Right. When someone asks you to write about your #teachinghighlight (thank you @ictevangelist) the first thought is “Ooooh. Thank you. Erm…what have I enjoyed? No. Not humble enough. What challenges have I helped my students with?” This reaction surprised me. The teacher ‘put yourself second’ double-take is normal teaching behaviour. Most teachers are trained – or have trained themselves – to put themselves behind their students. Teaching is about the students. Not the teachers. But being asked for YOUR teaching highlight it almost seems somewhat contrived to then describe how you performed miracles for one of your students, doesn’t it? Well, I think so (and sorry to any of the other contributors as I thought it best to go into this with no bias). So. I am going to do the unthinkable. I am doing to tell you about what highlights teaching has given me.
(I know. I am nervous for me too…)
So. Short story short. I have had an incredible time as a teacher so far- between graduating from my PGCE course in 2002 and going on maternity leave/starting freelance and becoming an author and coach a few years ago – teaching has offers me incredible experiences. My story (almost) sounds made up… incredulous really rather than incredible (as you will see when you read this) but after much thought I think it is important to recognise the work teachers do and the life teaching can offer you. For many years, I have tried to keep my #teachinghighlights contained within my CV, but not really celebrated what a path in teaching can actually teach you. Teaching for me has been one of the key highlights of my life – including the rough with the smooth. I have travelled as a result of it and I have cried in cupboard-come-offices. I have met and shared fantastic experiences with both young people and adults, and then had the Sunday night blues. I have found solutions to bullying for students, and then been bullied in the staffroom (for some of the examples I am about to tell you about). Still, I really believe that teaching is the most amazing career choice that you can have. You might have to dust yourself off every now and again, or have a strong word with yourself, but there is good stuff there.
Therefore I have decided to open myself up for criticism (as a big-headed show off) and decided to share with you my #teachinghighlights in order to illustrate where the job can take you.
When I went for my first teaching position as an English NQT I (naively) asked if they also offered Media Studies, as I worked in advertising prior to this. They said no, but I could look at doing it if I wanted. So I did thinking ‘How nice of them to ‘offer’ me this?!’ It soon dawned on me what I had offered to do. To set up a new department in my first year of teaching. But I am a stubborn one.
So, within two years, I had the largest A Level department in the area (over 100 students) and was working on a range of things to challenge both the students and myself. This #teachinghighlight made me refer back to this time. I was fortunate enough that some of my students embraced not only their work, but I think I found a special place in their teenage years. (They made me a scrapbook of our times together when I left the school which is a clear sign that you’ve done something right!). Flicking through this now, I see all the things we did together as my energy as a new teacher went from strength to strength. It started with taking over a part of the English department (painting it bright blue and installing a suite of Macs in one room), to organising trips to a local recording studio to show them what ‘industry standard’ meant before my biggest challenge…a 5 day trip to Los Angeles. Yes. The L-blooming-A. For a school trip. I was in a lift with Gary Oldman. On a school trip. How about that for an incredulous #teachinghighlight?
Following this (and some great exam results which helped my credibility with SLT), my students and teaching colleagues put me forward for a Teaching Award in my first few years as a teacher. Not only was it amazing that the students and teachers wanted to celebrate what I did, it was a massive pat on the back for my work, and the support I had in school. I did not win the national award – and I take my hat off to those that do as they are really truly inspirational – but it led to me not only starting my current career of writing for a range of organisations (including the BBC), but it led to me meeting my next Principal on the dance floor, dancing drunkedly with my future husband to Bon Jovi (Yes, it was Living on A Prayer)…Which leads me to #3
I was asked to work at a new (Labour) Academy. I said I wanted to apply to be an AST and… I’d like some more Macs please. Incredibly/ incredulously, I got what I wanted. This in itself is a highlight for me. I had always wanted to stay in the classroom but wanted more involvement in school strategy at a leadership level. After some hard work and serious ring binder action, I became an AST. At the same time, and a bit of creativity, I worked the bejesus out of my budget. I partnered up with a high street photography business and was able to order CLASS SETS of cameras and camcorders. An absolute dream for a geek like me! I also got a technician (I still miss him), an office (BOOM) and a double height state of the art classroom to teach Media from Year 7 to Year 13. This was living my #teachingdream. But it got better…
South Africa. I kid you not. As part of the SLT, I was asked to go as part of the work we were doing with the British Council. It was incredible. I got to see how students were taught (by teachers smoking in doorways) and even had a chance to teach the students myself. A real privilege and pleasure. After this, I brought what I knew home – to teachers and students. It supported and encouraged my passion for a personalised approach in schools, but also illustrated how important relationships are in schools.
Note: What happened to muck it up? Well, me really. I managed to dislocate my knee and do in my ligaments during a ridiculous snowboarding accident (resulting in lots of time from school despite my Skype lessons) and (after getting married) I needed to relocate for my husband’s job. So, I moved away from the dream job and to two other schools as my life as a wife and then new mummy started to take priority.
I have had other #teachinghighlights. For example, I can still visualise the joy/surprise (linked with learning) on my students’ faces from years ago. I am still in touch with some of the students who have gone onto better things (but say their lives are impacted today by their schooling of yesterday). I can recall the conversations/enjoy the friendships I have had started in the staffroom and would say even the books that I have had published could be part of a #teachinghighlight as they look back on the things I managed to pull off in the classroom….BUT all of these things would take this blog into other areas.
And to conclude, I think that is why this post has taken up so much of my time; considering what to write about and which angle to come from has made this one of the hardest things I have had to write. As I see the flashing line before me, when you think of it, ‘teaching’ can have several highlights in a mere average lesson… several in an hour or a day…
I know that times are tough. I know that I only work part-time, but I still think that teaching is a personal and professional highlight for many of us. You get out what you put in they say, but I think I have got a lifetime of #highlights from my short time in the classroom… and in a life in LA…
The interesting thing is now although I work with schools and love my current roles (doing school improvement for Achievement for All and my TechnoTeachers work) I still think about those early days. I know that one day I will return to full-time work in schools and cannot wait. I hope I will see you there – and you won’t think that I am a big, fat show off.