Sunday 10 September 2017

Why every teacher should work in an outstanding school (Week 1)

Tales of The Undercover Teacher

Our undercover teacher spills the beans on why it’s fulfilling to finally be in an outstanding school

Back in 2007, as many of us do, I changed career and trained to be a teacher. Nothing new there. Waving goodbye to the hospitality sector and embarking on my new adventure I asked myself, "what’s the difference between running an outstanding school and running an outstanding business?" It's been an interesting journey and one that has led me to the conclusion that, fundamentally, they are both the same.

In the last eight years, my training has taken me to some tough but performing schools in the centre of Birmingham, a grammar school in Warwickshire, a town school and sixth form college in Stratford Upon Avon, and a city centre school with 57 spoken languages in one of the poorest parts of Oxford. In recent years I moved to one of the biggest schools in the country in leafy Surrey and, this week, I joined my first ‘Outstanding’ school, in West Sussex.

When I visited the school it was love at first sight. And my first weeks have been the most motivating and exciting ones in my relatively short teaching career to date. This is not me sucking up – don’t forget I’m undercover, right?

An hour into our inset day last week and I already felt completely at home here. Somewhat stretched and challenged, of course, but this was largely down to getting to grips with the school’s technology, the unfamiliar processes and systems that the school has evolved over time.

What has really impressed me is how every part of the induction process has been carefully thought about, with my training continuing all the way up to Christmas. Everything has been established for a reason, and in doing so has taken away the stress, angst and frustration often created from a lack of time, process, capacity and technology.

Moreover, everyone here appears to be leading on something and is actively encouraged to do so. Not just SLT, but students from years 7-13, teachers and support staff all seem to happily take on extra roles and projects that will benefit the school. The combined effect creates a happy, unified community. It’s not perfect, of course, but the difference is tangible.  

I feel inspired to do more, to seek out and propose ways that I can contribute to this special place, and potentially lead in areas of my own particular expertise (if I told you what they were though, my cover might be blown. Let me remain mysterious, for now).

Already this new culture, both encouraging and supportive, is metaphorically cheering me on to offer more. And shouldn't everyone in a school community - or any community for that matter - feel that they can and should contribute something special? So far, I’m one happy teacher. See? They do exist!

('The Undercover Teacher's' first reflective practice blog post from this outstanding school is dedicated to my wife for waking me up this morning at 4.38am! I guess that truly tells you how very exciting its all been)

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