I haven’t actually written much to do with education which, considering I’m a new teacher, should probably be all I write at all. But I’m going to change that starting now.
I was observing a science department last week in a local upper school (I live in a Grammar School area, which basically means that wealthy children get the tutoring they need to pass a ridiculously irrelevant test to get into “good”, well-funded schools, and everyone else gets put in a less-well-off Upper School.), and I was somewhat shocked to find that I loved it so much, I felt really quite sad to leave.
I’ve been in other science departments before, mostly in Grammar Schools, and I’ve always been keen to get out as soon as the week was over, and not mind if I never saw anyone again.
So why was this so different?
The answer lies in the leadership of the science team. The Head of Department has created an environment made up of 10-12 people who act like a team. Like comrades. They share stories, and ask each other for help. They complain about certain things and help each other solve their problems. They joke and laugh and work together so seamlessly, you might actually start thinking they are actually enjoying their job.
And because they are so comfortable and stable in their team, they let me in. They laughed and joked with me, and answered my questions. They shared with me all the aspects of their job, not just the same glossy rehearsed lines they give OFSTED. They were honest, and real, and mostly, friendly. They made me cups of tea, and I made them tea. They shared cake and I brought chocolate. We talked about clothes and different countries and how bloody expensive science equipment is. They shared with me strategies for behaviour management and I gave them feedback on who was working and who wasn’t in their class.
It seems like such a small and obvious thing, but in no other department - especially not in the grammar schools - did I get even a third of what I got out of this experience. The teachers in those schools barely talked to each other. They flitted in and out and gave sympathetic groans to someone’s troubles, but no solutions. They looked down their noses at someone who wasn’t prepared for a last-minute class change, rather than supporting and helping them. They told me to leave at lunchtime and entertain myself because they didn’t want me under their toes. An extra burden; certainly not a temporary team member.
So, after this experience, I can only hope that the school I am moving to has a science team as great as the one I just left; but I am more than willing to force the department into a team if I have to. I know what kind of environment I want to work in, and what kind of place other people want to work in, and I will make that happen if I possibly can!
And to all the teachers out there who relate to the less cohesive department I just described: I implore you to go back to school and redouble your efforts to create a team out of several individuals. Trust me when I say it is the best thing you could possibly do for yourself, your colleagues, and your students.