In June 2014, I blogged about The Last Lecture as a source of inspiration and reflection of my own vision and values as a teacher. This was a precursor to my vision and values blog: The teacher genetic code. I also shared with the reader, two key questions to answer.
Here I am reporting back to you in this blog, my last day at Greig City Academy on Friday 11th July 2014, This was my Last Lecture and is an extract from my leaving speech. To provide context and clarity, I have highlighted any text below in bold, which is derived directly from my speech. All other text is added for meaning. This blog is personal and is written for my colleagues.
The Last Lecture:
Greig City Academy will always hold a special place in my career. I arrived to the school at a difficult time in my life, personally and professionally. For the first time in 20 years, I found myself away from school in September, desperate to get back into the classroom. I was lucky enough to be given a chance to work with staff, in what I now see as a pivotal role in any school; leading on whole-school teaching and learning. It was by far, the most toughest interview I have ever had! I have written more about this interview process here: How do senior leaders get their jobs?
What I have also discovered about the school, is that leading the interview process itself, with the ethos of the leadership team and the hard emphasis placed upon teacher development, is that even if colleagues are unsuccessful in the interview process, we pride ourselves on providing detailed and meaningful feedback, so that the overall experience is a) valuable CPD and b) that a colleague leaves the school with a positive impression.
This [Greig City Academy] is a good school. In fact it’s a great school and if you can forgive me saying anything to do with ‘Ofsted’, this is an Outstanding school. Our students are fantastic and we should all be proud. Every, single, one of us, no matter what our role is. We should be proud of our achievements. (My voice quibbled when I mentioned ‘good school’).
We look after our staff. Wellbeing is a priority. There is much to be done, but we do know that staff are happy and do enjoy coming to work here. Only last week, Investors in People externally validated this belief and this has equipped us to target the Gold standard, which in hindsight, I regret not aiming for from the beginning. The inspector did say, we could have achieved the Gold Standard.
I then looked my principal in the eye (and my voice quibbled again!) and said: [Name] our one-to-one meetings have been transformational. (I quoted [Name] as fatherly and inspirational). You have looked straight into my eyes and have asked me as a leader and also as an individual person: ‘Who are you? Who is Ross?’ and ‘What gets you out of bed in the morning? What makes you tick?’ You have also asked me, ‘What are your values?’ and ‘What is your vision?’
Over the past 6 months, I have worked hard to be able to articulate this to myself, to staff and to students. I have developed as a person, becoming increasingly reflective; but also as a school leader and most importantly, a classroom teacher. I know I am leaving as a whole person. Happier as a person, much happier as a teacher and as a school leader. The leadership team work their backsides off to bring the best out of staff and all our students. This includes me as a member of ‘the staff’. It has been a pleasure working with them.
(I then hold the following book up to all my staff).
The Last Lecture:
This is one of my favourite books by Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture. The essence of the book is a tradition at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that departing professors are asked to consider their departure and to ponder on matters that matter most to them. And while they speak, audiences are asked to consider the same question:
- What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? and,
- If we had to vanish tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy?
So, placing this ideal to a teaching context and applying these same two questions to my time here at Greig City Academy, I will start my with legacy. What will be your legacy as a teacher? What will staff say about you? Only you – the staff – will be able to know (or not!) and answer that on my behalf, so I won’t, but I will answer the second question.
What wisdom would you have hoped to impart during your career at the school? And this is mine. Why are you a teacher? Why do you choose to work at this school? What gets you out of bed in the morning? And my answer for you is this: It’s the kids! Working with colleagues (you) who want to work and be the best we can for them. And if I had one regret, it would be that I haven’t got staff together more frequently ‘to talk about teaching.’ And if you can forgive me for using a quote from Dylan Wiliam, is that: “Every teacher needs to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better.”
I have unfinished business [here] and I wasn’t ready to leave; but as Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli said, “the secret of success in life, is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.” and it is with thanks to the principal, to the school and to you the staff, that have allowed me to be ready for my opportunity. I have been in a real privileged position, to be able to observe you all, and it has been incredible CPD for me and for each member of staff to learn from each other. We are what make the difference to children and I would encourage you all to get out of your classrooms, to observe each other as much as possible and learn from each other. We have many, many talents within our staff. It is the best way to develop your own practice.
I’d just like to say particular thanks to the leadership team. It has been great working with you. And a special thank you to [Name, Name and Name] for your hard work supporting me, helping to make CPD and teaching and learning projects work within the school. I wouldn’t have been able to do most of it without you. And finally, a ‘thank you’ to everyone; to the staff. It has been a pleasure.
And if you want to get in touch, then you’ll probably find me on Twitter!