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School vision – I want enthusiastic teachers in my primary

It might sound naive, but I want my staff to be excited about coming into work, says Thahmina Begum...

  • School vision – I want enthusiastic teachers in my primary

When I became headteacher in 2019, the no-nonsense, rather sweary CEO of our trust, Simon Elliott, asked me what my vision was for my school.

I hate a question that uses the word ‘vision’ because I feel pressured to say something that’s inspirational, so I panicked in response and stared at him blankly.

I knew what I wanted for my school, but I thought it would sound naive and silly if I said it out loud. But ever-wise Simon was onto me: “Come on, hurry the fuck up, what is your vision?”. Hastily I said, “I want enthusiastic, excited teachers who look forward to coming to work. I know it sounds stupid…”.

Simon stopped me and wrote it down on my board and left the room. He’s dramatic like that.

It’s still written on that board, mainly because he’s six foot something and I can’t reach the top of the board to save my life, but I no longer care if it sounds stupid. I know it doesn’t sound inspirational or poetic or remotely groundbreaking, but it remains true.

I want enthusiastic teachers – enthusiastic to learn their subject, no matter how many years they’ve been teaching it; excited to teach what they love. I want teachers who look forward to coming to school because they get to do what they love.

If any headteacher can create that climate in their school, they’re winning. And the reason they’re winning is because their students are winning. Enthusiastic, excited teachers mean enthusiastic, excited students.

We’re a constant in the lives of our students – lives which beyond the safety of school could include any number of injustices and uncertainties that no child should encounter.

But we know that when they enter those school gates, they leave behind all of that for seven hours and we can provide them with a certainty that is safe, fulfilling and happy. Pupils need us to be this way.

We have to smile widely as they approach us; model empathy and kindness; laugh at their silliness; let our eyes widen in excitement as we talk about our subject. We should be loud in our expectations and theatrically feign disappointment when they fall short of what we expect. We should be excited to be there for them, doing what we love.

You might scoff at my rose-tinted naive vision for my school. You might think that I don’t know a lot. However, what I do know is that this year, I’ve been excited and enthusiastic about coming to work and I bet if I asked my staff, a good number of them would say the same.

And if I had a wand to take away the social stigma of admitting school is fun, I bet loads of our students would say the same too. I don’t say ‘all’, because that would be naive, but ‘all’ is the mission.

During lockdown, like many of us who work in schools, I really, really missed my students. Every time I walked into our almost empty school building, I thought of all the little things I could no longer do.

I missed standing at the school gate and replying with an upbeat “Good morning!” 60 times a minute as a flurry of bright-eyed children passed me by. I missed greeting students at the classroom door and asking how their weekend was.

I missed marching down busy corridors, repeating “To the left, to the left!” and strongly fighting the urge to break into a Beyonce number.

Now that we’re slowly returning to semi-normality or, dare I say it, the ‘new normal’, our students need to return to that constant again – that enthusiastic, excited teacher who’s happy to be there to teach them.

Thahmina Begum has worked as a secondary teacher and leader for the past 10 years. Follow her on Twitter at @misstbegum. Visit her website at tbeeblogs.wordpress.com.

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