I had my interview today. I was, strangely, not as nervous as I thought I'd be.
I arrived at the British Council offices, just off Trafalgar Square, right on time at 10am. On arrival I had to go through a set of very bizarre doors. I swiped your security pass, stepped in a cylinder of glass, the door behind slid round behind me. When that was closed the front part of the cylinder slid aside and I could step out.
I went upstairs to find people wandering round. I was given my name badge and pointed in the direction of the tea and coffee. Over coffee I got to chatting with another interviewee. We had half an hour to wait until the day started properly. We chatted for a while, finding out a little more about each other and why we wanted to do the exchange. As we talked around 30 people arrived one by one into the room. Soon there was a loud buzz of conversation.
At 10.30 the day started. We were introduced to members of the panel, amongst them British Council staff, a representative from the US Embassy, members of the exchange committee and alumni of the scheme. We were given a brief outline of the scheme and it's organisation. The speaker then went on to talk about the realities of participating in the exchange. We were given a list of bad reasons to take part in the exchange, such as coming out of a difficult relationship, having pressures at work, wanting to escape something and things that could negatively affect the exchange such as financial hardship. She then went over the agenda for the day.
We were split into groups, one group of primary teachers and two groups of secondary teachers. My group of secondary teachers went upstairs to the boardroom. The view was fantastic. It looked out over the rooftops towards the London Eye and the House of Parliament. There were eight teachers, one of whom had brought her husband, and 3 people on the interview panel - a representative of the British Council, the representative from the US Embassy and someone who took part in the exchange last academic year.
We started by introducing ourselves. I started. I was really pleased with myself, I spoke clearly, concisely and confidently, I also managed to address some of the points that we would be covering in the interview. We formally started the interview by examining our motivation for taking part in the exchange. We were asked how supportive our Heads were and what support plans we had for our partner. I was able to outline what would be in place for my partner and also highlighted the fact that because we had been in special measures, come out of it and improving still (no point in hiding the fact, it'd come out in the OfSTED report they'd read anyway) that we had good support in school, that members of staff supported each other not just in department but across departments as well. I also talked about student teachers and the NQT program that my partner will be able to take part in.
We were asked how we would support our partner socially. I replied that my friends were very much looking forward to getting rid of me so that they could show my partner round! They seemed to like that.
We looked at what we could contribute to our exchange school, for example extra curricular classes and clubs. The representative from the US Embassy spoke at length about various aspects of American life and schools. It was very interesting and gave us all food for thought. The alumnus also told us about things she found difficult and funny anecdotes.
The interview was very long, although it didn't feel it at the time. I feel I said the things I needed to say and explained myself clearly. When we finished we went for lunch. There were plates of sandwiches, with two plates of only vegetarian ones and to top it off the plates were marked as being vegetarian! Yay, it doesn't take much to keep me happy. While we ate lunch we mingled and chatted. During the course of the hour I chatted to the US Embassy guy, the alumnus from my group, other interviewees and other alumni.
When lunch was finished we all remained in the room to be told what would happen next. They told us that we were the last interview group so would hear in the next two weeks if we were accepted onto the exchange. We were given information about visas and told that if we participate in the exchange we won't be able to get a working visa for the USA for 5 years afterwards!
There was then a question and answer session involving everyone from the interview panel. There were some interesting experiences to listen to.
Fingers crossed I hear soon.