After the reception of my first blog post on Teaching Leaders, I have received the email I was hoping wouldn’t come asking, “Can you write another???” The feelings of dread fill my stomach. Being a PE teacher, writing is not something I would say I’m particularly good at; however, after two cups of coffee I’m going to give you a summary and reflection of my Teaching Leaders journey so far. I hope some of this will resonate with you and give you some solace on your own journeys.
As we are always reminded, let’s start with the WHY. Why am I here as a teacher, a high potential leader (teaching leaders words, not mine I promise), and a Teaching Leaders fellow? I’ve rehearsed what I’d say a thousand times and each time there are some key themes, with the focal point being to make a difference. A difference to all young people that I can reach through the various different roles that I have; whether that is providing CPD in school, leading a team of excellent teachers and teacher coaches or providing support to trainee teachers through my role as a Specialist Leader in Education. It’s clear to see my role is not a traditional middle leader’s role, yet the ‘why’ is always the same: to provide all students, regardless of their context, high quality learning experiences that are tailored to their needs.
So as my Hero’s journey begins I find myself surprisingly bright eyed and bushy tailed after a full day of teaching, as I arrived in glorious York for the catch up residential in September. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t excited, but I also had no idea what to expect. It seems such a long time ago, but it is only just in double figures when ticking off the weeks until the summer holidays (admit it, we all do it). 13 weeks on, as the ringing in my ears from the motivational talks, (delivered by the amazing Geoff Barton (@RealGeoffBarton), Phyllida Hancock and Dominic from the Shakespeare’s School Festival), has all but faded completely, I feel I have achieved a lot. Even considering the barriers such as Saturdays being lost, evenings being ruined and a platform that just doesn’t like me (apparently save and submit are way to close together), the course has had a profound effect on my leadership capacity. I’m sure I can be forgiven for highlighting the demands this course has upon your free time, but it’s only when you step back you can see the effect it has.
As the weeks go by there have been several evening sessions focussed on helping you become a middle leader with impact. On reflection these nights have two functions: firstly, to provide us with the skills succeed and secondly, to reaffirm that we already have and use these skills. Further to this, and probably more importantly, the network of fellows allows us to really challenge and support each other. It’s this network that has given the rigour to each action I take. Having challenging conversations about your views, actions and your beliefs makes you reflect. With regards to my impact initiative, one conversation with Richard and Claire (@bristol_teacher), allowed me to view things with a completely different standpoint and revise the way I approached my project.
Ian (@ianand64), my coach, has been the most important factor in allowing me to really assess where I’m going, how I’m going to do that and more importantly grounding it in the WHY I’m doing it. These sessions are two hours long and pass in seconds, yet I gain so much from them. Having come from a coaching background before teaching I know I challenge Ian and have occasionally swapped roles (by accident), but the effort and thought that goes into these sessions is really evident. It’s hard for me to put into words how productive they are.
The course also requires you to give back, and it’s this that I have found to be quite enjoyable. The opportunity for me to work with Teach First students in my role at my school and as an SLE was combined with my role as a 2015 Fellow. As I described it to budding educationalists, it is this self-affirmation of the impact my initiative is having which kicks me on when I feel like I’m getting bogged down. Alongside this, I’m sure that having Amy (@amybirts) and Abbe (@abbeelistontl) there to entertain me also helps. At this point it would be prudent to mention the support you get from the south west PEM’s, Yolly and Sajidah; they truly know how to dig me out of a hole. If I’m going to name drop I also can’t leave out the infectious enthusiasm of Thora (@thoraeberts), who always knows how to make me smile on our Saturday activities.
As the term has developed, I feel I have too. The response I’m getting from colleagues suggests that I am proving the trust placed in me by my SLT was worthwhile and this was confirmed by my appointment as an SLE. I hope this will be the catalyst for change that the Academy needs, considering its challenging circumstances.
So far I have managed to leave out any sporting clichés, and being a teacher of PE this has been a real struggle; however, I’m going to draw a close to my blog post with direct reference to the New Zealand All Blacks. Over the summer I managed to read and, yes, finish a book. That book was Legacy by James Kerr. It has left me with food for thought; 15 tasty morsels to be exact. They are ever present in what I do, with two of them being extremely prominent: 1, Champions Do Extra, and 2, Leave the Jersey in a Better Place. I feel as a leader I have the responsibility of doing whatever I can to ensure the pupils I influence have the best opportunities to be successful; my ‘jersey’ as a teacher is every pupil. Each pupil I have impact upon must have moved forward in their journey, so when I leave them (or they leave me) they are in a better place. I hope these rules will allow me to succeed like the first and reigning back-to-back Rugby World Cup Champions.