My new school shoes sit in the hallway, staring at me. Summer is all about being barefoot but September is about slipping your toes into new leather. They are a rather unremarkable pair of school shoes, an identical copy to my last pair if you must know but they represent the beginning of ‘the beginning’. They don’t yet fit like my old ones, they look similar but we have not yet moulded to each others idiosyncrasies. They do not yet understand how my feet work or the cadence of my walk, I suppose from their perspective I am not allowing any leeway for their newness. I have not given them the time they need to settle, after all they have never been my pair of shoes before. We have much to learn from each other in the next few weeks.
I am full of excitement and terror in equal measure. I cannot wait to meet my new classes and tutor group, I love the challenge of working them out but at this point it is all so overwhelming. My anxieties are running wild and filling my head with their usual nonsense. I know it will take time to establish rapport but it is difficult to hold onto the rational thinking when sat at the top of the roller coaster.
My teacher dreams have started again, you know the usual ones where you lose control of the class, upset your co-workers or express some home truths to the SLT. I know they are manifestations of my anxiety about beginnings along with some wish-fulfillment but they are becoming more vivid and unresolved. So it seems an appropriate time for me to write down some of my hopes and fears for the new academic year.
I hope I am able to be good-enough and offer something of value for my students and colleagues. The words ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ have become so meaningless in edu-speak that it might be better if we abandon them completely. However, what I want is the emotional space to reflect and consider my practice, to be resilient and hold onto my values in the maelstrom of school life.
I want to inspire my students to go off-piste and explore the nooks and crannies of subjects that interest them. I will never forget the serendipity of university libraries where an exploration for one theme could quickly become a joyful discovery of the new and profoundly more interesting. We do not always hold onto the joy of the new in A-levels.
I want to say no to the fads and time-wasting that goes on in education. Out time is so precious that it ought not be wasted on anything that does not add to the bigger picture. Meetings, should be just that and not extended monologues or briefings. Our time spent together should be about collective endeavour not ticking off another person’s to-do list.
The unpredictability of these new linear specifications is playing on my mind. I need to get as much advice as possible about what the feel of them will be. Teaching linear without the AS remains an on-going challenge. How do we schedule and revisit the topics whilst building up the skills over a two year period? What type of internal exam do you give at the end of Y12? There is much debate and discussion to be had.
Ofsted remain an ever-present threat and their judgements seem as volatile as ever. You are as good as your last set of results but with so much curriculum change it is difficult to know whether we are comparing apples and oranges? I do not know what I feel about Progress 8, Achievement 8 or even the use of comparable outcomes. Each school must be hoping they have done enough to survive the judgement based on these new measures. Is it better or worse? I guess the problem with these new measures is this transition phase where some schools will come out worse whilst others may see their stock rise.
Data – entering meaningful data remains a challenge on a new specification. The grade boundaries on the new AS were a complete surprise and not what we were expecting. I guess we will continue to stick our fingers in the air.
CPD – I genuinely fear the generic one-off training sessions on how to become a better teacher. I think on the whole they are a poor use of time.
I wonder whether schools struggle with their inherited practices and procedures and it is sometimes difficult to see how these may distract us from the real task. Ofsted do not require ‘triple marking’ or lesson observations but I guess we cling to the familiar even though they add a great deal of stress and take up too much time away from quality lesson planning. One of my favourite things last year has been to planning lessons with my colleagues and using them to fine tune my approach or even become braver in trying new things. I guess we need to live more in the hope than the fear. Good luck for the new term everyone.