Reflections & Advice… applying for an NQT role in Geography

A number of people are currently in the process of writing NQT job applications, and making statements, and there are wide ranging advice and connections that are excellent. Having helped a few people with Geography statements, I thought I’d share three key ideas from the perspective of a moderately experienced Head of Geography!

First, it needs to be personal to you, not the generic teacher standards. As a PGCE student, you’ll have a lot of experience in providing evidence for a portfolio, rather than anything unique or personal. A personal statement for a teacher application must be personal. While it’s important that you can talk about planning lessons, calling home, behaviour management etc. and you are rightly proud of learning these things as a trainee teacher, it’s important to recognise that all of these things are just to be expected as part of the job description as a teacher, and will just be “normal” for a teacher application. They don’t, therefore, really add much to your statement to make *you* stand out. As much as possible, you want to try and explore the things *you* believe, and the ways that you bring them out in your teaching. There are debates in education, there are values – are you knowledge driven, are you really proud of the work on retrieval practice, or a huge proponent of Wilingham’s work etc.? If you have something: practical, evidence, or ideas and values that makes you stand out from other candidates, then say so!

Second, if you are applying for a Geography job, your application needs to be Geography-based. As a HoD, I’m naturally a serious Geographer, who wants to drive up academic standards of their students, and I’m going to be looking for subject strength and evidence of that. Do not assume that anything is drawn explicitly from your CV/other bits of the application form – if you want to make a statement, it needs to be *in* your statement. My suggestions:

  • Talk about how you got here & what got you interested & passionate about teaching Geography. Might include trips, travel, A Level (& how they help you be a better teacher) and degree/other experiences. If you have a degree that isn’t 100% Geography, then say so, and say how this helps you to teach other subjects, or show width. Geog/Econ might be hugely powerful to teach A Level human Geography; Geog & Ecology might be brilliant for the physical elements of the courses, too!
  • You won’t necessarily have a huge range of experience, but talk about what *geography* you have taught, and what you’ve learned and reflected on from that. Don’t be afraid if you haven’t taught the full range yet: discuss what you have done! Which topics have you enjoyed? Which have you not? What has surprised you? What’s been more fun than you expected? Previou physical Geographer, who’s loved teaching Y7 globalisation? Say so! Tell me about your subject teaching experience and love for the thing. If you’ve taught specific GCSE topics (or know the specification) then mention them, ditto for A Level. Being as specific and example-driven as you can is really helpful.
  • Talk about how you are continuing your subject knowledge development and growth. What are you doing to ensure you’re the best Geographer you can be? GA? RGS? Twitter? Reading, journals, memberships etc. – how are you showing your commitment to professional Geography development, and ongoing learning? What do you do for that, what do you do for fun? Are they the same?

These things are about you.

The final component of this should be that a statement should be tailored to the job you are applying for, and the values and ethos of the school culture. It’s a cliché, but interviews and applications are a two way process. You want to be confident that the school fits within your ambitions, that you will be coached and supported well, and that your values and wellbeing will be looked after effectively.

Likewise, the school wants to know that they are finding a good match. If it’s a sporty, co-curricular-heavy school that loves a co-educational ethos, someone talking about single-sex education and the benefits of a narrow curriculum and highly academic focus *isn’t* likely to be a good “fit” for how they want to do their education. It’s not a judgement on if you’re a good teacher or not, it’s about finding people who share the same values.

Read their website carefully, their job descriptions carefully, and try – where possible – to reflect on whether you *do* actually want to work there. If you do, then show them that you believe what they believe (see Simon Sinek’s TED talk/book on Starting with Why for some examples and development ideas). If you need the informal chat, or the visit to the school, then please use them – but they are a way to establish the fit, rather than make you “stand out” as a candidate! To an extent, I think this should be more like a UCAS personal statement than your teaching standards statements: and that mindset can help in unpicking the way to approach the components of this.

I’m always happy to help with ideas and discussions – do reach out on Twitter and drop me a line if I can help?

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