their teacher.”
End with something that leaves your audience inspired enough to want to appoint you over others.
One final bit of advice: don’t overrun. If you have been given 10 minutes then plan for nine and a half – script it, rehearse it, time it and stick to it. There’s nothing worse than being cut off before you can finish on that big bang of an inspiring ending.
Alan Newland worked as a teacher, teacher-trainer and head teacher in London for over 20 years and then for over a decade with the DfE and the GTC. He now lectures and writes on professional values in teaching and runs the award-winning social media network newteacherstalk. You can follow him on Twitter at @newteacherstalk.
His new book: ‘Becoming a teacher – the legal, ethical and moral implications of entering society’s most fundamental profession’ will be published by Crown House Publishing this summer and can be ordered here.