Reflections and Change

Updated: Mar 26, 2021

Nigel Concannon, Head of Year 11 and Head of Geography, The Gateway Academy

Monday. 23rd March. 2021. Without doubt the best day of my nine year teaching career. I have just delivered a presentation to the Progress Board. What would have been a daunting task in previous years was instead a success and another sign of progress. However, getting there wasn’t easy.

A career in teaching is a life changing experience; but for a migrant teacher, there is no choice but to succeed. Failure is NOT an option. I made all the mistakes as an NQT, and then some more. I was actually asked by my mentor after another horrid observation, “Do you want to be a teacher?” Progress was steady but shrouded by a lack of confidence.

In 2015 I moved to another school looking for a fresh challenge. All that I did was move the problem to another school. I was too inconsistent in my approach; students and teachers were never quite sure what version of myself they would witness. It didn’t matter what role I had within the school, one step forward was followed by two steps back. Losing my cool would be followed by apologies to parents, students and my line manager. Last academic year, I actually cried in a meeting with my line manager and wondered if there was much more point in doing the job; I was making mistakes at every turn.

The thing about raising your voice in a classroom is that you can’t keep it there; you have to come back down to level. When you do, you’ve lost the room. Once you get that reputation, it difficult to shake off. I always used to say that I was just being strict or I was being assertive or trying to have a “strong” presence; realistically they were all just excuses.

Then, during the first lockdown a year ago, I had time to reflect. I had to change. I was at fault. Not the parents. Not the staff. Certainly not the students.

It took me 34 years to admit that I was wrong. I had finally realised what was holding me back. I was too emotional in my responses to situations. Since that moment I haven’t looked back. My planning and preparation is better. My organisation is on point. My communication is more precise. I listen to people and take it on board. I don’t respond to emails in an emotional manner. Face to face communication is far superior to an email. I delegate jobs out to other people. I am no longer an island. My working relationships with students and staff has never been better. No more tears to the line manager. The same parent that was complaining about me in last year's parents' evening is full of praise in this year's parents' evening. If it took me 34 years to change, then how can I expect a 12 year old to change in a year, or an hour, a minute or a warning?

I read something recently that said all wins in life feel the same. I would argue that wins that follow a struggle taste a little sweeter.

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