In the second article in our series of If Only I Knew This Then… Gill Moody, former Head at Whitstable Junior School and now independent Education Consultant reflects back on the important values for education professionals and in particular the significance of having a clear personal vision for a successful future in order to make a difference
I became a teacher because my life as a clerk in a life assurance office was very dull and I wanted to go away to college and enjoy the student life my peers were experiencing! I had always loved learning and school and teaching seemed an obvious choice, added to which teaching was a well-respected profession. I still recall how proud my family were that I was the first member to be entering any form of higher education and that I was to become a teacher.
Thirty two years later I have just made the decision to step down from headship and become a self-employed consultant. I have been a class teacher, special educational needs advisory teacher, a supply teacher, deputy head, SENCo, geography/ICT/English/assessment and KS2 leader and most recently a Headteacher – the latter for the last eighteen years – and, I have enjoyed every role and experience along the way.
I may have entered the profession through some form of default setting, but have come to love the role (please ignore the cliché) for the opportunities it has given me to make a difference. It is the most humbling privilege to know that not only can you enable children to learn but that you can also influence their futures in many other ways, opening their eyes to different ideas, encouraging independent thought and developing self-esteem.
Nothing succeeds like success is a very true maxim for a class teacher and for a Headteacher. School leaders need to remember that staff flourish in a positive environment where there is respect, trust and honesty, where shared values and a belief that ‘yes we can’ is prevalent. Building such an environment at my last school, where well-being was valued as highly as academic progress and attainment, was at times a challenge in an environment where the national educational agenda has been top- down- driven and often based on a blame culture. Not only did we create a school that was values led, we achieved great educational outcomes and created a workplace where staff also flourished – we were once described as a school that ‘breeds leaders’. Our children and staff shared the aspiration to ‘be the best we can be – no excuse, no compromise’.
With age comes experience and not a few ‘tricks of the trade’. A recent Facebook posting asked what advice you would give to your eighteen-year-old self (many things spring to mind!) and there are many pieces of advice I could now give to myself as a young Headteacher. Teaching is the least boring profession in the world, but it can also be all consuming – more a lifestyle than a job – and teachers often seek perfection!
Perhaps the best training I ever attended addressed the ‘box of guilt’ that teachers take home each night, full of work to the point that it often never gets looked at, sitting in the corner of a room reminding you all evening or weekend of the tasks you have ahead and failed to complete. The advice? ‘Learn to live with the undone’. Practically this means taking one or two achievable tasks home, creating a sense of success. This can be applied to whatever role you have in education (class teacher to Headteacher), but does depend on effective prioritisation, realising that you will never, ever finish a job list.
Anyone in education needs to take time to ‘smell the roses’. I have loved every minute of working with children and colleagues but now I actually do want to smell the roses and therefore took the decision – a lifestyle choice – to stepdown from headship. I undertake consultancy work supporting school leaders on a part time basis, bringing a creative approach to problem solving or resource development, working alongside personnel to bring about sustainable leadership capacity.
I am particularly interested in working with groups of schools to bring about effective collaborative working and offer a range of support to school leaders including: Headteacher appraisal, pupil premium reviews, school to school reviews, school plan development, data analysis, standards audits, policy development, governor support and developing middle leader networks.
I am privileged to be able to remain in a profession I love, still making a difference but also able to take the time to enjoy the view along the way!
The future is not some place we are going but one we are creating.
Questions for thought
- How and where do you make a difference – what is the most important evidence of this? What does success look like for you as a professional?
- What does “the best you can be” mean for you? Where and how are you at your best?
- What stops you from achieving your best and what do you need to do to move forward?
- What can you leave undone without adding to your ‘box of guilt’?
- What is the future you want to create for yourself?
Gill Moody is now working as an independent Education Consultant and you can contact her by email: firstname.lastname@example.org