Yesterday, I was involved in a post about stepping down as HOD. Now I am Queen of stepping down. I initially stepped down when I moved to Rome – I dropped several titles and about £20,000. It wasn’t a title I was after coming here though; it was a change of lifestyle. More recently, I stepped up temporarily to lead the department here. It didn’t work for me. I saw myself working more and having less time away from school. And quite frankly, I am not great at dealing with the emotional rollercoaster of others. It drains me. So I stepped down again and I am pleased to say we have a wonderful man leading our department now.
There seems to be this stigma that if you step down that that’s you done. I would argue that nothing could be further from the truth. 19 years in and ‘just’ being a classroom teacher gives me an enormous sense of freedom and control over my own work. In fact, I am probably equally as busy – just doing things that energise and improve me instead.
Firstly, the ability to focus on your teaching is wonderful. I feel fully dedicated to my classes and no longer have anything that distracts me from them.
Secondly, I have been able to identify areas of interest to me and work on those. For example, I am currently doing the CTeach programme. There are three areas I have been doing a lot of work on which I will talk about briefly here.
Policy: I have limited knowledge of policy at a whole school level. As a result of stepping down, I have had more time to interrogate this more closely. I have met with our Executive Principal to discuss what are policies and why they are needed. I have met with our Head of Secondary to explore the process of policy writing and review. I have read and summarized two of our core policies: Teaching and Learning and Professional Development. Having stepped down, I’ve moved away from these but am now all guns blazing with regard to the Programmes Standards and Practices for IB and how successfully we meet those conditions. I will probably focus more on Teaching which, obviously, really interests me. I am also fascinated with the MYP. We are not an MYP school but the principles of planning are really striking for me and, although I feel my strength is in planning, working with these principles could enhance my planning further. In fact, when I look through the Programmes Standards and Practices and the MYP Principles into Practice, there is enough in these two documents to keep me busy for years.
Writing: The second area I am particularly interested in at the moment is the area of writing. I’ve always felt I am weaker at the teaching of writing than I am the teaching of reading and have quite the complex. One thing that I have been able to do now that I have more time is start work with our KS2 team. I have been to observe a KS2 teacher teach writing and was blown away. Again, this was so invigorating and empowered me to reconsider how I approach the teaching of writing. We are now working together to create the first unit in year 7 – one so that she can teach me the process but, secondly to foster greater cohesion in the transition process.
Learning to Learn: As part of the CTeach programme, I conducted a literature review into Metacognition which turned into an evaluation of how successful iterations of metacognitive programmes have been in secondary schools. I loved reading ‘Fear is the Mind Killer’ and found this fascinating. As a result, I approached our Wellbeing team and our PSHE team and asked them whether Learning to learn was a feature of any programme. Since then I have met with one of our Assisstant Headteachers and we are co-constructing a Learning to Learn programme to start in Sep 2021. Whilst, my research tells me a complex intervention leads to greater success, this is a really positive start.
The point being here is that just because you step down from a position doesn’t mean that you have relegated yourself within our profession. For me, what it actually means, is that I’ve got rid of so much that I felt was draining me (although I managed to write a KS3 curriculum I can get behind in my short tenure) and now am totally focused on my own areas of interest and passions, which seek to energise me further.
Now some leaders will love leadership and that’s awesome. Some leaders will say I lead and can do all of the above too. That too is awesome. For me, I want to do these things and still have my evenings and weekend free. When I walk out of the school door at 3.35pm, the rest of my evening is mine – free choice to do as I will. If leadership isn’t working for you in the formal and traditional sense, don’t be afraid to step back. The reality is that there is still a world of professional leading and development that is waiting for you.