A baptism of fire.


The new year is often a time of reflection and review. Many of us took part in the Nurture posts and the Teacher5aday pledges. Promising to make big or small changes to our routines or lives that hopefully will make life better for our families and work life balance. Make us feel happier more fulfilled or just different.

I did the same and made a major change. A new job; what’s more a January start.

Now people told me, yes the dreaded ‘they’. It would be hard. A mid year start. Not only did I have to battle the weather, the dark mornings and nights; Its that hard slog term, where the reality of exams is starting to rear its head for year 11, pressure is mounting for  departments. SLT’s are getting twitchy. Staff are getting tired, sick, sick and tired.

I also took on a promotion as well. Not one for doing thing by halves as you all know, I included  a 55 minute commute to a brand new area, to a school that was in RI.

Hey if I’m going to give myself a challenge then why the hell not. I was in desperate need of a change. New scenery, new perspective. One where I would be utilised to my potential. Where I would be stretched, forced to think beyond what I thought I could do.

They had A levels.

First day starts with me ending up presenting at the end of the CPD mini teachmeet style on my classroom practice, don’t know whether this was by design or just me being too keen but what the hell, I’ve arrived. New girl on the block. But I’ve already realised that I’ve got my work cut out for me with my department and haven’t even met the kids yet!.

So my plan of attack is first half of term, easy my self in, play is low key (for those that know me pick yourselves up) get to establish myself with the kids. I take the great advice from Amy Jeetley and Patric Ottely-O’Connor who gave up their time on the phone to talk me down off the ceiling one evening when I had a melt down realising that I thought bit off more that I could chew over the Christmas holidays. Put that into practice. Set about establishing my routines. Follow my plan and learn as much as I can as quick as I can about the school from as many different sources as possible.

First week done. Blur of meetings, tutor groups, seating plans, all the usual. Monday passes, Tuesday arrives and then an urgent email, calling for all staff to meet after school……

Can only mean one thing…..  O F S T E D. Yep they were arriving on Wednesday. You are kidding me. I’ve been there all of 7 days and they are going to descend on us for not only a full Section 5 but there will be 7 inspectors on the team.

An inspector to inspect the head inspector, and a trainee inspector to watch this inspection plus the other 5 in the team. Well talk about the school moving into overdrive.

The school was ready, they were prepared like a well oiled machine the new head was incredible, inspiring, she just asked the staff to do what they do best, no panic, no long lecture, no edicts or demands. Appreciation for what was to come, free lunch laid on every day because she knew we were working late into the night.

All support staff stayed every evening including TA’s secretaries, reprographics, data team, printing off sims data, seating plans, SEN data, photocopying for us teachers, so we could focus on writing the lesson plans, annotating seating plans if not done (i.e. me as I’d only just go there), making sure resources were ready for those that needed extra colours, over lays, etc.) Caretakers stayed to lock up when we were ready to go, the school was open from 6am nothing was too much trouble. To feel like the whole school was pulling together was incredible.

I was checked on by numerous teachers who I had no idea who they were but were just passing and asking if I was ok, did I need anyone to do anything. What could I do, just make sure I taught the best lessons I could under the circumstances. Preparation was key.

The wonderful Crista Hazel, supported me through the Tuesday evening with wise words and encouragement even telling me off when it was time to go home, and eat and sleep.

Wednesday arrived and so did the inspectors to introduce themselves and to say they looked liked ’50 shades of OFSTED’. Did they really all have to wear grey!! and all start with “HI I’m a HMI Ofsted Inspector,” yeah I think we worked that one our for ourselves!.

Anyway to cut it short, I was finally observed on Thursday P3 a double lesson with year 13 which has 4 students in it a Btec lesson where none of them plan on following a science career, they are so quiet you wouldn’t know they were there. I won’t bore with details. But it was OK suffice to say I have to inject more enthusiasm for science into the students. Yeah good one.

I must just say one thing our head sent out an email on Wednesday night just to keep up focus, again it one of pure encouragement, reminding us to take care of ourselves, eat, sleep and keep working as well she knew we were. No long missive of what we weren’t doing. No damning reports of what went wrong on that day. It was such an uplifting email to get at 8pm as I was still writing out my lesson plans for the next day, it renewed me with even more determination not to let the side down, not matter that I’d only been there a few days.

Needless to say we got through and the report was GOOD and we have moved forward and everyone was happy. Well almost.

Science didn’t do so well overall.

Hence there went my quiet intro to the job. Here was me thinking I would be able to get a handle on the characters work out what my role would look like and get a grip on some of the big jobs and small ones, in my own way. NOPE. SLT not happy so my new role began with a vengeance.

I am conducting learning conversations twice a week, book monitoring’s, coaching of a member of one of the more difficult members of the team, (thanks gang) plus head of department about to go on maternity. A Science week to organise, a school trip to organise for disadvantaged year 9s. Intervention tracking for year 10. ISA planning for year 10 at some point. Getting my head around PiXL and start using it. Rewrite the new curriculum for year 9. Support the new ingoing head of department.

Get to grips with under performing year 11 classes and triple year 10 class and get them back on track. Plus teach Physics and Chemistry to both year 11 and 9 which is out of my subject. Ensure new marking policy is being implemented across the department. Pick up some of the primary liaison work from the outgoing head of department possibly if the timetable works. Liaise with new HOD to ensure that when the part timer who has also just told us that she is now pregnant leaves we manage to replace her with a qualified scientist as the impact of not having specialist is major and one we cannot afford to impact our results.

Sort out my tutor group who currently hate me (and that is true). Deal with some very low self esteem year 9’s who believe that they can’t do anything so there is not point in even trying.

Oh amongst all this almost forgot, we had the departmental performance review in the last two weeks of term. Which is your performance observation. So you have a 48 hour window where SLT can drop in and observe any lesson you are teaching during that time. My lessons were the exactly the same ones that OFSTED were here.  I had 9 lessons to prepare for. Last two days of half term. Wednesday and Thursday. No pressure there then.

My first official observation with SLT of the school since interview. Luckily for me they choose my underperforming, low ability year 11s, period 1, Wednesday morning. One pupil just returned after 5 weeks in a pru! ( So nice don’t you think)

Previous lesson they all had a test just had results,  not a happy bunch as realised how much I was pushing and expecting them to work. Data drop just been done, not happy with their levels or commitment to learning I’d given them either.

But we’d had a chat and were moving on as he’s walking in (by the way he’s Head of Maths). Lesson went well I think. Pupils up taking part, asking questions, completing work. That was up until I stood on my desk, and was ready to do a demo. I’m saying to kids, goggles on else I can’t do the demo. I’m waiting, they are looking around, and notice Sir doesn’t have his on, so they all shout at him to get his on. I hold my breathe, he gets the goggles put them on.

Result….. nailed it. Routines established…. Sieve my custard over the Bunsen,  flames hit the roof, nearly loose eyebrows, kids in hysterics, whopping, oohing, respiration and combustion, compared, more group worked carried out. Questions asked, answered. No funny business; troublesome lad, brought into line by others. Job done.!

End of first half of term has come. Who knows what next term has in store. But if this one is to go by. It will be just as exciting.

And breathe.




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