Moving on…Posted: July 9, 2014
This blog has been a while in the writing. Back in March I secured a promotion to Head of English at a new school. I didn’t want to publish the blog yet because I wanted to keep the news secure for a while; I doubt any of my students read my blog or follow my twitter, but luck would always have it, that if I did announce it then I would be met with the questions of my leaving and potentially my power within the classroom becomes untenable.
It’s a great move for many reasons. I have felt for the past 18 months (maybe more) that my career has been at a crossroads. Like many things in life, for me teaching has always been about confidence. When I was completing my PGCE, I felt confident. I was getting positive feedback from tutors and mentors and by the end I was thriving in the role; this led to me getting a really good job in a really good school. But from then it was down to earth with a bang.
I know every trainee teacher thinks they have done well and then falls hard; I have worked with student teachers myself and seen how they proclaim how the job is really easy, knowing myself that they will be in for a shock. But for me the fall was harder. I was well supported by most of the school in my first year but the expectations were high. Just after Christmas, after a long slogging term, I was told I was nearly failing (this wasn’t actually the truth, the whole school NQT coordinator confirmed this to me, it was simply an attempt by other members of staff to get me to sort myself out). I pulled myself through the first year but by the time I got to Christmas of my second year (even though we had a new regime in the department that was much more nurturing) I was done.
Come December I had applied for a job outside of teaching but luck would have it, I didn’t hear back. It got better. I was no longer failing; I was ‘satisfactory’. The second year turned into the third and I was ‘elements of good’. As I moved towards my third year I was feeling comfortable and more confident; around that time I took on responsibility as Head of Media. Fast forward to about 18 months ago and I was a confident teacher. I was well respected in the school and had a number of roles (Media; Assistant Head of Year). I started looking around for new challenges.
From the start of my career I had always been interested in the pastoral side. A lot of people have told me along the way that you have to pick a side. I don’t think that is true; for the past four years I have been Head of Media and Assistant Head of Year (both academic and pastoral). I have worked with a great Head of Year that showed me the delights of working with young people in that position; it was easy for me to see myself in that role. I also think it was a confidence thing again. I haven’t always been the most secure in my ‘English skills’. I remember on my first interview (for a job I am so grateful I didn’t get) being pulled apart because I didn’t have an English degree. I have always worked with other teachers in the department that have been much stronger subject specialists than me. However, as I have moved through the years my judgements have got better, thus raising my self belief. This year I took on the role of coordinating Key Stage 4 within the department and got my first ‘outstanding’ judgement. As I looked around more for jobs I started to wonder whether I could lead a department. I also came to understand that the Head of Department doesn’t have to be the strongest specialist in the department; they are the manager and coordinator and I felt I could now do this.
Other things have changed in my life as well. I am now a father. When I started to look around for jobs, it wasn’t all about the position, location also became a factor. I wanted to be closer to home to make the drive less arduous and the work life balance more manageable. Even though I was still looking at Head of Year jobs, I started to feel I could consider Head of Department as well.
And that was it: the perfect job came up. A Head of English role in a small school on the way up. When I applied for it I didn’t think I had a chance; which was confounded by the fact they took a bit longer than most jobs to shortlist. When I turned up on the day I was the only candidate (which I think always helps; my current job was the same) and I felt I could make the school home. I know that the hard work begins in September but with only 15 minutes to drive I think life will be more balanced as well as having the new challenge that I have been craving for a while.
I am going to be sad to leave where I am now. I have been there 8 years. When I arrived I was single and carefree; now I have been married 5 years and have a son. I have spent more years there than I have at any other institution (one year more than at school). I feel I have grown up and most importantly, made loads of friends. It will be hard to leave a place with so many memories. It will also be sad to leave the students; my Year 10s in particular who have worked really well this year.
Going back to the emerging theme of this post: the school has given me the confidence to know I am a strong teacher who can share their ideas with colleagues, and this is something I aim to continue in my new role.