How Did I Get Here?

Honestly, I am not very sure!

You see, like most teachers, I trained to teach. My passion is teaching and learning. I think what adds to my confusion to the position I am in today as Principal of one of the first primary academies in England is that I never set out to lead a school.

I grew up and trained in the USA. Then, I went on to teach in the USA for 10 years. When I moved to the UK, I was able to think long and hard about my career. Would my teaching practices be accepted? You see, I have some deep philosophical ideas about teaching and feel very strongly about my own style and abilities. I have been known to do things a bit differently, to put it mildly, and try things that few have tried before. This could have been disastrous!

Fortunately, I had the great fortune of landing in an inner city, multi-culture school that allowed me to be the teacher I am and accepted my, sometimes unorthodox, practices. It was in this school that the road to leadership began. The belief in my abilities by the Headteacher and Deputy Headteacher supported my growing ethos and philosophy and desire to make a difference beyond my own classroom.

In the blink of an eye, which was two schools later, I found myself interviewing to become a Headteacher. I had visited the school and immediately fell in love. Realistically, I didn’t think I had a chance. But, I felt honoured to be able to be a part of the process.

Unbeknownst to me, the governors were looking for someone like me for the school. They weren’t scared that I was a bit different or put off by my ethos. They embraced them and, in this environment, I continued to grow and develop as both an educator and a leader.

I clearly remember my first day as I walked up to the doors of the school. My heart started beating fast and felt a bit panicked. I was in charge of this whole school! The buck stopped with me! Oh my!

I don’t have a secret formula for leading a school. What I do know is that I must always keep looking ahead and not be satisfied to sit back and wait. I try to instil that in the ethos of the academy and give it the room to grow. When I decide to take a leap, the staff embrace the challenge and leap with me. At the end of the day, the top priority is what is best for the children right now!

So, how did I get here? I was in the right place at the right time and, scary as it is, I keep leaping off the cliff into the unknown because it is what I believe is the best thing for the children.

What do you believe in? Will you take a leap into the unknown for that belief?

Press PLAY!

“You can’t stop the future
You can’t rewind the past
The only way to learn the secret
…is to press play.”
― Jay Asher

I remember my first day of school. I was a 5 year old with hair pulled into pigtails on either side of my head. I was so excited as I carried my “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” snack box to my classroom. It was in the basement of an old 3 story school. The classroom was filled with wondrous things. There was a long chalkboard on one side of the room with a long row of tables and a record player in the corner. The air smelled of damp chalk mixed with the fragrance of old kool-aid and oatmeal pies. Mrs Miller stood in the front of the class of eager eyed children and so my life in education began.

As I think about that classroom and look at the classrooms of my school, I note some of the similarities. There are no chalkboards. However, there are white marker boards. That smell of chalk dust is gone and it is replaces with the chemical smell of the erasable markers. The tables are still there. But, I notice that they are set up differently. There is a more collaborative feel to the environment. The record player is gone as well. There MIGHT be a cd player.

This is where the changes really begin. I notice the interactive boards in the front of class attached to the teacher’s laptop. On several tables I also see children working in collaboration on projects or research. There is an Ipad or 2 floating around the class and the, the class have their attention drawn to the interactive board and the teacher from the next class over pops up on the screen. He begins to teach the children how to create their own animated video; encouraging them to have a go. The class teacher facilitates the learning., pausing the video and asking thought provoking questions. The children respond, make progress and collaborate in a way that would make Steve Jobs or Bill Gates proud!

This makes me think about how education has changed. The way I learned is a far cry from how children today learn. However, how I grew up is a far cry to how children are currently growing up.

For example, technology in my house while growing up consisted of the Clapper lamp that you clapped two times to turn off a light that was two inches from you and the child remote control which consisted of me standing next to the tv while my father called out, “Turn!”, so that I would turn the dial to the next channel, all ten of them! There were no mobile phones; we actually were on a party line! Who remembers them?! Digital clocks consisted of little plates flipping over to tell the time. I could go on. I think you get the picture. So, because of this technology, our brains have been wired in a certain way and learning is a particular process not all that dissimilar from our own parent’s learning.

Fast forward to today. As soon as a child can sit up, they are learning how to manipulate technology! Within minutes, they learn how to make things happen on an iphone or ipad! I have seen 2 year old happily ‘reading’ a book, changing pages with the flick of a finger! How about the 5 year old creating a virtual world in Mindcraft? They know how to change channels on the tv with a remote control, flip through the 200+ channels, record a programme they like and pause to go to the toilet! Again, I could go on and on!

So, because of this technology, their brains ARE wired differently and the learning process IS different!

We can’t lament the change in the learning process. We can’t go back in time and MAKE children learn the way we did. It won’t happen! Should we even want to go back to the time of children sitting in rows while a teacher drones on about facts, telling off children for talking about their learning and insisting on only one way to do things ‘properly’?

Education in this country has never been better! We have children who are far more advanced in their learning than ever before. They ARE active learners. They know how to collaborate, discuss, imagine and create. Our teachers have been reflective on this change and have been flexible in their own practice to support this change. They are becoming facilitators of this process and I have never been prouder of my profession!

Life is different. Our children are different. The future is an unwritten text that THEY have the responsibility to write. We can’t press the rewind button. It doesn’t exist! All we can do is be flexible to the change and press PLAY!

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
― Albert Einstein