Posted on 07/10/2015
Through New Eyes
I have been a secondary school teacher for 18 years, the majority as a middle or senior leader. Until now I prided myself in having seen it all and done it all. I have taught in tough inner city schools, deprived valley schools, a Haberdasher school, outstanding schools, single sex schools and mixed schools. I’ve done the timetable, overseen assessment, behaviour management, curriculum design, Safeguarding and Child Protection, Transition, Pastoral, Community, teaching and learning, led INSETS, spoken at conferences, etc etc etc. I was confident that I had secondary school education pretty much covered.
But on September 3rd 2015, almost two decades into my career, I experienced a first: becoming a dad of a secondary school boy. Not just any secondary school. The Fulham Boys School! It has forced me to see the school I love more than any other I have taught at through different eyes.
I have listened at the supper table to how his first day and then his second day went. How he loved his lessons and how his teachers were great. How some of the boys seem so much cleverer! How good the food is. How smart he feels (but the blazer is a bit scratchy!). The friends he’s made. How proud he is to be a Fulham Boy. How he doesn’t really know what is happening. How he finds carrying his bag around hard. How much he would love a locker. How he wonders how he’ll do his ownwork and all the clubs. How tired he feels. How he’s not looking forward to the tube and walk to Hurlingham Park on Sports afternoon. How sometimes he misses the familiarity and some of his mates from primary school.
I’m sure the conversations going forward will include how he got a conduct signature or detention that he didn’t deserve. How he hasn’t got picked for the rugby, football and cricket team. How he didn’t manage to get a cookie at break. How he had to wait for his lunch until 1.40 one day. Why he should be allowed to grow his hair over his collar or have it shaved.
So what do I tell him? What do I tell the boy I would do anything for? Quite simply, to be a Fulham Boy and get on with it! That the rough and tumble of lunchtime, the jungle of the changing room, getting put in detention when he thinks he shouldn’t have been, having his hair cut when he thinks it’s just not cool, picking up carrots in the canteen that he didn’t drop – that these are all lessons that will help him in life as much as the very best Maths, English and Science lessons he will go to. Even when everything seems too much, when he feels like he’s drowning with it all, when he has to fight back the tears because he can’t find his bag or his blazer or his next lesson. Get on with it! Be resilient. Be enterprising. Make the best of it. Be a Fulham Boy!
But what do I tell myself? To keep thinking of ways to improve our systems to make things easier for 11, 12 and 13 year old boys, to ensure our teachers are as fair as they can be and our lessons are as boy inspiring as possible. Make sure team selection is consistent and clear. Make sure boys have the widest variety of interesting clubs to attend. Make sure we have a culture where bullying cannot happen. Make sure I maintain the highest standards and expectations. Make sure we make the most of our temporary site while designing the best for our permanent home. Make sure our boys are safe and happy.
Of course, none of this is new. It’s what’s been driving us forward since FBS first started. But as one of the assistant heads told our Year 8, they now know FBS better than I do. They go to lessons here, spend lunch and breaktimes here, do clubs and sports afternoon here. I don’t. They see school through different eyes. And it is those eyes, for the first time in 18 years of secondary school teaching, that I am beginning to see through.