My Teaching Journey

The third month in the dreary 60s office brought an epiphany. I hadn’t conversed with a human for weeks. All work was completed on computer, delivered via email. This was supposed to be a temp job, a stop gap after Uni. That gap had lasted for 3 years though. My youth and energy sucked away by the whirr of a disk drive, probably my fault for doing a Geography degree.

Now please don’t judge me for this, I don’t even know if what I’m about to say is really true or if I’ve told the story so many times that it has just become the de facto reason I became a teacher... The programme Teachers was my inspiration to take up teaching. Was it the camaraderie, the constant challenges and never ending variety of situations to deal with? Who knows?

So I completed my PGCE at Canterbury Christ Church University which beforehand, I naively thought I would have another year living the student life while occasionally talking about rivers, rocks and the one child policy. What followed was the most intense and challenging 9 months of my life.

After my Teacher Training

I saw an advert for NQTs at a special school and thought why not? 

Have you ever walked into somewhere and felt at home, felt totally welcomed and comfortable? I have, only once and I still work there. I spent two days at the school after that visit before applying and getting the job. I had no experience or qualifications in SEN but was reassured by the Head that the children are so unique, I had to work there before any training or I would just be talking about stereotypes. 

While I was on my PGCE, there was a view that you need to move schools after 2 years and I totally see why. I ignored this advice and am now in my 9th year at Stone Bay. There is a nagging thought in the back of my head that I need to move on to progress into school leadership. 

I started as an NQT with lessons pitched too high, too low, with no idea about Autism, with no idea how to lead a team of LSA’s. However, I had a very confident and relaxed Head who allowed me to try things and didn't judge when those ideas were proved to be ridiculous. This confidence to make mistakes and grow as a teacher is a culture that cannot be overvalued. It is also one I fear is being lost on the quest for standardisation and outstanding grades. 

The issue I have with the idea that to be a better teacher and leader is to move schools constantly is that you never fully see the impact of your initiatives and ideas. It’s very easy to launch an idea like mindfulness or peer observations, to see everyone use it then leave for bigger things for it to be abandoned with all the energy effectively wasted. It is much harder to implement a meaningful change that has an impact over an extended period that then becomes embedded in the school’s practice. These take time and energy, leadership and passion but they are effective. I feel if you are not there for the whole process you can’t realise how effective well managed change and consistent approaches can be. 

So I have stayed and made a lot of mistakes, and consequently learnt a lot about myself and how organisations work. I still have self-doubts and the thought that others are better at their job than me, but that’s fine, they are my teachers and I want them to be better than me. 

My first foray into leadership, I was ICT subject leader mainly because I was the only one who could figure out the computer in the hall used for assemblies. The key stage manager then left so I applied and didn’t get it. But when it came up again a few months later, I was more focussed when I applied a second time and I got the job. 

The deputy head had coached me a bit for this suggesting I step up. I undertook an aspiring senior leader’s course and I produced a report about a project I had implemented that related to staff training in ICT and its impact on use. 

This was the hardest job I have done as it involved a lot of additional work and was very much a management position without the time to really lead anything. I had to deal with staffing issues and some very challenging students. I said yes to things I should have allowed and supported others to do. 

This pull between paperwork and teaching my class has been a struggle throughout my time as a middle leader. Everything became a compromise and I applied for a couple of jobs I didn’t really want. This period drew to a close though with a period of dramatic change for the school. I became acting Deputy Headteacher for 6 months as our entire senior leadership team changed. This period could be a blog all to itself. 

After our new Headteacher started when our Deputy Head left and I was promoted to a new role of Assistant Headteacher to undertake some of the responsibilities our Deputy had. The Head put us on the National Professional Qualification for Middle Leadership (NPQML) which I wish I’d done as key stage manager. 

I now work directly under the Headteacher with two colleagues. The effect of this more streamlined management structure has been dramatic particularly around communication between teachers and leaders. I have additional responsibility leading a team of 40 positive behaviour support instructors from 11 schools across the county which gives me the fantastic opportunity to collaborate with a range of schools including mainstream schools and respite providers.

I am currently undertaking the National Professional Qualification for Senior Leaders (NPQSL) and enjoying my current role. I don’t know what the future holds but does anyone working in education these days?

Read our recent post, 'RHS sow seeds of inspiration at Science Teach Meet'.

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