As I came towards the end of my third year of teaching I was left with a decision to make. Do I continue where I was happy, comfortable, had promotion prospects or do I challenge myself, try somewhere different, a new challenge? To give some context I am/was a mathematics teacher in a large secondary academy in the Midlands. I had extra responsibilities within the academy’s sixth form and I had made a positive impact on applicants to good universities whilst I was there. It was a tough school and was in special measures for the majority of the time I was there. The pressure on a daily basis was relentless and most of my time was taken up with marking, planning (including writing lesson plans for every lesson) and offering after school support to students. I accept that these are part of the teacher’s role, however the amount of scrutiny that occurred left me feeling that I could not do my job as a professional. I also know that the reason the academy persevered with the constant monitoring was because it was feeling the pressure to perform from the top – from the sponsor, the parents, the Department for Education, OFSTED, etc. Is writing a learning objective and success criteria on a board really necessary for learning to happen? I was only ever given a title when I was at school and I managed to cope. I think effectively I was left with the decision to continue to comply with all these expectations or look elsewhere. I also had to decide what was best for me with regards to a future, did I want to continue to chase promotions or did I want to be ambitious in a different manner?
In May this year, I went for and gained a job in a new school starting in September. It is a much smaller school, it achieves excellent results and probably most significant, is in a different sector. I feel I have an eclectic mix of educational experience. I was privately educated, trained in a grammar school, then a large state school, which is where I spent three years working. It is my opinion that I am in a position to compare and contrast the difference in styles of education as I have relevant experience and can see the advantages of each of them. In my new job I have relinquished my extra responsibilities and will be “just” a teacher of mathematics. However I know I will hardly “just’ be a teacher of mathematics. There are different types of challenges and responsibilities in my new school. Results will become even more important in a way, not for the government but for the parents. I will be expected to work longer, mark more, but (hopefully) scrutinised less on a day-to-day basis. I will be more trusted as a professional to do my job. The style of teaching will not matter as much. I will not have to produce all singing and dancing lessons just to grab students’ attentions. The ethos will be different, the culture of the school will be different. Students will want to succeed more, the expectations will generally be higher.
Another point to consider was what I wanted to do with my career. In July I went for an interview to start a Doctorate in Education. I had recently completed my Masters degree and again found it was time to choose between chasing promotions or taking a step back, concentrating on teaching and my further education. At the minute I have ambitions to be a senior leader one day, but it takes time. I decided to concentrate on my academics rather than continue to pursue promotions. If a promotion opportunity appears in my new school I would consider it carefully. However having seen what is demanded of middle and senior leaders in my last school I would hesitate. I am a firm believer of living my life now. I love to play hockey, but I could barely train last year because my evenings were taken up with tasks that ultimately had to be done to please somebody else. I enjoy the academic side of education, I read blogs, journal and newspaper articles, engage in social media to find out what other people think. The higher up the ladder I go the less time I would actually have to do all of them. Does it matter if it takes another ten years to gain a promotion I could have had in five? If so why are good teachers being rushed in to leadership positions when they have no previous leadership experience and are supposedly the best teachers? Should they not be teaching more? These are questions for another blog, but certainly worth thinking about.
Essentially I want to be honest in my blogs, I want to offer a perspective that might be slightly different to others and would love to read and listen to what others think. I am excited about my new role in September, I can get back to doing a job I love and be respected for doing it. Could I have said that if I was returning to my old academy? Probably not. Most importantly, whose fault is that?