“I went into teaching believing that I could change the world and make a positive difference in the lives of young people especially those for whom life is a real challenge. Although I have been doing it for nearly 30 years and there have been huge changes I still absolutely believe that!”
Winner of the Award for Secondary Teacher of the Year 2001
Currently Headteacher At The Winstanley School
I think the best thing about the award was reading and hearing some fantastic things that students wrote about my teaching. I think teachers rarely hear that and I actually think that students should be encouraged to thank their teachers more and tell them what a great job they are doing.
I think the biggest difference was that the award increased my confidence in what I was doing in the classroom as it had been validated by a group of National Judges. This meant that I had the confidence to share teaching and learning ideas and strategies that I used with a wide variety of audiences. I knew it already, but I guess it absolutely confirmed that teaching and working in schools is my vocation and where I will be all my working life. It also confirmed my decision to work in schools in challenging situations rather than taking an easier option.
Winning the award probably meant that my move to be an Advanced Skills Teacher was accelerated, but I think that was where I was always going to go next in my career. I didn’t move from that school for another 11 years, so it didn’t change my career in that aspect.
I began teaching in 1989 and was teaching in the same school when I won my award in 2001.
THE JOB, CHANGES AND CHALLENGES
My dad was a teacher and he kept trying to persuade me to teach, but as a teenager I didn’t want to do the same job as my dad. However, when I got to University I decided to apply for a PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education) and as soon as I was in the classroom I knew it was the job for me.
I think when I started I probably tried lots of different teaching and learning strategies without really examining the evidence of their success or otherwise. However, as I gained experience I developed a bank of strategies which were tried and tested and I knew both engaged students and delivered great outcomes. As a headteacher now I don’t have my own classes, but I do quite a lot of cover and find myself reverting to the strategies I found most successful.
I think pastoral care has always been a crucial part of teaching. I think the key element of successful teachers is nearly always the way that they relate to the students, build relationships with them and make sure that the students know that they genuinely care about them.
I would love to say the impact of social media has been all positive and has enabled us to share all sorts of resources and ideas across the teaching profession and build links with schools and communities around the world. However, in my role as a teacher and now as a Headteacher one of the biggest areas of conflict and issues between young people is via social media. It does feel sometimes that if there was no social media the number of incidents would at least be halved!
I think it is impossible to beat being awarded National Secondary teacher of the Year and then an MBE for services to education! However, I find on a day to day basis there are so many little things that are memorable and most of all those times when I feel that I have made a real difference in the life of a young person.
Every time I have managed to get a young person engaged who was struggling to learn in my lessons has given me a great sense of pride. This is especially true if they have gone on to get a great GCSE grade when it looked like they had no chance. I also do love it when I meet someone I used to teach who says I used to really enjoy your lessons, or your lessons were always my favourite.
I am a headteacher now and this year I have had the privilege of employing an ex-student as one of our learning support assistants in her year off before University. It has been an absolute pleasure seeing how she has developed. She has gone from being someone who was quite anxious about things when I taught her to an outstanding colleague who is completely relaxed working with young people with very complex needs. I feel that the relationship we built up when I was teaching her has enabled me to trust her to take on a challenging and difficult role and see her really fly with it.
Teaching is hard work, but nothing worth doing is ever going to be easy. You will need to be resilient and stick at it. It will get easier and you will find there are incredible rewards in terms of seeing young people’s lives changed. Don’t ever lose the desire to make a positive difference and change the world!
THE TEACHING PROFESSION
There have been all sorts of changes – mobile phones, tablets, increased use of data, accountability, OFSTED, however, the thing that strikes me most is that I don’t think what makes a great teacher has changed at all!
In a naive way I went into teaching believing that I could change the world and make a positive difference in the lives of young people especially those for whom life is a real challenge. Although I have been doing it for nearly 30 years and there have been huge changes I still absolutely believe that!
People need to know that teaching is a vocation and be able to see the amazing difference they can make in the lives of young people. But they also need to know that anything worth doing is a challenge and will be hard work. At the same time, I would love to see a time when our politicians and policy makers really acknowledge the outstanding work that so many schools and teachers do.