For some crazy moment I considered writing this in third person about myself. Thankfully, and in the interest of authenticity, I changed my mind.
'Everything is going to be alright'. This is a title that derives from my journey to school as an NQT living in Hackney. Everyday I cycled past a derelict building that had this written in Neon across the top of its pediment. I later learned that this building had been bombed in the war and that it was previously the home of Dr Barnardo's and the Salvation Army. It's a beautiful and reassuring statement that holds true, particularly when the circumstances may appear unfavourable.
I hope that you like these short stories. I have taken my experiences and wrapped them up carefully and respectfully by not including accurate personal references. I've also altered minor details and included imagery that paints a picture. As a Headteacher, or in any other position in school, I never used social media or the internet to discuss my experiences. It never really crossed my mind because everything seemed so personal, and so the stories stacked up. When I look at how my narratives evolve, it always seems to be presented as a frank reality. With the nature of my own school experiences combined with my career I can understand why, but they are also stories of joy, success and relationships. There is nothing that I feel more proud about than creating sincere relationships with children and families so that they can learn, succeed and be healthy.
I now realise that my back story brings me to this place. My parents are incredible and they both have heroic stories that centre around caring for others. Both came from humble backgrounds and both have worked immensely hard for me and my brother. My Mum was sister on the children's ward, delivering babies and nursing poorly children, and my Dad was a sailor. He has the most wonderful story about being pardoned from missing his ship in Barbados. He was let off this misdemeanour because he had rewired a bakery in a small village somewhere in Honduras after a natural disaster. This is the kid from the back streets of Manningham, Bradford.
I lived a bit of a dual life in school. I was chronically short of confidence in the classroom at times and certain teachers had a knack of making it known to me what I could not do. For these reasons, I built my self-esteem around my sport, artwork and friendships. The teachers that I liked, were the ones that made it explicit that they cared for you. With these people, even if you were subject to the occasional firm word, you still felt safe and respected in their classroom. This is because they had done their groundwork in getting to know you and more importantly, telling you that they like you.
I often reflect on my education and realise that the environment reflected the times. It was a confusing transition for schools to be able to shift from a position of unquestionable authority, to prioritising a vision centred around humility and relationships. Schools back then had an element of ruling by fear. Children got hit with shoes, which was legal, and the institution was always right. Subconsciously, and more recently consciously, this has fuelled my professional life.
I started my career in a special educational needs school in Bradford and was told that I was good with children. This means that the spark came first. I always say that you can learn the rest. From here I worked in many different settings from Bradford and Huddersfield to Hackney, East London, where I qualified to teach. 28 years altogether so far. I've had two headships, one of which being the head of a large new primary school for 10 years. 80% of the children were from the 'worst' 10% with regards to deprivation. It was a journey from special measures to two consecutive good outcomes. It was a remarkable and rewarding experience that occurred within a community over a period of 18 years.
I now help other schools working for the local authority and have co-created Nautilus, which is an online school improvement platform for Headteachers and school leaders. I'm a firm believer in how life can evolve and be steered. If we take who we are, where we come from, what we achieve and what we learn, we can then use this as the honest foundation for whatever we choose to do next.