The road to teaching..

reading time 3 minutes 30s

I absolutely hated school…

One of the wonderful things about the teaching profession, is that there are so many different ways to approach it and to work in it, and there are so many interesting stories of how different people with different backgrounds and experiences came to be educators. For me, it has been a slow and slightly winding road to realising that I want to be a teacher and to deciding that I wanted to apply.

As a student at secondary school in the south west of England, I absolutely hated school and almost everything about it. It was difficult for me to answer the question in my School Direct interviews about ‘a teacher who inspired me when I was young‘, because I honestly can’t think of one. While I had teachers who were kind and supportive and whom I liked, I didn’t come into contact with many who seemed to have a genuine love of their subject.

I always felt at home and more relaxed in Art, more challenged and excited in Science, but the English classrooms were never “home” to me. I always had at least one book in my bag that I was reading for pleasure and could be regularly found annoying the librarian by requesting more books. The only inspiring English teacher that I’ve ever had was my mum.

My mum very clearly loved her job, teaching secondary English at several comprehensives around Weston-super-Mare, she was always very open about how difficult teaching is and how much she gave to her profession. She would give me reading lists and push my reading further and when she saw that I loved Jane Eyre when I was 13 she made sure to give me Wide Sargasso Sea so that I could see both sides of the story.

When my GCSE English teacher didn’t read Romeo and Juliet with us, my mum gave me a copy and showed me the Zeffirelli film to compare with the Luhrmann version.
Thanks to her, I read English Literature at University, but I wanted to experience a world outside education and so after my Master’s degree in Art History, I chose to work in museums and art galleries.

Ostensibly always searching for curating jobs, the experiences I most enjoyed were those involved in art education. I loved to ask children their opinions and ideas of art works and to hear their unique responses and viewpoints, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, but always given without the sense of self-consciousness that somehow develops in adults when they are asked their opinion on art.

I loved to talk to adults about this and to try to give them the opportunity talk more openly about their ideas and understanding. When it came to art – it’s always been my belief that this is where real discussion and dialogue comes from. While this aspect of my job was wonderful, I found it harder to accept the more corporate side and wanting to travel, I decided that teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) abroad would be a good combination.

I never expected for this to be the next adventure in my life..

My time teaching English in Japan was an incredibly eye-opening and rewarding experience; sometimes it was amazing, sometimes it was difficult, but I loved that I was constantly learning. I knew that I would love traveling and that I would learn a lot from it, but I was shocked to discover that what I loved the most was teaching and the people that I learned the most from, were my students. I can talk for a very, very long time about how wonderful my students were and how privileged I felt to have been able to be a small part of their lives for 3 years. I can honestly say that they were amazing people and just being around them gave me such great hope for the future.

I never expected for this to be the next adventure in my life. I am so excited to start my ITT in September and to get back in the classroom. I now know that it’s the one place I want to be.

Sophie Midgley, trainee teacher, English

Aspiring Leaders

Aspiring Leaders – The Next Generation

Leadership is not a rank. Leadership is a choice.

(Simon Sinek Leaders Eat Last – 2013).

We have recently had the privilege of hosting an Aspiring Leaders’ Conference on behalf of University of Worcester with the primary aim of reflecting on how to develop leadership characteristics and qualities in the first years of teaching. With a room packed full of PGCE/School Direct trainees who had applied to attend the training, expectations were high that  this would be an exciting day. Second to that, was the opportunity to meet a wide range of leaders within our school context; to hear stories and experiences of how different staff members progressed into ‘Leadership’.

As part of this day, our ‘aspiring leaders’ explored well-researched and evidence based leadership behaviours, habits and competencies that contribute to superior performance in all areas of the profession. For me, as a new Assistant Headteacher, the experience had the added benefit of giving a personal opportunity to reflect on key characteristics that any ‘aspiring leader’ should aim to instil in their professional life. By the end of the session, leaders from across the school had shared their words and wisdom and as a group, had highlighted the importance of the following traits (a non-exhaustive list!)

Don’t forget the ‘why’!

As Simon Sinek argues:

Every single person, every single organisation on the planet knows what they do, 100 percent. Some know how they do it … But very, very few people or organisations know why they do what they do. And by “why” I don’t mean “to make a profit.” … By “why” I mean: What’s your purpose?What’s your cause? What’s your belief? Why does your organisation exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care?

Teachers care. It is part of the key attributes that make a teacher in that we all have a common purpose and understanding of ‘why’ we get up in the morning; the children we teach, help and support. At the heart of effective leadership has to be a sole focus on improving the educational experiences and outcomes for the children we teach. It’s all about impact. Everything we do, for the effective leader, has impact at the heart of it.

What is your why and how do you share that with your colleagues?

‘Set out your stall’

Above all else, our next leaders will be those establishing themselves in their classrooms now. Effective leadership begins, and continues, in the classroom. Visible leadership, that which pupils and parents and staff comment on, is long-lasting and develops a professional reputation no matter what stage of your career.

For any aspiring leader, opportunities need to be embraced, expected behaviour needs to be modelled constantly, and the ‘setting out of your stall’ and what you stand for starts from day one.

When your pupils go home after school – how will they describe the learning in your classroom?

Get things done!

Teachers, even the best leaders, will face times when an overwhelming sense of ‘stuff’ that needs to happen just won’t get done. There is never a ‘quiet time’ of the year anymore. Exam groups may go but teaching staff are constantly moving on to the next cohort, looking for ways to develop intervention and/or support work. Procrastination is the enemy of the effective leader.

Sometimes difficult decisions need to be made. Avoiding them, ignoring them or trying to divert them may buy time but will lead to greater problems.

The effective leader gets things done. They use their team, rather than dictating or trying to do other people’s jobs. They inspire and motivate and build teams that achieve, whether in the classroom, department or school wide.

How can you plan ahead and learn to prioritise?

Never stop learning

As teachers, we constantly emphasise the importance of learning. We expect pupils to reflect, review and amend in order to improve and progress. We need to expect the same from ourselves. Leadership requires experience. Not in terms of years of dedicated ‘service’ but in terms of facing a variety of situations. Effective leaders will take all of these situations and review what worked, what needs improvement and what could be done differently next time. Above all else, our new teachers need to embrace failure on their path to leadership.

When will you build in time to reflect?

Leading takes time

There is no one path, no one route, no fixed journey into ‘leadership’. Gone are the days when teachers specialise in one area. We all take responsibility for data, teaching and learning, pastoral support, vulnerable groups. The best leaders will experience different aspects of school life and develop their skills based on this.

How will you develop your skill set and address any areas of weakness?

You are never going to be ‘ready for it’!

In the midst of a rapidly changing educational and policy landscape, and with more demands on schools than ever, surely now is not the time to be promoting leadership to colleagues so early on in their career?

Nothing could be further from the truth. It is because of these demands and changing landscape that exceptional, driven and determined leaders are required by schools more than ever.

As a member of a Senior Leadership team, succession planning is essential for ensuring the continual development of department areas, management models and leadership capacity. Succession planning is increasingly being used to support bespoke CPD models, that support and challenge aspirational and able staff.

It is comforting that, despite controversy over teacher recruitment, education policy and political upheavals of this year, our new cohort of teachers are not perturbed and are ready to embrace a leadership journey with a passion for learning and excellence at the heart of all they do. Our children and our schools are in safe hands!

 

Amy Page
Assistant Head, Studley High School
ITT Lead