Moving On

I have taught at the same School for nearly Seven years since I arrived, fresh-faced, as an NQT. That school has been perfect for my development as a Teacher: supportive staff, engaged pupils, involved parents. I have been able to stretch my wings and try new things, all in the safety of my home-from-home. During those seven years I have also had a turbulent home life: getting married (once), having children (twice), moving house (three times). All very stressful situations made less stressful by my comfortable, familiar workplace.


I could happily work in the same School forever. I could remain comfortable and relaxed where I am. However a little voice in my head has been bothering me for a while now. 'There's a whole world of schools out there'. I think I'm ready for something new, a challenge, a new adventure. A new school would bring me into contact with new colleagues, new pupils, new ways of working. A new school would allow me to grow, force me to change,  provide me with new experiences. I'm also interested in developing as a leader, on being a teacher who has a greater impact on school life. But what are the risks? Why have I waited all this time?


I could have moved school a while ago but there's always the risk that the grass isn't always greener on the other side. Our profession is in a state of flux. Pressures from outside, and from within causes schools, and SLTs in particular, to act in ways that aren't necessarily beneficial to their staff or pupils. How do I ensure the school I end up moving to will provide me with the same love and support as my current colleagues? I know so many friends and acquaintances that have moved schools or even left the professional altogether because of toxic work environments. The stories I have heard have ranged from excessive workload, difficult pupils and colleagues, all the way to out-and-out bullying by other staff or SLT members. Would it not be safer to just stay where I am? How can I know what a school is like from the outside?


It's no wonder that so many of my colleagues have taught at the same school for their whole careers. My friends at work have been there for fifteen, twenty, or even thirty years. A good number of them taught at the school when their own children were pupils, and a couple were even pupils at the school themselves. This lends the school a family feel. How can I be sure a new school would replicate this feeling?


The answer: I can't be sure. The answer to all those worries is that you don't know until you work at a school whether the school will suit you. Even asking friends or colleagues that know potential schools is risky. Hearsay can be a dangerous thing. Some schools within my current LEA are definite no-go areas. Particular Head Teachers have developed negative reputations, staff turnover is astronomical. However most of the schools I'm looking at are from outside my current LEA. The only way to get a feel for a school prior to application is the 'walk-round'. An earnest (or less than earnest) Head Teacher showing you around, extolling their schools' virtues, explaining away staff absences or peeling paintwork. Or in a recent experience, being ignored by the Head Teacher and being shown around by the School Secretary, a much more enlightening experience.


Sometimes on a School visit you get a 'vibe'. Sometimes you leave feeling that you see yourself working at the school. The pupils seemed polite, the staff welcoming, the Head Teacher jovial. Sometimes you leave never wanting to go back and delete your part-written application from your hard-drive immediately. These book/cover experiences give you a tiny view of the school, but one that is very skewed. A school I walked around recently had 12 of their 16 staff members off with a stomach bug: my visit definitely didn't give me a true experience of the School during a normal day, but I still walked away with a good feeling about the School.


Beyond the local rumour-mill, the School visit, snooping through websites and interrogating Ofsted reports, there is very little else you can do to really get a feel for what a School is truly like.


I guess I just need to bite the bullet and jump. Applications in, no interviews yet but hopefully some pending. Wish me luck, hopefully I'll find 'The One', or at least a school that won't make me want to become a Lighthouse Keeper.

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