Thursday, April 21, 2022

Published April 21, 2022 by with 0 comment

KILLED IN 20 MINUTES- How to answer in an interview

Interviews can be a stressful moment. If we try to answer facts, we can easily be caught with faults. Whether we get selected is measured more by our ability to respond confidently, eloquently and smartly.

This write-up is an interview session I sat in Thimphu with 22 other colleagues for a coveted vacancy of Principal in a Central school. I was working as a Vice Principal then at Phuentsholing HSS, and has been at the same position for seven years.

No matter what length of preparation and confidence you may have, on the hot-seat, when grilled extempore, the only thing that become strength at answering are what we are by blood and habit, what I am by learning and experience. If we have prepared for it very recently, it is of little help. In fact, any acting we try to drama fails you.

I didn't have much time to practice. I had travelled all day the other day. I just went into the panel room. I knew I can't feign forever.

After a brief introduction, the chair person asked me if I was ready. I was always ready. When I attended interview for vice principalship also, I was ready. I always walked in like a lion, gracefully and with a sense of lion among

It was 20 minutes Q & A from the jury members, a train of questions I had to answer.

Q1. Can you tell us who your Model Principal is?

It was an interesting opening. I knew they weren’t looking for me to name someone and conclude. They were looking for whether I was going to be a role model during my tenure. I answered:

“I have had the opportunity to work with four principals in sixteen years. I do not have a role model as such, rather I believe that every principal have inspired me in their own ways and are responsible for grooming me as a manager. Each of them had their strengths and weaknesses. People talked lot about weakness, but I listened and reflected how I can transform my weaknesses while also imbibing their strengths.  If in future I become a principal, then my capabilities as a leader will be most of what I have gained from my principals since I was fortunate to work under some of the most successful principals. One became Dungpa, another became Chief DEO, yet another became Chief. They are my role models.”

Q2. Can you share few qualities of those principals you worked with?

This question may be tempting to speak about negative qualities and experiences, but I knew, what I speak about others will define what I am in my nature. I answered differently:

“The principals I worked with were some of the most enterprising leaders. They were proactive in their managerial roles, humane in their dealings, and gentle in their speeches. They seem to practice Instructional Leadership styles and transformational leadership styles, and sometimes Autocratic Leadership styles in accordance to the need of the situation. They are those who used right strategies and skills at the right time and place. Therefore, these are people who inspired me as a leader. One was calm and focussed at task, o, one was a bilingual orator, and other was gracefully autocratic and other like a mother to a child.”

Q3. Has the principal’s role changed in today’s democratic system as compared to the monarchy system of the past?

It was an analytical question placed between monarchy and democracy. One would get lost talking about the either and lose track of the context. But, I was careful in the answer:

“I think role has undergone a huge change from a autocratic model to more democratic level of principalship. It is time we pace with the fast changing systems of leadership and adapt accordingly. The principal’s performance in the school system has changed over the years; they are today more collaborative, visionary, more selfless and compassionate in nature. I think the change is not because of monarchy or democracy, but by the social need to change.”

Q.4. Was the principal’s role easy in the past or easy today?

I could have answered more technically from experience if I was a principal, but I had not much to be burdened when working as vice principal. I had to make a calculated assumption with courage and conviction. I did.

“The expectations from every angle is only increasing, and changing from time to time. Teachers as well as students are often better informed with access to internet contents. The skills we need as a teacher or principal tends to supersede the demand that arises out of the system.

It was easier, I believe, in the past since principals of those days has lesser challenges then we have today by any comparative factors.”

Q. 5. From the human values point of view, in this world we have to have grit, fortitude and competitiveness, which is lacking in our children. Maintaining human values like compassion is a challenge in today’s world. Are our students prepared for global competitiveness?

