My avatar across the web: a photo of my feet in grey-white socks and brown sandals.

Ben Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

Iday Diary for Wednesday, June 20

Me, dressed in tie and sports coat, ready for interviews

Interview day. I woke up early—I think around 5:30—to make sure I had enough time to prepare before breakfast at 6:30. In particular, I was worried about my tie, which up until now I had only practised. Now it was time for the real thing. Doing up the top button on my shirt was tricky too, and as I went down to breakfast I felt quite self-conscious. All this fancy dress is foreign to me, but it’s something I’m going to be doing a lot in England—as in, every day when I go to work.

Turns out I don’t suck quite so badly at tying a tie as I worried, and after enough reassurances from others at the table I decided to shut up and focus on getting into an interview mindset. To be honest, I wasn’t all that worried. Thanks to some marvellous practice with my partner student teacher, Erica, I was feeling prepared. I knew how to answer my questions; I was confident in my ability and passion as a teacher; I had this down. Now it was just a matter of waiting.

We were picked up by minibus and driven to the Athenaeum, a subscription club in the town centre that we had passed during our walkabout yesterday. Engage Education had rented the large, ballroom-like room on the first floor as well as the room connected to it by a staircase above it. Schools were arranged in cubicles on the ground floor while we candidates hung out on the floor above. The consultants—employees of Engage Education who worked with particular schools—would come up and brief us on each school just prior to our interviews.

I had six interviews scheduled for the day! Math is in high demand over in England! The majority of them were in the morning, and because the interviews inevitably ran over the generally allotted time, I found myself dashing from one to the next with almost no break in between. I would run up the stairs, down a glass of water, and run back downstairs to deliver the same answers to the same questions all over again. It was intense and exhausting and a little overwhelming just because I felt like I was repeating myself. Overall, however, I think my interviews went well.

Walter Raleigh’s History of the World Arushi and I looking at the old books!

In the afternoon I had a long break between my fifth and sixth interviews, and I took advantage of a serendipitous opportunity to touch really old books! The cathedral has an ancient book library, and on Wednesdays from 2 to 4 pm the library is open to the public, with books from the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries all on display. But that’s not all: you can touch them. It sounds crazy and sacriligeous, and I was hesitant at first. I got to see a copy of Walter Raleigh’s History of the World, a copy of the Qu’ran, and even some old atlases with intricately drawn and decorated maps. It was an amazing experience. (Photos above courtesy of Jodie!)

One last interview, and then we were done for the day. The managing director of Engage Education (also named Ben) took us to a nearby pub for drinks (I had a pot of somewhat bitter green tea). He happened to invite the interviewers from my last interview to come along, and one of them fell into step with me as we walked to the pub. A math teacher by training, we had had a good conversation about math during my interview, and we continued talking about math and teaching at the pub. After placing my order I sat at the bar and waited for my tea, and he sat down next to me and we continued to talk. I guess this is called networking, and it was weird, but on the other hand it seemed likely he was interested in offering me a position if the next few days went well.

The end of the day featured another dinner at the hotel—thankfully dress down—and we ranked our schools for Karianne and the consultants. They would take these rankings, match them with the rankings of the candidates that each school would provide, and schedule school visits for us on Thursday and Friday. I ended up visiting two schools, which were pretty much my top choices, and they both seemed excited to show me around and have me join their staff. This would lead to a tough decision—but that’s a story for the next few days.