Despite all the pressures we have facing us this year, with new specifications and a whole host of related issues, I am feeling quite upbeat. I do have the luxury of an amazing department, who work incredibly well together and who play to one another’s strengths, which helps. I also managed to survive my first year as a reluctant head of department, which has given me masses of confidence in myself as a team leader. Now I feel that I can fulfil the promise I made to one of the students on the pupil panel at my interview, who said, “How will your teaching change if you get the job?”. Rather naively, I told him, with confidence and passion in my voice, that it wouldn’t change at all. Pupils in the school are the reason for me being here. Your education is most important and why would I want to compromise that? He looked at me with a wry smile which made me question in my head what I had just said.
This article originally appeared in the February 2017 Edition of UKEdMagazine
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I spent most of the year in fits of panic. I didn’t know if I was doing the right thing. I needed lots of encouragement and was scared to make my own decisions. I was lucky to have a very patient department around me; I was lucky that the NQT in the department didn’t need a lot of support and I was lucky to have the semi-retired ex-head of department working alongside us to offer advice whenever I needed it.
So, all in all I had a pretty ‘easy’ start to my new role. I still found it challenging, frightening and at times extremely frustrating, but without all this help it could have been much worse. During the year I took a group of students on the German exchange to Königslutter, I organised our annual trip to Austria which I also led, I co-organised our yearly languages Festival, I re-wrote the schemes of work for Key Stage 3 and worked alongside my colleagues to work out schemes of work for Key Stage 4 and I organised the return exchange visit to take place in the third week of this current school year. I also set up ALL Cumbria and organised its first ever meeting and my second TeachMeet. My teaching suffered. I missed deadlines. My marking was atrocious if I marked at all. But I got through it and relatively unscathed. I had moments of absolute despair, frustration or complete exhaustion, but I also had moments of elation, utter pride and an overwhelming sense of achievement when I witnessed things that I had instigated or organised coming into fruition.
This year I really feel like it is my department. So much so that I have finally accepted my change in role and have had my ID badge changed to say: Rebecca Wylie, Head of German! We have already hosted the 50th anniversary of our German exchange with Königslutter this September, which threw up its own issues, but which was a complete success and there are many more things that I want to achieve this year, alongside all the other run-of-the-mill tasks that I will have to complete as head of department and all the modifications that we will have to make due to new developments in GCSE and A-Level exams and specifications that are out of our control.
However, this year I will return to outstanding teaching. My pupils’ books will be marked better. I will proceed with more confidence and determination than ever before, because of the mistakes I made last year and because of the things I achieved in spite of them! I feel motivated, inspired and raring to go!
Rebecca Wylie is Head of German at Keswick School. Read her blogs at ontargetteaching.blogspot.co.uk and srswopshop.blogspot.co.uk. Find her on Twitter at @reebekwylie.