This question was a leap out of context, a challenge to distract my focus, but it also was an opportunity to declare my reflective knowledge and philosophic opinion. I knew, there was neither right nor wrong to it. I proposed my answer:

“Sometimes it may seem like it is difficult to tell our students to practice human values, since these are generally concepts, but if the practice begins from our homes and is strengthened in the classrooms day in and day out, our children really change in their behavior. For instance, if examples and role model are visible for values like punctuality, perseverance, hard work and compassion, change happens. In our school we have Know Your Child Programme, where teacher connect with children through an informal dialogue session. This connection is for students to share values and teachers to share theirs. This is a platform that strengthens connection, values and self-realisation. Therefore, becoming parent as a teacher is what can nurture human values in them.”

Q.6 Teachers have so much knowledge and information about values, but in schools, the fact is teachers do not practice, they do not walk the talk. To what extent would you agree or disagree?

In an interview, ability to make connection and draw on from what was already asked and answered is a slingshot opportunity to prove, foresight and intelligence. That was what I had to do here:

“I agree many teachers may fail to practice what they preach. If, for instance, only principal or few teachers adhere to the values they pronounce, it would not make much impression on children. A team effort to make a dif is what will make difference on how far students also practice values we teach. More importantly, students must be given space to demonstrate values as they learn it.

This result was seen in the Nationwide Value Orientation Programme we carried out in February. In our school, students were given opportunity to dramatise what they learnt during the week. Students surprised us with short role plays, mock sessions, anecdotes and through speeches about the ways some teachers inspired them to changing their own values. This shows that teacher’ efforts and example made a difference and if everyone practiced as a family it would make a bigger impact. Role model impression is the primary source to transforming students.”

Q.7. You said in your presentation that principal have to be a visionary; what are your personal visions?

Any questions that ask of us to bring forth our philosophy of life and work are an opportunity to display our belief systems and attitude towards national service. It is an opportunity that cannot be answered by our portfolio but by what we strongly believe in. In the limits of time, I answered:

“I think my personal vision depends on what I am, the way I perceive, and on my beliefs and traits. Punctuality is one of the values I practice all the time. I make sure that I reach school on time and conduct other services on time. My vision is to give the best of myself to the children and to bring out the best talents in them. I believe that every child has a talent and that it is the responsibility of teacher to help them identify, understand, draw out their talent and endeavour towards excellence. Our vision is what makes us a teacher students aspire to be part of.”

Q.8. Most of the slots are Central schools. If you are selected, you may be sent to one of the boarding schools. Government has invested lots for Central schools. What are some of the issues you see in regards to the Central schools?

This question was the toughest of all. I had to recall having read or heard any issues schools faced as a boarding school. Hostel accommodation was one thing that came to light. I had to manipulate my answer but I had the knack of how.

“Since I haven’t worked in Central schools, I do not have direct experience. There has been concerns raised in media about central school issues; one of the prominent concerns is the hostel accommodation problem. I learnt that in some schools students are crammed in the hostel.

As principal and teacher we must accept these shortfalls as circumstantial and not a permanent problem. It is important that we see shortfalls as challenges and not obstacles. If we fail to see it as challenges, we will lose clarity of finding any solution to the situation. I think everything is possible if we worked together as a team and look at from another perspective.

9. Do you think  hydropower projects an eco-friendly project for our ecosystem? You may share your observations of opinions?

When question arise from unexpected context, how quickly we can hook on to a context that relates to it relieves us from becoming dumb, confused and fragmented. This time, I remembered a Kuensel news image I saw months ago. I found my hook:

"While by all scientific angle hydro power projects is accepted by environmentalist as eco-friendly for human beings and nature, it cannot be eco-friendly for other parts of ecology. I have read in Kuensel how fishes were unable to migrate to lower altitude due to dam building. There was a picture of fishes jumping out of water close to the dam site. Can we consider this eco-friendly for the species trapped up stream? 

More over, during dam construction tonnes of earth materials were dumped into the river, clogging river with debri, and clouding with dust. The water animals must find difficult to survive, and even die. The ecosystem of at parts of river will be in an imbalance. This way, what is eco-friendly for human is not necessarily for other organisms. 

MY INTERVIEW concluded on time. When I walked out, I realised how many heads noded, how many smiled with satisfaction and how many displayed a sense of 'this one cannot be ignored.' Interviews are places were our life's experiences, learning, reflections and values are tested. I love it.



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