Monday, 13 September 2021

15 Years In Teaching

Sometimes it's a useful exercise just to think back and take stock. I did that recently as I was preparing to give a talk to some trainee secondary teachers. The talk was about what primary school is like, and how year 6 children feel about transition, but as part of the presentation I was asked to give an overview of my career in education. Here's what I shared with them:

After completing a 4 year course in teaching and art, focusing after the first year on KS1, I graduated and took a job at a primary school.

First school

At this school, although I applied for a job in year 2, I worked for three years in year 3 and for two years in year 5. I became the school's art leader from the second year onwards. In terms of teaching, my improvement was very gradual – I learned from strong, more experienced teachers and worked alongside them to develop both my classroom practice and my organisational and planning skills – I most certainly wasn’t ‘outstanding’ to begin with!

During my time at this school I applied for other leadership roles internally but the jobs went to other internal applicants. I was given small extra responsibilities such as School Council and Displays coordinator. Thankfully, I made the most of any responsibilities that I was given even though it wasn't exactly what I wanted to do; it's worth doing this as the experience can be called upon later, and you can show yourself to be a hard worker. It became clear there were not opportunities for progression and I felt like I was being overlooked and felt that the leadership was not what it could have been.

Second school

After feeling devalued by my first school, I was offered a teaching job with an incentive payment and the promise of progression opportunities. I discovered that sometimes moving school makes all the difference – in this case, the leaders saw potential in me where previous leaders hadn’t.

Here, I taught in year 4 for a year, then requested a move to year 6 where I taught for 2 years. The move to year 6 gave me the SATs experience – the pressure was on to maintain very high SATs scores. The first year saw some disappointments with regards to outcomes (partially to do with changes in expectations in the tests that year) but lessons were learnt and things improved the following year.

Whilst at this school I had the opportunity to lead on Communication (which involved Reading) and then on the implementation of the 2014 National Curriculum, as well as the roll out specifically of the new Computing curriculum. In fact, these roles were ones that I proposed to the leaders of school – in my proposal I showed why these roles would be necessary and how I would be suitable for the role. These roles gave me my first real taste of leadership.

It was at that point where I began to look at things happening across the school and thinking that I could do a good job of leading. At the same time, my observations from school leaders, school improvement partner and Ofsted inspectors were fairly consistently showing that I had made lots improvements in my practice since my first few years of teaching. This gave me the confidence to start to look for leadership roles – I never wanted to become a leader without having first become secure in my teaching as I wanted to be ready to lead by example in the classroom.

Third school

As I sat and read through the Ofsted report before applying, I was literally gasping out loud at some of what had been observed. Further internet searches turned up even more concerning things. There was no doubt, this was the school for me - a place where I could truly make a difference! Deep into Special Measures and about to become an academy, this city centre school appealed to me as a chance to really challenge myself. 

I became on of the year 6 teachers alongside my assistant vice principal role which saw me in charge of improving maths across the school and leading the UKS2 phase, amongst the other more general responsibilities of being part of a school's SLT. Here I taught in year 6 for three years navigating further sea changes in SATs, including the notorious 2016 SATs.

During this time I completed the Teaching Leaders course which was a game changer in terms of my leadership ability and enthusiasm.

PLP

After three years I became primary lead practitioner for the Dixons Trust which saw me working part time in all the Trust's primaries on various projects including developing coaching, curriculum, teaching as well as working with the brand new research school, presenting at CPD events and developing the research school's offer. This role came about partially due to my asking for further experiences and responsibilities - I knew that this was my career and that I needed to ask for the opportunities I wanted as well as working to prove that I deserved them.

During my time as PLP, one of the schools was left without a headteacher due to staffing changes. My role became focused on working at this school for two days per week, increasing the leadership capacity as the deputy head had taken on the acting head role. The other three days of my week were spent continuing to work at the third school, this time leading in LKS2 – a phase which hadn’t seen as much positive development as UKS2 had. 

It was during this year, just before Christmas, that I was called back from one of the other primary schools as my own school had had 'the call'. After a positive couple of days (which saw me praised by a cricket-loving inspector on my teaching of cricket skills during a lesson I covered for the head) we were given the verdict: 'Good'! I felt that my goal had been achieved and I was ready to move on.

Fourth school

My role as PLP led to me becoming the deputy head of primary in an all-through school. I had already begun developing the curriculum for year 5 – it was a growing school, the oldest children being in year 4 at the time – and I was excited at the prospect of setting up a brand new UKS2 phase. I was also interested in the opportunities that an all-through school brought, particularly in terms of year 6 to 7 transition.

In my second year I began working with secondary subject leaders to develop a year 7 and 8 curriculum that would support transition. This was done by looking at aspects of the primary curriculum and bringing them into the secondary curriculum. As well as rolling out this curriculum, I worked on ensuring that children from our primary, and the other primary schools in the area, had a successful transition, despite the fact that the last two years had been affected by Covid restrictions.

Extra Curricular Activity

Whilst working at my third school I began blogging about teaching and education. I also joined Twitter, first of all to get my writing out there, but also to learn more from others. Being part of a national – and international – learning network has taught me so much and exposed me to so much CPD. I’ve been able to have my writing published in magazines and books as well as various online outlets. Education became an interest of mine, and more than just a job, through doing this  I’ve found that writing about my experiences, and writing about the new things I learn, has really helped me as I reflect, process and clarify my thinking and understanding.

What's Next?

I will be working as deputy head in my current school until December. I am currently in the process of setting up my own educational consultancy and in January I will begin work as an educational consultant, using my knowledge and experience to work with schools on improving their offer, with a particular focus on the curriculum and on teaching and learning. Watch this space as well as the following for more information:

www.twitter.com/aidansevers

www.facebook.com/aidansevers

www.aidansevers.co.uk

www.aidansevers.com

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