I have just started in a new school and it feels both familiar and strange at the same time. The rudiments of the job are the same; classroom, kids and colleagues but there is so much new stuff to absorb in terms of rules, norms and etiquettes as well as the usual demands of getting to know people, personalities and institutional quirks.
You seemlingly return to a younger self as you have to ask what seem like really basic questions about how to fill the photocopier, use the phones or order stationary. These tasks continue to overwhelm your cognitive load as well as the sheer daily terror of orientating yourself in a new building.
However, the most interesting part of being new is the ability to ask the more difficult questions – why do we do it like this? I don’t necessarily have all the answers and I am still getting to grips with the issues, but there is real value in the ‘lived experience’ of being part of a school to fully understand it’s emotional landscape. Social workers call this ‘leaning into’ the challenges of the work, holding on to them long enough to reflect and make sense of how the fit into the whole.
But whether we are new or not to an organisation, we should continue to question the strange in the familiar and the general in the particular.
People in schools are their best asset, no one minds helping, but for me being the one doing the asking is an interesting and uncomfortable feeling of dependency. I guess this is why some people might stay in jobs they dislike as the thought of the ‘new’ is so overwhelming but what they forget is that it is also exhilarating. The learning curve is steep and sometimes rollercoaster-like but also exciting and a land of possibilities.
I am also learning by getting things wrong (apparently, black ties are prefects, I did wonder). And oh, the language and acronyms, my goodness as a profession we are full of them, are we not? I have often thought that educationalists like medical professionals use language in interesting ways to maintain the boundaries and hierarchies of some sort and starting out anew has reminded me of this.
Schools are complex, living and breathing organisms with their own micro-climates and it is a fascinating process getting to know a new one. I promise to stop using the phrase ‘in my old school’ some time soon. I guess this is how some of the new Year 7s might feel with the mix of the familiar and the strange.
It sometimes feels like I am playing a new board game that is both familiar and strange; one that has specific rules of which I am uncertain, just like a game of Go Johnny, Go, Go, Go … (courtesy of The League of Gentlemen).
Let’s Play Go Johnny Go Go Go Go
The game is a cross between Hoover and 8 men down.
Jacks are worth 10 Kings are worth 3 apart from one eyed Jacks which are Wild cards.
Round one you get a hand of 9, round two you get a hand of 7.
Two’s are wild cards, apart from diamonds, which retain their face value
except for the king of diamonds, which is worth the same as all kings, 3.
You play in sequence, unless you can match a card in an ascending or descending order.
If you can then that’s a Go Johnny Go Go Go Go, then you stand up
and shout Go Johnny Go Go Go Go and pick up all the cards on the table.
The winner is the one with the most tricks after 15 hands.