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Each new school year comes with a mix of excitement and anxiety, especially if you're stepping into a new role, starting at a new school, or, like Susan Strachan, both...
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This summer I’ve not made life easy for myself! We’re mid house extension (which is messy and dusty), I’ve looked after my sister’s 3-year-old and 6-month-old while she returned to work for part of the summer, and I have the prospect of starting at a new school coming up in September.
I’m not complaining, I’ve also been out for lunch a lot, met friends and caught up with them, and read a lot – so it isn’t all bad. But it does mean I haven’t exactly allowed myself a nice relaxing break!
I don’t think any of the above would have made much difference this year anyway, because wherever I am and whatever I’m doing my mind isn’t switching off at the moment.
I’m moving to become a Head of Department, and while I know I am ready for the role there is a small part of me that keeps playing “what if you can’t do it?” and “what will it be like?” and “what if the team don’t like your leadership style?” and “what if I mess up?” type of questions repetitively like a niggling mantra in my brain.
This is inevitable, I suspect, and instead of allowing this constant inner voice to eat away at me, I have decided to be a little more proactive this holiday than I would usually be in the summer.
Normally, I use the summer as an opportunity to switch off completely, read voraciously and not think about work beyond results days, a bit of finishing off at the end of term and tidying up and preparation for the return to work.
So, what have I done this year that is different to try to prepare myself?
I have worked on my subject knowledge by reading books that I will teach at any age level, and made sure that I understand the characters, themes and context of the novels.
These are the novels and poems and stories that I know I haven’t taught before, and that might become burdensome in the busy day-to-day of school! However, this hasn’t felt like work, and I’ve really enjoyed thinking about new texts and how I can approach them.
Further to the reading, I have created knowledge organisers, thinking of hard tasks and 5-in-5 starters to complement existing schemes of work and to use with students to encourage them to aim higher, as well as to embed low-stakes quizzing into their learning.
I’m sure this is already embedded, but I don’t think it has hurt me to work on my subject knowledge.
Also, I’ve created my first Head of Faculty to-do list to get me thinking about what my priorities will be, and what I need to do myself in the run-up to my first term as HOF. I know that I can’t plan for all eventualities, but having a to-do list to work on will alleviate my nerves (I hope!).
Finally, I have arranged to discuss the results, when published, with the outgoing Head of Faculty in order to get my head around them.
Thank goodness the outgoing Head of Faculty is approachable, friendly and keen to make the transfer as smooth as possible, her support has been invaluable.
Also, I’m going to meet with the Second in Charge at school to spend time thinking about our priorities, check we are ready and that I am as well-prepared as I can possibly be. Again, thank goodness for the support and kindness shown by this member of staff.
As a newbie to the school, I’m aware that I will have systems, staff, classes, admin, leadership responsibilities and much more to become accustomed to, so I hope that the preparation I have done helps the transition to a new school and a new role much, much easier.
If all else fails at least trying to be proactive in this way is keeping my anxiety at bay!
Susan Strachan is a teacher and KS4 leader. You can find her at susansenglish.wordpress.com and follow her on Twitter at @SusanSEnglish.
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