A decade in the life

There’s been a lot of navel-gazing across social media platforms, as we all weigh up the past decade and consider our achievements. The beginning of a new decade has slightly crept on me. I’m sure there must be some people somewhere pointing out that the new decade technically begins in 2021, as there were people who argued that the new millennium began in 2001, though I’m not one of them – I’m just a bit old. ‘Oh, a new decade? What, again? Meh.’

Similarly (perhaps I am in something of a flat mood) my response to the question ‘what’s different?’ was initially, to borrow a phrase from my nanna, ‘Everything’s much about the same, dear.’ I’m still teaching history full time. I still mark GCSE exams for the same board. I live in the same house, with the same husband, and though with a different configuration of pets, some might argue that two rabbits are equal to one cat. I almost drive the same car, since I purchased it in June of 2010. I’ve even got the same mattress – come at me, Dreams.

I realised, though, that this malaise-filled answer does not really do justice to my achievements, which I don’t love talking about but will do so, since it’s a new decade and everything (probably). There are a lot of things I’m really proud of that aren’t included here but I really don’t have masses of navel-gazing time today, so I’ve kept it to the top 5.

1. I was published. I wrote a revision guide, then a textbook, then a book about teaching. I wrote pieces for Teaching History and consulted on teaching materials for Hodder. Sometimes my writing was deemed good enough to be cannibalised for future editions. It is hard to convey how proud I am about this. My 7-year-old self, the wannabe authoress, could never have dreamed that teaching would lead me to this. I am looking forward to there being more writing in the future. My best writing tip is to not think you have to start at the beginning: start where you find the words.

2. I was invited to speak. I gave my first SHP workshop in 2011, following up a project I had developed after Google Teaching Academy (HOW is that 10 years ago…OK, I think I’m getting everyone else’s amazement vibe now). Since then, I have presented at SHP six more times and HA once, plus whole-day insets I’ve planned for Philip Allen Events and Keynote and various speaking engagements for the exam board. This is never not scary. I am always conscious of becoming someone’s bad inset story. But, it’s easier now, to the point where I was able to complete new examiner training for 200 slightly spiky examiners in 2018, most of whom could list 100 ways they’d rather spend a lovely day in May, and though I was too wound up to eat the lunch, my colleague did tell me they’d picked me for the very wide, very shallow room that was difficult to present in ‘because you’re the best’. I am still fairly certain she was trying to make me feel better, but I’ll take it. My best speaking tip is to smile and slow down.

3. I was promoted at the exam board. Twice. I started the decade as a team leader. I became an assistant principal in 2012. I’m a principal examiner now. It just gets more interesting, I promise. I know more about assessment than I could ever have dreamed I’d want to. I also know a lot more (defo not everything) about managing people from a distance and prioritising when juggling a huge workload. I keep thinking about a Masters in Educational Assessment. I keep thinking of cutting down my teaching hours to spend more time on this. I’ll probably still be thinking of this in 2030. My best examiner tip is, communicate well and forget about getting your own way. None of us do.

4. I ran 9 ski trips (and attended a 10th). I had already run three at the start of the decade, but then the LA decided I wasn’t qualified and I had to do an arduous course to continue, which I failed the first time around. This taught me a lot about myself and the process of learning. I love skiing and I always feel proud of myself when I’m watching my students showing off what they’ve learned on the slopes, because I had to work pretty hard to get to this point. I’m also quite proud of the fact that, when I moved schools, the very experienced ski trip lead felt I was a safe pair of hands in which to entrust her treasure when she retired. The coup of the decade, surely: how many school ski trips are run by history teachers? We should form a clique. My best ski trip tip is, be as positive as humanly possible, all the time. Be merry fricking sunshine. Smother complaining with joy. They will definitely need it by day 4.

5. I moved schools but didn’t move up. I really did think that, without putting some effort into reinventing myself as an SLT bod, I might stay put where I was forever. I had four interviews in the years prior to leaving – one for every job I applied for – and kept getting sent home at lunch. I obviously don’t interview well and it’s not clear why. I started to think I should stop eating lunch. When the move came, though, I was applying for the right reasons (wanting to leave as opposed to fear of redundancy, the prompter for the previous applications) and it really clicked, even though my interview day began appallingly. I love where I work: the students, the setting, the autonomy, the opportunities to grow, my colleagues. I think the move probably saved my teaching career. So my best school moving tip is, apply for the right job, for the right reasons. And probably don’t eat lunch, just in case.


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