At My Last School …

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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How often do teachers source inspiration from their work, specifically things they have accomplished in their last employment?

This term, there are tens of thousands of teachers starting work in new schools. Many will be new to teaching altogether, but 1,000s of others will be experienced and moving from one school to another. When moving from one institution, they will naturally bring with them a plethora of good and bad experiences: what to do and what to avoid.

However, as we aim to pass on our experience, teachers typically ‘default to the following opening line’:

At my last school, we used to …”

There is a time and a place in every school for bringing in new ideas, sharing experiences and words of wisdom, but have you ever stopped to think ‘how often’ someone says this? Or how often an idea or challenge to the norm is pitch from this perspective? The approach is a subconscious justification for suggesting change, or for provoking established ideas using prior evidence, even if it is something ‘that worked’.

Although there is nothing wrong with suggesting new ideas that you have tried and tested in other schools, new colleagues should continue to use this technique, but start to think differently.

Think Differently:

This blog will make you remember what to do and what to avoid.

If colleagues are moving to another school in which to work, there is a reason for them doing so in the first place. Relocation. A promotion, or a change in circumstances. Whatever the reason, teachers will want to take their best ideas, the most useful resources and the best of ‘you’ to your new place of work. This is only natural. There will be countless times a teacher will find themselves sitting around a table with colleagues, discussing policies, projects and how to improve systems for teaching and working with students.

As a new colleague, it’s all too easy to by a ‘fly on the wall’ and sit mute, but that’s not what we are paid to do, therefore most teachers will want to contribute new ideas and bring their ‘own stamp/personality’ to the work that they are employed to do. Therefore, allow me to suggest a better phrase for challenging old ideas from a fresh perspective.

Instead, ask:

Why do we do it like this?”

“Why do we do it like this?” is a sentence quoted in the book, Inner Story written by Dr. Tim O’Brien. It’s a phrase I have promised to use in my work this academic year, but one I would also like to encourage all colleagues to use who are new to working in another instituition. Instead of starting with ‘at my last school’, start with ‘why do we do it like this?’

Just try it … and then pause for a response.

You may find you get through to colleagues faster, your prior experiences and ideas are welcomed, rather than a subliminal shrug of the shoulders and a closed response: ‘this is how we do it here.’

A retort (to this reply) for colleagues working in new schools? “In my experience, evidence suggests …”

This may then open a debate or put someones back up. Either way, we are doing things because we want to improve things for the students we work with. After all, that’s why we’re in the job, and no educator should be unwilling to learn from other teachers’ valid experiences. Perhaps how we phrase our opening lines may lead to more successful outcomes …


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