It’s the final Sunday of the summer holiday and the day before the first day at a new school.
As the prospect of a 6am wake up gets ever closer, I’m finding myself asking myself if I’m really ready for a new school. Am I ready to start all over again?
Until this summer, I hadn’t realised how much working at Wellington had worn me out and shut me off. Don’t get me wrong, I really loved working there (OK, I did moan about it from time to time, but we’re supposed to moan about work, aren’t we?) but this past year was hard. And I mean REALLY hard! I was exhausted physically and mentally. But also as a teacher: I felt that I was all taught out. I was beginning to wonder if I had lost my creativity and imagination as a lesson planner as all my lessons seemed so ‘samey’ towards the end. And the cycle of self blame and criticism that followed that probably put even more pressure on, making it near impossible to refind my way of teaching.
As the summer approached, I knew I needed a break, but I didn’t realise that it wasn’t just the chance to sleep in and see my friends that was needed. It was a break from teaching and thinking about teaching which was really the cure for my weary and befuddled brain. So, on returning from the Commonwealth Games I did no work. I withdrew from Twitter and put off seeing some of my teacher friends for a little while. I read books for pleasure; I watched TV; I went to town and didn’t shop for resources; I saw my husband. And this time around it took longer than usual for me to feel any sort of guilt about not working or even thinking about work and that really did me good. Until that moment I was totally unaware of exactly how much I had given to Wellington and how little that had left me with. (It also made me feel a huge amount of respect & admiration for specific colleagues who gave so much more than I did. How on earth were they still standing come August?)
With every part of me recharged, I finally felt ready to return to the world of teaching. This time I wanted to plan lessons and I wanted to create resources. I wanted to be a teacher. I felt like the old me again.
So with new diary, stationary & school bag ready for tomorrow I’m left with the two most vital questions for the first day in a new school:
- Will I be any good in my new school & new role?
- What will I wear for tomorrow’s INSET?
Surprisingly, I’m more worried about the second question! I’ve finally decided to listen to my own advice for a change. I’ve spent many months listening to and talking with my last Head of Faculty and recently a large part of that was reminding her that it’s very difficult to walk into a new job in a new school and immediately make everything the way you want it. It takes time to embed change and you need to learn the school, students & department before you make massive changes. OK, I’m only walking into a 2 i/c role so I won’t be making the same type of decisions, but the principle is the same: I don’t have to immediately make changes or be the best second the department has ever seen! I can take my time: get to know the department & key stage I’m responsible for and then I can start to fully stretch myself in my new role.
I have given myself a simple action plan for the first 8 weeks of the school year and my first 8 weeks as a second in department:
- at least one KS3 learning walk
- audit schemes of work
- get pupil feedback from Y8 & 9
- find out everyone’s thoughts on the KS3 curriculum.
I know other things will crop up and I know that things rarely go to plan, but I feel that this is a doable action plan for my first steps in a new role. I don’t feel that there is a rush to be brilliant. My new department isn’t failing and striving for improvements neither is it outstanding and constantly feeling the pressure to maintain such an impossible title, something akin to nailing jelly to the wall, I feel. This is a good department which seems to be making slow and steady improvements, happy to try ideas and give them time to embed.
This doesn’t mean that I’m not nervous and a little bit scared for tomorrow. I know myself well enough to have thought of all the possible mistakes I may make on my first day or stupid things I might do / say. The little voice of doubt in my brain has been quite active these last two days, but I don’t think I’m listening to it as much as I used to. Is it possible I’m growing up and maturing? God, I hope not!
I’ve already accepted that I’ll make mistakes and that I will need help over the next 8 weeks, the first half term is always the hardest! But I’ve definitely become a lot better at asking for help over the last year. But the thing that makes me the most worried for tomorrow is that I won’t be working with my old department. I’d only worked with them for a year (some a little more, some a little less), but I’d never worked with a department like the one at Wellington before. They were amazing! Yeah, there were ups and downs and we all had moments when we considered jacking it all in, but I think that’s standard practice in a school going through turbulent times. But I do genuinely have so much admiration and respect for them: I have never bonded with a department as much as I did with the one I left behind. And that makes changing schools hard: will I find the same support network; same sense of humour; same level of inspiration and same strength of friendships?
But it’s that final point which means it doesn’t matter whether I do or not. My colleagues are now my friends and this means that they’ll always be there as a support network or for a giggle or to inspire regardless of where we work. And if I’m really lucky I’ll be walking in to a department that’s half as good as the one I left (and so far, all signs seem to point that way).
So, with the first ‘get-up’ of 2014/15 about 12 hours away (jeez that sounds way too close!), I can confidently say…
I think I’ll be OK.