Me unwinding last Sunday in sunny Southend with my family
This year, as well as Assistant Subject Leader in RE (bigger deal that in most schools as it's RC), I began my adventure as Head of Year 10. Or Pastoral Development Coordinator, PDC, as my official title goes. Whatever the name, I look after the behaviour, learning, pastoral, moral, spiritual, citizenship, health... and more(!), of 125 young ladies.
A few things stick in my head. These are comments made to me when I was appointed.
"Ah... pastoral, the easy route to the top!"
"I thought you valued teaching and learning? Good luck with that now..."
The first two weeks have made it very clear that this job will be everything but easy. There were some attractive Head of Department jobs going in our Diocese, offering substantial TLR payments. I was confident I would be in with a very good chance and indeed got very close to applying.
One day, I do think that I may end up as a member of a SLT. However I have always wanted to "walk before running"; learning and mastering the art of teaching. If I do get to that level, I want to still share the classroom skills I have learnt. I also worry about the day that I stop being in the classroom, that's the very part of the job I love.
Had I taken a Head of Department job, I could be applying for Assistant Head jobs within two years. Instead, I decided to stay at my current school and see what a pastoral role could offer me. If I was desperate for an AHT job, the 'easy route to the top' would be as a Head of Department for two years. It would never in a million years be this.
Is it a common perception of pastoral leaders? I can't understand it, but equally I struggle to shake it off.
These last two weeks have been an absolute baptism of fire. Obviously I can't and wouldn't go in to the details but I have seen, heard and dealt with a lot of things that have challenged me in so many ways. I have wondered for the first time in years, "Can I do this?" and have sat at my desk reflecting hard on my ability to cope with the demands of the position (not quite tears, but nearly!). I'll be honest, that's not often me. Maybe I've had it too easy until now?
On the flip side, I am really enjoying it. As I previously blogged, I love a challenge. I will do this job, and I will do it to the very best of my ability. I will put in every hour that I can find to do it well.
Regarding valuing Teaching and Learning, I am already seeing in a very real sense that way in which factors outside the classroom get to the heart of teaching and learning. Why is that student kicking off in lessons? Why are they not doing their homework? It adds another level of understanding and helps me deal with those issues in my own classroom too.
Additionally, I still have an 'academic role'. I lead KS3 RE, where we are still in the process of a complete syllabus overhaul. I am supporting a non-specialist, while also helping the Subject Leader in RE with all of her duties. I also still teach RE!
I do understand that sometimes, something has to give and I need to work out how and what that may be. I need to get smarter at my marking. I need to use every second during the school day and thankfully many of my lessons are ready to go. This does not mean that I neglect differentiation, or lesson improvement, or creating things from scratch. I couldn't do that to myself, or my students.
It's going to be a tough year. I'm glad I've got a fantastic wife and family, a great department, brilliant colleagues, the best of friends, a highly effective PLN through Twitter/TeachMeets/Curries... plus lots and lots students who make it all worthwhile.