My teaching philosophy is a simple one – help others learn. Through changing schools and changing roles, that commitment has remained the same. When I first started working in schools, I underestimated just how much I would learn. This term has been no different. Here are three things that I have learned in the last few months:
In recent years I have been struck by the number of pupils who are choosing not to eat meat. For some this is driven by ethics, for others it is taste and for others it is on health grounds. Inspired by their example, I have chosen to give up meat for Lent in the hope that I will be able to develop a more balanced diet in the long run. With the amazing food available at school and the decision to include fish in my diet, this has probably been my most successful Lent ‘project’, I probably can’t justify calling it a fast, to date. I have learned that my health and happiness do not depend upon a daily dose of meat.
The divisive nature of the Brexit debate, the horrific shootings in New Zealand and the call for a wall to divide two nations is reflected in the concerns of the pupils of Dean Close. We may live in a bubble, but it is permeable. The single greatest concern of the School community as a whole is that of equality, fairness and the need to ensure that everyone is valued. At times, this has flagged up tensions as we work out how we talk about these things in a way that results in genuine understanding not deep hurt or meaningless platitudes. There are profound and searching questions that need to be addressed. I have learned that we need to find ways and to provide more opportunities to discuss, to disagree and to engage with one another.
A week ago, we were visited by a team of inspectors. The team is made up of Heads and senior teachers from other schools, all of whom are trained in what to look for and where things are hidden. It is often said that you find out the most about a person or a culture when it is placed under pressure. During the inspection week, the less important issues disappeared and the priorities came sharply into focus. This is about teachers planning, marking and delivering great lessons. It is about pupils showing that they are keen to learn and that they are making the most of the opportunities on offer. From the comments of the professionals who visited us, it is clear that we came through with flying colours. Sometimes lessons are not about learning something new, but about being reminded of simple truths. The very best thing about Dean Close is the strength of the community and the people within it. I learned that being a Headmaster during an inspection can be an uplifting time.