Few who watched the TV series Boys From The Blackstuff back in 1982 could forget Bernard Hill’s affecting portrayal of Jimmy “Yosser” Hughes’ mental breakdown, as a man whose job was an integral part of his self-image struggled to come to terms with being laid off. Yosser walked the streets of Liverpool, desperately looking for a job — any job! — and plaintively asking anyone who would listen: “Gizza job. I can do that!” (“Give us [me] a job” as Wikipedia helpfully translated for non-Scousers.)
Those famous lines of W. B. Yeats occurred to me:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world
And for why? Well, the application process for any teaching job has always tended towards the recondite, rococo, recherché and — dare I say it? — the ridiculous.
First, there was the dreaded application form, which was anywhere between four and six pages long. Always the same information required, but always in an annoyingly different format, seemingly designed with fiendish cunning to prevent cutting and pasting from any previous application form.
Second, there was the hell of writing the personal statement: write several hundred words on . . . you. Just you. “Tell us what makes you so fabulous and great. Focus on the outcomes of the many initiatives that you have recently spearheaded, both within your department and in a broader whole school context.” This type of writing does not come easily for us introverted sciencey types, I can tell you.
The fact that many schools are now openly willing to reduce the number of “application hoops” that candidates have to jump through is, to my mind, very telling. It indicates how deeply the recruitment and retention crisis is biting.
It now seems to be schools who are scouring the country, plaintively crying “Gizza teacher!” Strange times indeed.