I have just looked at the draft of my 'Being SENDco' post that I have been writing since November and realised that it is a muddled recount of moving schools and becoming a SENDco. It wasn't what I set out to write. So before I re-write it as a New SENDco advice type post, I am going to share the reasons why moving schools was so right for me. I will include some reflections of my first half year as a new Deputy Headteacher, but will start with some tips for changing jobs. This is not really a post full of advice, but more a journal entry of my experiences. I'm sure I will enjoy looking back at it in my old age!
1. Get your colleagues to complete a 360 review for you. Mine was incredibly positive and showed me that I was viewed as a leader at Roydon. The written feedback was constructive and the lowest score I got was given by myself! The only area that I needed to work on (according to my colleagues) was my ability to deal with conflict. They had mostly been tactful and pressed the neutral, middle button on the survey (or better), but I had scored myself low on this and felt that they may have been polite with their views. I know I need to get better at leaving my emotions out of it when tricky situations arise with people I care about.
2. An obvious tip -think carefully about your next steps and your career progression. You may need to step sideways to achieve them. I always thought I would end up in an advisory role, but when these started disappearing in Norfolk I had to rethink. Another AST I knew went from the outreach role into a headship of a small school. I didn't feel I had the right skills for that, so being a deputy of a large school with strong leadership was what I needed to look out for if I wanted to change.
3. Don't stay put just because you love your school. You will love another. The easiest way to ensure you will love it is to find a similar school, so do your research. I know other teachers who have the view 'I will only leave my current post if a job comes up at ...' and deputy at East Harling was mine. Why? Location, size and rural nature of school, ethos, reputation and the fact it was part of a cluster that my own children belonged to. I had worked with other headteachers in the cluster and knew that they were passionate, innovative and dedicate educators, with happy thriving schools.
4. Trust your first instincts about the headteacher. You have to work closely with them; they must be someone you will respect. I am fiercely loyal and would support a respected colleague even if I disagreed with them (I would voice my opinions of course, but I know that there are many ways to skin a cat). Ask yourself if you would do that for the person you meet.
5. Don't be afraid to say you don't understand/know something. I started my new role at the same time as a mature NQT who had already spent a term at East Harling. We joked that we were allowed to ask 2 stupid questions each day. I varied the people that I asked so that I didn't appear to be wholly incompetent, but you can't be expected to know where everything is. After spending too much time staring at shelves in cupboards, I realised it was much easier to ask someone if they knew where resources were kept. A simple time saver! Equally, I am not afraid to say I don't know about the big stuff, like Statement Review meetings. Better that I ask ridiculous questions than get it wrong. Even if I have to ask that same question twice because I have forgotten the answer ... I'm hoping it makes me appear more human!
6. Draw on other's experiences! I was asked if I felt threatened or pressured by the fact that there were two hugely experienced teachers at East Harling who had already held successful Deputy Headship posts. I hadn't given it a second thought! It may be that slightly ego-centric/ Asperger's part of me that was oblivious to it and not at all self-conscious, but I can honestly say that it makes me feel a whole lot better that there are experienced teachers who are passionate about the school to hold my hand if I ever need it. That's a huge bonus!
7. Find a sustainable hobby so that you don't work 24/7. I bake, read and meet friends for lunch! Learning how to take on a new school, new way of teaching (Read, Write, inc), new roles and governorship as well as attending two different long term training courses doesn't leave much time, but free time should be filled with nice things!
8. Ask yourself if you have had an impact. Think about the changes you have made both at class and whole school level. It may be that you have to settle in before you make a big impact, but to give an example I have introduced these things so far: year 6 Film Club, group education plans, learning profiles, blogging in class 2 (whole school blogging soon I hope!) a class 'VLE' (BB style) and a 'maths wizards' blog to help children with mental maths skills.
9. CARRY ON LEARNING! Don't sit still because you've got your ideal job! I have become a SENDco, Deputy and Governor and my head is buzzing! I know the hours I do will reduce as I become more familiar with procedures and I get used to managing the SENDco role. In the meantime, I am still working hard to be the best teacher I can be, whilst learning to be an effective and hopefully inspirational Deputy/SENDco.
10. Lastly - don't feel like you have to justify it if you stall. Your brain may need a rest!