This post is just a short personal reflection on the fact that it’s now five years since I left my last school. January 2017, my personal lowest point. Nobody had died – it wasn’t *that* bad – but the whole nightmare inspection scenario with all that comes before, during and after is so distorting; perspective is hard to find when you’re in the thick of it. To a great extent, I’ve put all that stuff behind me but I’d be lying if I said that I’d forgotten about it. On a recent podcast interview I did for the lovely More Than A Job team, they asked me about what happened and, to my surprise, I became quite emotional telling the story.. it still has that effect. (I capture more of this in an end of decade post: Ending the decade on a high. It’s been an education!)
Roll forward five years, I woke up this morning to see this:
I never take this stuff for granted so, yes, I was pretty chuffed! It’s a lovely way to kickstart the year and I’m pretty excited about what is to come. I’m booked up for school-based training until November, and with Walkthrus going well, Volume 3 nearing completion and various masterclasses events ready to go, I’m feeling nicely optimistic. I’ve found my groove, working within education, across multiple schools and colleges rather than one. I’m probably better at doing this work than anything else I’ve done before so it feels right, mixing working from home with travelling the country. I’ve enjoyed developing a new area of expertise around designing and embedding professional development and instructional coaching processes; working closely with Oliver Caviglioli and John Tomsett in this area is a real joy.
I wrote a blog post shortly before Covid struck about the differences I find working in different places – travelling around to see how different schools operate is endlessly fascinating. I love all the people you meet – hyper-enthusiastic Assistant Heads, deeply committed subject leads, charismatic teachers, the fiercely proud and courageous Headteachers. Our system is full of amazingly inspiring people and the most wonderful school communities. Every visit to Oldham College makes my heart sing – despite taking me four hours to get there; it’s just the most fabulously inclusive place, truly inspiring on many levels.
I wrote a short thread on twitter this week outlining five key variables that I detect when I visit schools. These are things that I’m struck by; things that I notice because the range is so wide. It gained some interest and a request to write…
So, yes, I’m partly writing this to make myself feel good – it’s been a journey and it takes a while to stop feeling that you’re recovering from something and you’re just getting on with life. I’ve come a good long way from the days when an AET Trust leader cancelled the booking they’d made for me to talk at a Heads’ conference because they didn’t think my presence – as a public failure – would be giving the right message. (Yup, still bitter! 😂). It’s fair to say that a legacy of that difficult few months is that I have almost zero capacity to put up with aggro from anyone. On twitter I block and mute liberally – one strike and you’re out; anything snide, snipey, rude, inviting critique from others.. I’m just not interested and my life is much happier for it. Do I miss those people? Not a bit. Do I shut down debate at times? Sure – but only with a few stranger souls, online where nuance and empathy are often lost. I debate ideas vigorously with real people in real life all the time.
I definitely miss lots of things about working in a school – all those fabulous relationships, the sense of community, teaching itself…., building a team. I feel this every time I visit somewhere new. However, I’m also well aware that after teaching for 30 years, my time was up. I did my bit and I think it’s good for the profession as a whole, that teaching can lead to other things that still make a difference – even if they’ll never make as much difference as a teacher does.
During 2022, I’ll be celebrating 10 years of blogging. I actually thought that I’d slow down on purpose last year but there was such huge demand during the Spring lockdown periods that I got swept up again with the nerdy drug of the stats! Over 1.2 million views last year – a record for me by far. However, this year I definitely intend to blog less myself and read and promote more of other people’s work. Just yesterday I initiated a new hashtag #edublogshare and already I think this has promise. I’ve committed to doing some kind of monthly roundup of things that capture my attention… keep me to it!
More and more I feel that a useful role I can play is to help to give a platform to other people. The main way I’ve done this recently is via the curriculum masterclasses – here are the lovely people who contributed last year; we have more events lined up in 2022. The appetite for curriculum talk is fabulous.. I’ll be looking out for more people to invite, always with a view to keeping the range of voices diverse and grounded in the challenges faced in state schools.
The other thing that I’m excited about this year is the Mind the Gap podcast that I do with Emma Turner. I’ve learned so much from her about primary education, teacher development and life in general! We didn’t know what we were doing at first but we’ve found a bit of a groove – a fortnightly 45 minute chat with some people we find interesting. We were enjoying doing way before we found that some episodes have had over 1000 listeners via all the podcast platforms. We had no idea that many people would listen – but thanks very much if you are one of them. Here it is if you’re interested..
Useful Learning with Efrat Furst, Mind the Gap, Ep. 54 (S3E10) – Mind the Gap: Making Education Work Across the Globe
- Useful Learning with Efrat Furst, Mind the Gap, Ep. 54 (S3E10)
- Education Data Wizardry with Richard Selfridge and James Pembroke, Mind the Gap, Ep. 53 (S3E9)
- Head to Head with Tom & Emma: A Year in Review, Mind the Gap, Ep. 52 (S3E8)
- Slow Teaching Strategies With Jamie Thom, Mind the Gap, Ep. 51 (S3E7)
- Theory In Practice with Amarbeer Singh Gill, Mind the Gap, Ep. 50 (S3E6)
So, five years on, things are good and hopefully I won’t feel a need to write this kind of post again. However, I still get regular messages from other people – usually Heads in MATs – who are in the process of being done over by our disgustingly cruel system of accountability by public humiliation. ( I have special level contempt for people who defend it). It’s horrible to see. My advice is always to take time to recover, to believe that there is life beyond; that it’s possible and important to find a place to work where you can be yourself without feeling constantly run into the ground. I’m well and truly out the other side now, looking forward to the next five years. Thanks to everyone who has supported me along the way – it means a great deal. I don’t have a school community or staffroom of my own but there are lots of people who go out of their way to make me feel part of theirs and that counts for a lot.