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“If Not for You, I Would have Quit Teaching” – A Letter to…My Endlessly Supportive Headteacher

"The words ‘learning is an adventure’ on your website were enough to start my teaching fire smoking again. And I have seen that you truly believe this – it's not just words on a page"

  • “If Not for You, I Would have Quit Teaching” – A Letter to…My Endlessly Supportive Headteacher

This is probably news to you, but before I joined this school my classroom cupboard was for crying in. Corridors were a dangerous highway to avoid at all costs. Observation feedback was a list of my personal faults with no constructive feedback. My ‘most recently dialled’ list always seemed to contain my union.

I came for an interview here with a fire in my belly, seeking promotion to head of year. I joined as a smiling, confident and – I’m told – calm leader. I don’t take the easy route. Instead, I find problems and my team and I come up with solutions.

I doubt you realise that if I hadn’t got the job with you, I would have left teaching by now. I wasn’t applying for jobs willy-nilly just to get out – why fight fire with fire? Instead, I was prepared to leave with nothing to go to while looking for job opportunities.

This was when I was captured by something on your website: ‘learning is an adventure’. That was it. My fire started smoking again, ember by ember.

Since joining, I have seen that you truly believe this – it’s not just words on a page. This only keeps adding fuel to my fire, reminding me day after day why I teach.

I know that the past couple of years have been tricky due to the infant and junior schools merging and the complications that stem from this.

However, I can say, hand on heart, that as a new member to this large team, I have no inkling of any remnants of misgivings. And this is because of your staff’s welcoming nature, professionalism and child-centred approach.

You all keep the focus on the children and are always on the lookout for opportunities for them outside of the classroom, making sure those who don’t necessarily get chances out of school get them within it.

It’s hard to arrange trips out and the endless paperwork can sometimes put people off organising them, but your staff share the desire to get the children out or invite people in to bring the curriculum to life. People always seem to offer to share the load.

While children are at the centre of what we do, you maintain a healthy focus on what the staff need: lieu days given for going on a residential; planning time on Insets; internal cover around report comment time; marking policy adaptations. Free weekly yoga classes are your newest addition.

Being a new head of year has been a great challenge and the reason for this is that you’ve trusted me to shift the culture in Y6 and supported decisions that I’ve made.

Members of SLT make the effort to seek me out and say well done, thank you or give me a hug for things I’ve done that don’t require such a response: a new display, a phone call with a parent, a new evening for families about SATs or a trip that’s been organised.

You don’t need to do this, but it makes me feel valued and like I’m on the right track.

I find it easier to want to make changes here because the school feels like a safe place to make mistakes. If an error is made, people hold their hands up, apologise and are supported to move forward.

Blame doesn’t lie at anyone’s feet, which makes admitting mistakes easier and leads to a more harmonious work life.

Having come from a school with a very different leadership style, this transparency and support seems unwavering and relentless.

When I marked differently to the expectations, there was no haranguing after a book scrutiny. Instead, we chatted through the books, talking about what feedback is expected. My views were listened to and discussed.

The team I work with underpins everything. They are supportive, without being obsequious; they challenge things, without being challenging; they are energetic and creative, without being distracted.

Put simply, they love teaching – as, once more, do I.

Leah Wright is Y6 leader at a primary school in Brighton. Find her at leahlists.co.uk and follow her on Twitter at @leah_moo.

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