Mr French biscuits, or Friscuits, as some Y10s named them. One of the amazing leaving gifts from my last school.
If the shoe fits …
On the 1st September I’ll start a new job. After three years as a Head of Department I realised that it was no longer a role which I really wanted: that job had come up, rather surprisingly, and I – with little experience – managed to get it. But it ended up being something that I didn’t want to do. Well, either that or I didn’t really understand the role in the first place. There are so many things that I would do differently now, whether entirely or slightly, strategically or personally, as a HOD or as a classroom teacher. Ah, hindsight. Yet through failures and successes I’ve learned so much, and can at least be proud that I’ve always tried to be an umbrella.
I almost left my previous school in 2014, but couldn’t quite find something that was right. I see now that I was also not sure what I wanted. That September, however, I knew that I needed to leave, especially after being told that the school was to take an ‘unashamedly corporate approach.’ Doug Lemov writes here about what he calls strategic choice which he explains as:
the process of both teachers and school choosing each other explicitly based in part on shared mission and a set of core beliefs — is our work measurable? Does knowledge matter? How important is writing? How much orderliness is required? Do we care how classrooms are arranged? Do we care what books teachers choose to read? Do we care how they read them? When schools are explicit about these things, and seek likeminded teachers who want to be “good” by the same definition, the prime beneficiaries are often the teachers themselves.
This time last year I realised that I no longer shared the vision of the school. Let me be clear: this is no criticism of my previous employers – I wish them and all their students success – but merely a reality.
Hmm – merely a reality.
So, fast-forward a year and I am about to begin a new, exciting role.
There were a few things to say at the farewell staff meeting, but I couldn’t manage it. When Tom, my stalwart best-friend of the past three years, handed me a Newcastle United shirt with French 9 on the back (despite me swearing I’d never wear the shirt with W***a on the front) I broke down. He also handed this voting slip to all staff with #invisiblelearning being a running joke between us:
I’ll miss him, the staff as a whole, the students, coaching Y7 … If you’ve moved school, as I’ve done three times now, you know what I mean. The time was right, though.
I moved house just before the end of the summer term. Weirdly I’ve ended up back in the town I went to school in, just fifteen minutes from the farm where I grew up. I’ve spent the summer reading history and reacquainting myself with beautiful Dartmoor, in particular Holne Moor. Given that I moved house at the end of July I (rightly) neglected social media and it’s now time to address a few things.
Firstly, if you’ve left me a comment, emailed or tweeted me or written a blog in response to something I’ve written then I will get back to you.
Secondly, the response to what was a flurry of blogs from me during June and July was amazing. I am so thankful to every person who offered any kind of praise or criticism. I don’t claim to have any answers and I do try to be a little controversial at times. This whole blog is my attempt to put what I’ve been thinking into words if only to check whether I’m making any sense. Every comment, even if those that completely disagree with me, is mulled over.
Lastly, Tom’s voting slip above was only a slight joke. Along with Helena Marsh, Bansi Kara and David Didau I was nominated as Blogger of the Year by Harry Fletcher-Wood. I’ve not publicly thanked either Harry or Schools Week yet – here it is: thank you! I realise that there are now higher expectations and so I promise to write no more self-indulgent pieces for a while: there are far too many Is for my liking here!
So, new blogs coming soon, though none about some guy called Jeremy Corbyn who seems to be all over my Twitter feed. There will, however, probably be more analogy, more subtleties, more controversial titles and more on history teaching now that the History Echo Chamber has been set up. I’ll try my utmost to get something out each week, though starting a new school might affect this. I’ll also still write at staffrm, though not as much as this time last year.
I wish everyone who reads this a great year and I’ll hopefully get to meet a few more of you in the coming months.