Early Career Teacher blog: more responsibility, departmental reviews and a serious dilemma

This is the second posting from Our Early Career blogger (read his first post here), who is beginning his first year of teaching following his NQT year. He completed a PGCE straight after his undergraduate degree in astrophysics and is now working in the comprehensive school where he did one of his training placements. Please do add your comments and share your experiences too!

Another month. And what an eventful month it has been!

Of course, I’ve taken on another responsibility even though I’m sure I said I wouldn’t in my last blog. But it is an exciting opportunity: I have become a ‘Teaching Learning Community’ leader. This means I am in charge of a group of teachers (all subjects) trying to promote higher-order thinking amongst our students.  Although some think of it being a thankless job, I see it as a chance to extend cross-curricular activities and really help the students with a transference of skills between subjects which they do seem to struggle with.

We have also had a leadership review of the science department. Oh joy. And guess who was first up, period one on a Monday? That’s right, muggins here. I valiantly attempted a higher-order thinking lesson with a middle year 8 set – physics of course, it’s not pretty seeing me do biology – and I’d say it went well. But with my head of department and deputy head sitting in the corner I found myself increasingly nervous in a way I’ve not felt since my training year. So in hindsight, I’m glad I got it out of the way.

On top of all this, I found myself grappling with a quite unexpected dilemma: whether or not to leaving the teaching profession. Yes, you read that correctly! Let me explain. An amazing opportunity came up, working for a corporation that specialises in education on a national scale. It was in the field of my interests, it was more money and an exciting new challenge. It took me off guard as I was convinced that teaching was for me. I had some serious thinking to do: how much did I want to be a teacher?

Not only was this a life-changing decision, but my teaching began to be affected with my mind on other things. I even went as far as meeting the head to discuss it. Nobody wanted me to leave, but at the same time they understood the opportunity was too good to give up. So, what to do?

This decision was mine to make and it didn’t matter how many people I talked to, I have never been so conflicted in my life. The answer finally became clear when I ran into a member of my form, a frequent visitor to the Head of Year’s office. The student had had a bad day and was leaving the isolation room, so we had a chat. The student admitted they need to control their temper rather than let it control them and then agreed to apologise to the teacher they had offended and to ask for the work they had missed – but only if I came along.

This one single moment reminded me why I got into teaching and why I love this job.  It’s not just about getting the students excited about physics, wonderful though that is. It’s also an opportunity to help them and be there for them. It is said that after their parents, a teacher is the most influential person in a kid’s life. So in that case, how can any other job compare? Looking back, I can’t believe I found the decision so hard – teaching is my life and I wouldn’t change it for the world.