The 2018/2019 academic year – A year of learning curves

The end has come to the 2018/2019 academic year and, as always, reflection is key to progress. Here are a few things that I have learnt coming out from this extremely busy year, which was also the first year that I have officially held a position as a teacher trainer.

Development works

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my jobs this year has been working with teachers and helping them in their development. We implemented a new development programme this year and this small ‘push’ that it has given teachers has driven some of them to do, create and reflect on some amazing things. One of the teachers in my academy chose phonology as his area of development for the year and went on to develop a set of activities that will be used in the school’s curriculum in the 2019/2020 academic year. Others have become more aware of what constitutes effective teaching and learning strategies in the classroom. Some have moved further into materials development and have produced phenomenal appropriate, learner-centred materials. Brilliant work!

Change is necessary

Implementing something new is always scary. When it involves a whole staff of teachers, it’s even scarier. Together with my DoS, we drafted and implemented a very heavy teacher development programme in term 1. This was not very well received by most of the teachers as time commitments were high and attitudes towards development were not as ‘keen’ as we had hoped. So, term 2 we changed tactics – reduced development hours, more personalised development in the form of one-to-one coaching sessions and optional workshops. Teachers were much happier, and, to my surprise, developed a lot more than in term 1. Term 3 witnessed even more changes, however these were much smaller. The point here is that change is necessary if something is to improve. And this change needs to be influenced by both administrative needs and wants AND teachers’ feedback. Looking forward to the coming academic year, even more changes will be taking place based on the feedback from teachers and the overall success of the programme. Don’t be afraid of change!

Moving into a managerial role comes with problems

Whenever someone moves into an administrative or managerial position, it can be difficult. I certainly found that moving into such a position from within the same school had both negative and positive aspects. The positive aspects included having a thorough understanding of the school and the teachers, being well-versed in how the school operates, and having an understanding of what the needs and wants of the teachers were. Conversely, some teachers felt looked over for the position which I took (i.e. they felt I did not deserve it) and certain teachers felt that my level of experience did not adequately meet the expected requirements of a teacher trainer. I suppose this is to be expected in any school, institution or organisation with a large staff, although I definitely was underprepared for this. I can definitely see why a lot of schools prefer to hire an ‘outsider’ to fill managerial positions.

Finding your ‘guide’

This year I have had the pleasure to work side-by-side with my DoS, Katy, who has been not only an inspiration but also the person from whom I asked the most advice. Working with more experienced people than yourself is a blessing and I’ve been able to learn so much from simply watching and working with her. Find that someone who can guide you along the way, be it as a teacher or as someone in a managerial position.

Time gets away from you

Time. We have so precious little of it. I had so many objectives that I wanted to reach this year and, to my joy, I have been able to reach most of them. Nonetheless, I would have like to have reached them all. Better planning and a more fluid programme would have allowed this. One of these objectives was to write more on the blog, something which I promise to do over the next year!

Work to live, not live to work

Striking that healthy life-work balance can be hard, especially when you love your job or you want to prove yourself to your peers. Often I found myself waking up and working, then going to work and working, then coming home and, you guessed it, working. I was able to get a lot done, however by term 2 I could feel myself wearing out. The lesson here for me is that I need to make time for life outside work – reading for pleasure, more fitness, etc.

Bite your tongue

One of the biggest learning curves for me this year is related to working with other people. I would find it utterly unbelievable to find out that someone in a managerial role has never had a ‘negative’ conversation with one of their peers – people disagree on stuff all the time. How you react in these situations is key to being a successful leader and ‘people person’. There were a number of times throughout the year when such negative conversations did arise, and for the most part I think I handled them well. However, I can think of two situations where, to my dismay, I was to quick to react and, as a result, I reacted poorly. Being able to bite your tongue, reflect on the situation and then deal with it later is definitely a vital aspect of working in management or as a teacher trainer. We live and we learn!

So, these are but a few of the learning curves that I’ve faced this year. What about you? Feel free to share your learning curves below in the comments.


  1. Sandy Millin says:

    Hi Jim,
    Thanks for sharing these insights. They tally a lot with my own experience of these transitions, although I did it in an entirely new school. Time is probably the biggest one, but I’d also say I’m a lot better at biting my tongue now than I used to be! A tip a teacher gave me is to put my finger on my lips until I’m ready to speak, and it really works – it makes me pause a little longer before I say anything.
    Looking forward to reading more as and when you feel you have the time to write it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your thoughts, Sandy – much appreciated!


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