It is the start of the year, and there’s a lot of new initiatives, new visions, new ways of doing things; not to mention new leaked government documents on new approaches to behaviour practice in schools
A friend of mine who had been teaching for 11years in leadership positions unfortunately left education last year; one of so many. I asked her, if you could hear one thing at the start of the academic year that would make a difference, what would it have been? She didn’t pause:
“I wish someone would have told me that I don’t have to achieve everything in the first week.”
In this blog I give you a big permission slip: take your time to learn, build important new relationships and get to know your pupils, so that you can create long-lasting impact on our young people, their learning and our society.
At the start of your year you have most likely been in meetings, had notices, emails, staff briefings – about the new marking policy/ofsted-friendly data system/behaviour policy/uniform that all link to the school improvement plan. These are, of course, important for developing your school in a positive direction for your current cohort.
However, if we’re not careful these well-meaning changes can put unnecessary pressure on our staff to get everything done immediately, and as my Nana used to say:
“it can’t all happen yesterday”
We can take the time to learn those 323 new names (if you’re an Art teacher in a large mainstream secondary).
Displays: Just put the backing up.
One year, I did this using some old sari material and left the rest plain. As each class entered, I showed them their board. It was where their best work was going to be proudly displayed – I was giving them ownership of the learning environment. For more ideas on this see my blog Open the Window.
Relationships with pupils: These, like any relationships, take time – and that’s how it should be. The overfamiliar teacher, or generalised assumptions of pupils based on their PP/EAL/SEND/SEMH/HA labels, (or worse, something you heard from another teacher in the staffroom about a pupil) can easily undo the tender process of building genuine relationships. This is especially key with our students with behaviour challenges or Social Emotional and Mental Health Issues. For more on this take a look at my vloggy-blog First Encounters.
Leadership: You will not be the leader today that you will be by the end of the year/next year/in 5 years. We grow into those roles and trying to fore-feed this process (much like force-grown vegetables) is not healthy. We can ask for support and mentorship. Those who put the self-expectation pressure on to know everything as a leader, will fall short and distance themselves from staff (Brene Brown’s Daring to be Vulnerable is an inspirational read on this topic).
So here’s the permission slip:
Enjoy each day, each up and down as it unfolds.
You’re allowed to.