Let’s face it NQTs, we all want to have an impact on our students. When many face significant challenges outside of the school gates, it is clear that the impact we have within four 50-minute lessons each week might not be as powerful and sustained as we would like.
In this instance, some of us might start searching for some extra-curricular initiatives we can start that will fill in the gaps for our pupils, perhaps by making connections with an outside organisation that provides volunteers to help improve pupils’ core literacy or numeracy skills – or the inspiration and direction to choose the right course at university.
But who among us has the time, energy or resources to do such initiatives justice? Where do you source such organisations or charities?
You could of course start with a web search of organisations that provide services targeted to the specific needs of your school.
This will mean searching through a sea of irrelevant websites. You will be faced with the confusion of sifting through the chaff, attempting to determine which organisation does what, whether they work in your area, whether they charge, what they require in return… the list goes on.
If you do manage to find your diamond in the rough, you will then have to wade through the shackles of paperwork and bureaucratic controls that thwart attempts at innovation in your school, make awkward attempts at buttering up senior leadership, sort out logistics, make sure pupils turn up…
Of course all of this will probably not be possible in the first place, because of the major all-consuming constraint that we all face: time.
This is where we need to start connecting the dots. What if, instead of having to endure this laborious process, you were already part of a network of teachers in your area who were sharing the great things that had been successful in their schools? Instead of having to take risks instigating potentially time-sapping ill-effective ventures, you could source tried and tested links recommended by teachers to tackle similar challenges to your own?
Tonight I had the privilege of meeting with a small group of South London teachers with the goal of just that: combating the individual challenges in our own schools through linking with other teachers and sharing recommendations that are tried and tested.
Over pizza, I learned that there are schools that are not partnered with organisations that bring graduates in to inspire their pupils to go to university, there are schools that do not bring in professionals to talk about potential career paths for pupils with little idea of their own potential, and there are schools with no numeracy programmes.
Things that I take for granted in my school, where there is a motivated body of experienced staff above me constantly working to provide some of the most inspiring and enriching activities for our pupils, are not on the radar at other schools.
I have come to believe that with a little determination and the right connections, even an inexperienced teacher such as me can begin to make impact through engagement with external organisations. What excites me is that this is all so simple to share. All we have to do is connect the dots.
Of course you cannot solve all the problems your school faces single-handedly. That would be impossible. I am saying that we are better together. There will be fantastic teachers with some great ideas just around the corner from you. Don’t reinvent the wheel, start connecting the dots.
Our NQT diarist this year writes anonymously and is a teacher of maths from a south London secondary school.