I have not written much this year, this is possibly a reflection on how much has been going on. I’ll start with 5 highlights from 2017.
At the ASE conference in January 2017 I was talking to some ASE members about whether I could apply for this. I already had RSci but wasn’t sure that I’d done enough to qualify for CSciTeach. After a discussion with Linda Needham and Tanya Dempster I was persuaded that it was worth looking into – and I’m glad that I did. Although the application was time consuming – a real reflection on the impact that the things I’d been doing had on me, the students, my department and beyond. The reflective process played a big part in my decision to apply for a HOD position – rather than listening to the ‘imposter syndrome’ voice inside my head – I could see, written down on paper evidence that I was capable of this. CSciTeach was awarded in Feb.
Becoming Head of Science
When I wrote a review on the 1st Jan 2017 I ended with a comment about thinking about my future path and whether or not I wanted to be HOD. I commented that I hoped that the existing HOD would carry on for a few years, but in February an unscheduled department meeting was called and I knew that this meant he was announcing his retirement and I’d have to make a decision a bit sooner! He told me that he thought that I probably thought I wasn’t ready but that he thought I’d be a strong contender if I did want it. I did apply, using lots of the evidence from my CSci Teach application in support and was up against some very experienced teachers. At the end of the day when the Head rang me with feedback he told me that they hadn’t made their decision yet, I assumed that I had been unsuccessful. I was quite shocked when the Head asked me to come to his office the following morning before school and told me that they would like to offer me the position. I was even more gobsmacked that they had agreed to let me retain my part time status to give me a chance to prove that I could do the role on 4 days a week.
This links very closely to the point before. My department have been hugely supportive, I could not ask for a better group of people to work with. They were very encouraging about my application and have been invaluable support over the last term as we have faced a number of challenges. All of the cups of tea and random notes/chocolate left on my desk are all appreciated. I do tell them that I am grateful and I hope that they know that the words are from the heart. It isn’t just my department though – on the day that my appointment was announced I had lots of hugs from various members of the admin team and a round of applause from other teachers/TA’s when I walked into the staffroom. Students too have been very positive about my new role. Everybody needs to feel valued and when things have been difficult this term, the kind words and thoughts from others have kept me going.
My form left in May this year. Apart from being a wonderful group of young people, they were special because they joined the school the same day that I had and I felt that we had made the journey together, although I didn’t become their tutor until Year 9. I was lucky enough to have taught almost all the students in my form at some point during their time with us. At times, I found being a form tutor the most challenging part of my job and I didn’t always find it enjoyable. I worried about them a lot and I seemed to nag some of them quite a lot too (earrings, hair, short skirts, lateness). There was a lot of laughter too though and I felt quite sad to say goodbye to them. I wasn’t sure that they were particularly bothered but the day before they left, one of the girls came to see me at the end of the day and handed me an envelope. The letter left me in tears and with a realisation that some of the little things that we do in a day really are noticed by the students and that they are really grateful. I also had these cakes made by 3 of the boys in my form.
This was quite unexpected and is one of the loveliest things that a student has ever presented me with. The cakes weren’t edible – they were very clear about that, but they wanted me to know how much effort they had gone to – 3 attempts – you should have seen the photo of the cooker too! I was really touched by the thought that had gone into it – they had even put the cake into insect moulds because I’m a biology teacher. Even though I am grateful for the extra time I have in the morning now, I have really missed my form this year.
A new car
Not teaching related at all. This year I replaced my old car after my husband pointed out that the list of advisories on the MOT would likely cost as much as the car was worth. This was the first time in my life where I was able to consider what I actually wanted to drive rather than having to think about factors such as having room for a pram in the boot. I feel quite grown up.
Looking forward to 2018.
My department is undergoing a huge period of change at the moment. I have 3 new staff starting this week. With change though comes opportunity and I am excited about the challenges that lie before us as we have a real chance to make changes that will make our department even better.
I am looking forward to improving my subject knowledge. At the beginning of the school year I picked up a triple chemistry group in Year 9 and I have really enjoyed teaching them. As we go back this term I pick up the Year 11 group of a colleague who left at Christmas. I’ve taught lots of chemistry before but not the separate content. I loved Chemistry at school and I’m excited at the prospect of developing my knowledge and understanding of chemistry and bringing that into the classroom.
I still haven’t achieved a balance, but I have made positive steps towards it. One of my friends asked if I wanted to sign up for a T’ai Chi class at the local college. Initially I thought I didn’t have time, but I decided that I needed to make time and I’m really glad that I did. I did T’ai Chi many years ago when I was writing up my DPhil as it helped me to manage stress and I’m pleased to say that it has the same effect now. I think it is being forced to stand still, stop and concentrate on breathing. I am able to clear my mind completely which is something that I usually struggle to do. I look forward to the classes restarting in January and aim to keep it up for the rest of the year.