Tales from new teachers

Requests from the top

The problem

The spring before I was due to embark on my newly qualified teacher year, I was called into the headteacher's study. It turns out that being summoned to see the headteacher never gets less terrifying, even if you left school some six years before.

I wasn't in trouble. Instead, I was asked if I would consider teaching some A-level classes in a subject that wasn't my specialism. It was a slightly unexpected request, but it had come from the top so what choice did I have?

The options

Ever the people-pleaser, my first response was to say yes. But there were undertones of uncertainty. It wasn't an entirely left-field idea; my degree had involved elements of the subject in question. But although I enjoyed dabbling in it, I wouldn't really class it as a passion.

I resolved to do some research. The deputy headteacher arranged for me to meet up with a head of department in another local school. She had a reputation for outstanding practice in this particular area and was more than happy to show me the ropes. I was bowled over by her enthusiasm for the subject.

In the lesson I observed, she was animated, compelling and able to pluck plenty of real-world examples from her memory. I felt really motivated as I went back to school.

I decided that the next step would be to chat with the head of department at my school. It wasn't long before I realised that things weren't the same. The subject was not so highly regarded, results were not as good and the structures I'd seen work so effectively at the other school just weren't in place. My heart sank.

My first year was going to be stressful enough. Did I really need to add to it by taking on a big project like this?

My head of department was an excellent sounding board. She thought that I was more than capable of teaching the lessons but questioned my reasons for doing so. She pointed out that if I didn't have the drive, it could be a struggle and might undermine my confidence as a new teacher.

The result

I braved the headteacher's study once again. I explained that my research had persuaded me that he needed somebody who had a real passion for the subject to inject the lessons with the energy and expertise they deserved. He was great. He said he respected my decision and appreciated the time I had spent thinking about it. I walked out feeling the way I had when I left the headteacher's study as a student - relieved.

The writer is a newly qualified teacher in London

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