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Let flowers bloom

Advice for seasoned practitioners

The other week I met a teacher of many years service who'd just had a rejuvenating experience. Let me explain that the extra spring in her step was brought about by a period away from her regular timetable, renewing an acquaintance with a curriculum subject, and an age group, both of which she'd left behind long ago.

Trained in music, she'd spent her early years teaching that subject. Career advancement, though, has taken her into a job where her main responsibility is with - and the shorthand word is mine, not hers - "difficult" pupils in key stage 4 in a very challenging school.

It's a job she's good at. And it has its own satisfactions. She's clearly the kind of person who's admired, respected and listened to by people at all levels of the organisation. But the role is demanding beyond the imagination of most of us.

Then came this opportunity. For two weeks, the regular timetable was heavily modified while the school rehearsed a multi-media, all-singing, all-dancing show to celebrate an important anniversary. Her part in the jamboree was to work with a group of Year 7s as they composed and recorded a set of their own songs for the occasion. Going back to music, and meeting younger children in an atmosphere of creative enthusiasm, was as good as being on holiday. It started her thinking, too, that maybe her specialist skills could be used in her work with the older boys and girls.

She wasn't the only person - adult or child - who found something special in the experience. Senior management, clearly, now has some ideas to chew over - not least that professional development has many facets and sometimes comes heavily disguised as something else.

There's a further lesson, too: it doesn't have to be a senior person who has an idea like this in the first place. So be bold. There are times, in the middle of stressful departmental or year group meetings, or even in the pub after parents' evening, when a well-judged "Tell you what. Why don't we... ?" will strike fertile ground. Just remember that you may need to be generous - able to accept that the flower when it eventually blooms may be different from the one you had in mind, and could have been tended by hands other than your own.

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