Not so long ago, I was ready to quit teaching. Now, I’ve got my sights on leadership. The difference is my headteacher.
Under my previous head, I got the point where I couldn’t go on. I was signed off work with anxiety and stress. At school, we’d been under intense pressure to get more children to expected levels to show the school was improving – and were always on edge thanks to drop-in observations. As a member of the school leadership team, the headteacher expected me to remain distant from the rest of the staff, meaning I was isolated from my colleagues.
To make matters worse, a child who had special educational needs was subjecting me to frequent physical assaults. One day, I ended up in hospital with concussion and a suspected broken nose.
I expected my headteacher to support me. But when I returned to work the following day, I discovered there had been no consequence for the student. I explained that staff needed to be protected, only to be told that I was overreacting. Nothing changed.
Across the school, issues with violent and disruptive behaviour had become the norm. Teachers often missed their PPA (planning, preparation and assessment) time because they were dealing with pupils’ behaviour. When staff sought support, they were made to feel it was their fault, and their responsibility alone to deal with it. Morale was low – everyone had given up any hope of getting help. People were often found silently crying in various rooms around the school. I felt completely inadequate.
But then I moved schools – and I saw that it wasn’t the profession that was the problem, but the leadership. My new head puts students at the heart of every decision they make. Learning is thought of as something that should be fun, and children are encouraged to explore their full range of abilities, not just English and maths. The school focuses on progress, while also recognising that it’s not about endless Sats drills. We don’t have target cards, because how does that really help pupils to learn?
The head puts just as much emphasis on the wellbeing of staff. We’re often treated to staff breakfasts, dinners on parents’ evenings, and simple messages and demonstrations of thanks. We’re encouraged to aspire to reach our professional goals, and the head recognises our strengths and encourages us to use them.
I even have my life back. Marking is done with students in lessons, so I haven’t needed to take any books home since I started, and the school is closed over the holidays so there’s no expectation to work on our classrooms. Instead, the expectation is that we rest and feel refreshed for the next term.
I’m still in disbelief that I’ve got to this point, considering where I was before. I have fallen in love with teaching again, and I now know that this can be the best job in the world – you just need to find the right school.
Follow us on Twitter via @GuardianTeach, like us on Facebook, and join the Guardian Teacher Network the latest articles direct to your inbox
Looking for a teaching job? Or perhaps you need to recruit school staff? Take a look at Guardian Jobs, the education specialist