Talking shop

25th August 2000 at 01:00
Former headteacher Sue Mulvany gets to the heart of issues that concern you

My wife and I are both in education, but work in different authorities. Last term she was appointed head of a large inner-city school. We have been together since we left college in the late Eighties and our careers have more or less followed the same pattern. Unlike me, she has never planned her career path; things just seemed to happen for her. Since her promotion I have found myself becoming increasingly despondent with my present post, which I have held for the past four years. I know I need a change, but am totally unmotivated. I know you are going to say that I should be glad for my wife's success and I am, but I can't help feeling she has the job that should have been mine. I don't want things to go from bad to worse and begin to spoil our relationship. What can I do to get things back to where they once were?

AI could be wrong, but it sounds to me as though there is a bit of a man thing going on here. Careers aren't competitions and neither are marriages. She hasn't "got the job that should have been yours." What a thing to say! There are plenty of headships around for the willing and able, it just happens that she managed to get one before you.

You say you want things to be back the way they were; ask yourself if that describes a time when you were the more successful one. If it does, then think about the use of power in your relationship. If you truly want an equal relationship then change your perceptions, actions and words accordingly; it could be the biggest learning success of your life.

I think you know these thoughts are unworthy of you and if I am right you have already removed the highest barrier to change. Keep working towards your goal. The profession needs as many good heads as it can get, but do it for the love of the job, not for point-scoring with your wife.

Q I have taught Year 2 for the past four years. Last May, my class achieved the highest-ever test scores in SATs. The parents were delighted, but I have since been told by the headteacher that I must move to teach a Year 1 class. I am sure the parents will think I have been demoted and it feels like that. Can the head do this even if I don't want to teach younger children?

A Yes. The headteacher has the right and the duty to arrange the deployment of teachers. I would be surprised if this change had happened withot any consultation or discussion, but in any case you need to have another chance to talk things through. You need to understand the overall staffing strategy in the school and see your place within it. A good head will be making such decisions as part of a long-term approach to raising standards. Be prepared to listen and ask questions so that you know what part you are being expected to play. It could be that the head wants to give someone else the opportunity and experience of Year 2 teaching following your good example, or that standards need to be raised in Year 1. On the other hand, although the SATs results were the best ever, perhaps they are not as high as they could be, so be prepared for that to be discussed.

Whatever the reason, please nip in the bud the thought that teaching younger children is "demotion". This is an insult to colleagues who spend their lives in this highly skilled sector of education.

Q I graduated three years ago in art and design, and have worked in the same school ever since. My professional development meetings with the headteacher have all been positive and the pupils in my Year 5 class are making good progress in the core subjects. My concern is that I would dearly like to make more use of my skills and talents. Although I love primary teaching, I think I may have chosen the wrong age phase when I took the Post-Graduate Certificate in Education. What can I do now?

A If you love teaching primary-aged children you didn't choose the wrong type of PGCE, you're just experiencing what most primary teachers go through as they mature into their careers. You are growing into the position where the generic skills of teaching, learning, leading and managing are extending and complementing your subject focus. Be proud of being able to teach across the curriculum and don't lose your creativity.

You might suggest to the head that the school could look at ways to use the staff's subject knowledge in order to get the most from their abilities. How about offering to teach art as a specialist in other classes for some of the time? Pupils would love the experience of having another teacher and colleagues who lacked artistic skills would appreciate your help. The standards in art would also rise. I suggest you experiment for a few terms using two subject specialists, yourself and an historian or a musician, perhaps. Good luck with the timetabling.


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