Wow… One hell of a year

I find this difficult to write.

My Low Points

I can’t easily discuss low points, just because. I am proud of three things: that I stood up for my colleagues’ economic welfare, that I took a principled stand on my pupils’ wellbeing and, despite a voice in my head saying “Why would they ever want a nobody like you?” became a trustee of the College of Teaching.

Five years after I made my decision to enter teaching, I sometimes wonder if I have sabotaged my own career. I’m very spiky – most of the time manically happy and collaborative, but sometimes in despair and extremely cynical. I try to keep these latter moments to myself. That’s when the black dog appears in my Twitter feed. I try to keep my eye on the highlights, my heroes and the horizon.

My highlights: 

  • seeing a group of pupils through the 11+ selection process with their heads held high (by no means a certainty at the outset) and watching their huge personal growth, sometimes with tears in my eyes at the enormous steps they chose to take; 
  • marching with a colleague alongside the trans teenagers and their families with Gendered Intelligence at Pride in London (could I use any more prepositions?)
  • teaching at a school in special measures, at which I encountered equally sparkling minds and beautiful personalities; 
  • working with and learning from some great colleagues, of whom I will single out five (below);
  • becoming a founding trustee of the College of Teaching, because it forces me to do something about our profession rather than just fretting about it. 

My heroes:

  • Toby Brothers, an extraordinary woman who seduces pupils, for whom she has uncompromisingly high expectations, into loving learning and literature (me included, as she taught me to love Ulyssses and complete it after thirty years of trying.)
  • Julie Pakbaz, a teacher who had no financial need to teach but did it because it was important. Sharp, bright, endlessly supportive, far younger than me and far more grown up, she challenged me and challenged our pupils to be our disciplined best selves.
  • Cindy Harnett, my assistant head, with whom I developed an immediate professional rapport and who, like Julie and Toby, both taught alongside me and taught me to be the best I could be.
  • Vicky McDowell, my fellow trustee, who offered me strength through vulnerability, wisdom in her quiet words and thoughts, and a sudden, unquestioning friendship
  • Steve Davy, Year 4 teacher at the Wroxham School, whose manic, amazing mind matches mine and then marches way beyond, forcing me to laugh and run behind him, picking up the ideas he scatters as he goes. We’ve drunk too much, sworn undying love on the Northern Line, swigged strong coffees and thought up wild ways to teach. Even my wife thinks he’s extraordinary, and she’s not easily impressed.

The Horizon

My goals for 2016 are to:

  • allow time to care for my wife and family, usually bottom of the pecking order;
  • take my personal health and welfare seriously: I am 52, rapidly gaining weight, doing no exercise and not at all happy with it. I have to get serious and make it sustainable;
  • have a fabulous and successful time with my Year 4 class (my first step outside Year 6) – again, in a sustainable way;
  • do whatever I can, and whatever I am called to do, in pursuit of the successful establishment of our College of Teaching;
  • learn German, just because.

See you on the other side x

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