Head of a Year–one of the most mysterious job titles in education. Even people who have had this position for years may struggle to define what exactly they are supposed to do, their principal role in lives of the students they lead. Sure enough, you will find a typical job description filled with buzzwords. Think passion, motivation, diversity, leadership, social responsibility, compassion. You should foster these values in the students and then some, while making sure they progress towards their academic goals. But how exactly you will do that remains a partial mystery even for me, though I’ve worked in education for so many years…
In any case, you’ll have to succeed in an interview to get a job of a Head of a Year. You’ll typically face some questions about your motivation, goals, experience, and of course the hiring committee members will inquire about your attitude to various challenges you may face in your pastoral care. Let’s have a look at some of them right now.
Why do you want to work as a Head of a Year?
You should touch two subjects in a great answer. First and most importantly, what you want to bring onboard. You want to become a Head of a Year because you really believe to have great understanding for the issues students face at secondary school, in this tricky period of their life. What’s more, you know how to win the trust of students, which is extremely important in pastoral care. Students who do not trust us may hear us but won’t listen… And of course, you believe to be a great mentor, helping the students find the answers to the questions that bother them, or at least to find the right questions they should ask themselves.
Second subject you should talk about are your expectations on the job. Let’s face it as it is–Head of a Year isn’t the best paid job for someone with your set of skills. A great mentor, counselor and manager can easily earn twice as much working for some big corporation. But corporate job can never offer you what you are looking for the most–the meaningful purpose, and playing a positive role in the lives of individual students, having a visible impact. What’s more, you enjoy spending your time with young people, and believe you will enjoy your work with the students.
Please tell us more about your experience with mentoring or pastoral care
This question is an easy one when you have experience. In such a case, you can just narrate your experience, clearly defining the group of people you mentored or led, biggest challenges you faced in your work, and of course goals you achieved. Everyone loves stories, so you can add a fitting story to your narrative. Tell them about a specific case of mentoring, explaining how you led person X from point A to point B, helping them succeed against the odds.
Things get more complicated when you lack formal experience. Even in such a case, however, you can talk about mentoring and leading others. And you can come up with interesting stories–perhaps from a classroom, or from any other relevant setting. Lacking formal experience, the key is to show confidence in your leadership abilities, and this confidence should have solid foundations in your life, in what you’ve done up to this point–as a teacher, parent, child, employee. As long as you manage to show this confidence, you can get a job of a Head of a Year even without any previous experience with similar roles.
What goals would you set for yourself for the following school year as our new Head of a Year?
You will have to do some research to find a good answer to this one. Think about their school, the students, the particular grade you’ll lead in your new job. What challenges do they face? Do they struggle academically? Is bullying present at school? Do they perhaps lack some soft skills? And what is the atmosphere in difference classes?
It isn’t always easy to find answers to such questions, but you can at least try, talking to different stakeholders from school–students, parents, teachers, administrators. Information on social media and local press can also sometimes help, and if you cannot find anything, you can always inquire your interviewers about the challenges. Once you know them, you should be able to set clear and tangible goals, and come up with some action plan on how to tackle these challenges.
If you cannot come up with anything better, you can say that first thing you will do in the job is having a one on one with all sorts of people from school–teachers, counselors, psychologist, principal, and of course some students. Trying to understand the current state of affairs and the biggest challenges they face, you should then be able to come up with meaningful goals for the school year, of course withing the scope of your responsibilities.
How do you imagine your typical day, or a typical week in the office of a Head of a Year?
The key is to show proactive approach to your role. Ensure them that you do not plan to sit in your comfy office all day, waiting for a knock on a door, or a phone call from someone seeking your assistance. On the contrary, you want to be out there, in the halls, in the classes, participating in events.
Talking to people and observing the life at school, you will easily find opportunities for your work, and you will also gain the trust of the students, because they won’t perceive you like some distant figure with a fancy job title.
The core of your job then consists in working with individual students, and sometimes also with teachers, mentoring and counseling them, making sure that they progress while trying to reach their academic goals, and at the same time fostering safe and encouraging environment at school.
Other questions you may face in your Head of a Year job interview
- Tell us about a conflict you had with one of the students.
- What are your strengths and weaknesses as a teacher and a counselor?
- What do you plan to do to safeguard the “weak” students?
- Do you plan to organize any assemblies for students from “your” year.
- In your opinion, what role should faith in God play in a job of a Head of a Year?
- What is your teaching philosophy?
- Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
- What’s your knowledge of NAPCE guidelines?
- What is your opinion on vertical tutoring?
It isn’t easy to tell what exactly will happen in your interview for a Head of a Year position. The job is still mysterious to many, and hiring committee members may not even know what exactly they should focus on while talking to you.
In such cases they often opt for “typical” interview questions, inquiring about your goals, job choice, motivation, and experience. Try to prepare for such questions, and do not forget to do some research about your future place of work. Not only will it help you find the right answers to their questions. You will also find it easier to connect with the people in the interviewing panel. Such connection is priceless, especially when they find it hard to define the exact criteria for their selection, and may put more emphasis on personal preferences. I hope you will succeed, and wish you best of luck in your interview!