A moment in timeMonday 2nd September 2019 is a moment in time, as is Wednesday the 4th September 2019. On Monday the Deanery CE Academy opens its doors to staff for the first time; on Wednesday we welcome our first cohort of students. I almost cannot believe that finally the time has come. This building is finished. The students are enrolled. The furniture is in. The lessons are planned. We are just waiting now. Waiting for the staff to come, waiting for the students, waiting for the adventures to begin. I wish I had kept a tally of all the decisions I have made on the way. I had the privilege over the past 24 hours of showing my family around the school. When I told them that I had chosen the paint, the floor covering, the carpets, the chairs, the tables, the toilet roll holders, the doors, the door handles, the signs, the computers, the telephones, the projectors, the computers, the laptops, the programmes, the fitness equipment, the quotes on the walls, the fridges, the shredders, the goalposts…. Seriously, the list is just ridiculous! All the decisions that have needed to be made have been made. We are waiting… waiting for Monday, waiting for the staff to come, waiting for Wednesday, waiting for the children to come, waiting. And as you know, I have been waiting a long time! And those of you who know me well, know I am not good at waiting. So, some of the things I have been thinking about over the past few days have been more to do with lessons than ever. I remembered a quote from Haim Ginott that I was given once by an inspirational Principal I worked with, it goes like this: “I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.” Teachers are critical. Great teachers are critical to making a school a great success. The Deanery teachers have already proved how great they are, I am so excited to put them altogether as a team and see just how amazing they can be. And so, as I showed our Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning at Swindon Borough Council, Gary Sumner round the school today, I explained that whilst we have the most amazing building ready and waiting for our staff and students to enter, it is not the building that is the most important part. Don’t get me wrong, the facilities are exceptional, world class even. But the Deanery school is not just about the building and the facilities – the beating heart of the school will be the people contained in it. The staff and the students. And that is why I am becoming increasingly excited, because very soon both the staff and students will be entering the building, inhabiting it, making it their own, breathing life into it, bringing it to life, helping the building fulfil its purpose. Which brings me to explain the title of this blog: one moment in time. I am reminded of this song by Whitney Houston, excerpts chosen by me: Each day I live I want to be, a day to give the best of me I'm only one, but not alone, my finest day is yet unknown… …I want one moment in time, when I'm more than I thought I could be When all of my dreams are a heartbeat away And the answers are all up to me… And in that one moment of time I will feel eternity I've lived to be the very best… …Give me one moment in time When I'm more than I thought I could be When all of my dreams are a heartbeat away And the answers are all up to me… …If you seize that one moment in time… This to me is a close a representation of our purpose: to live life in all its fullness. To be the best you can be. To be ‘more than I thought I can be’. This is my dream, my prayer for all those who are going to join me on the Deanery journey. The pioneering staff and the pioneering students. I hope my blog has been of interest to those of you who have followed it – I do intend to carry on, as I think it will be fascinating to record post-opening developments as well as pre-opening ones. Please, if you do, pray for us this weekend, as we make our final preparations and rest ready for our opening. Pray for the families who are about to step out on this journey with us. But most of all, pray for our students, as they enter into the Deanery as children and will leave as young adults: selfless individuals, loving life, bringing out the best in each other and living life in all its fullness.Read More
Sorry it's late, my dog ate it...Posted on: 07/06/2019
This is generally accepted as an excuse for handing in homework late. It normally reads, “sorry my homework is late Miss, my dog ate it.” I actually had to apologise to a student once because Izzy, my cocker spaniel who was a puppy back then, had taken a big chomp out of the corner of her maths homework whilst I was marking it!
That was a long winded introduction by way of apologising for my weekly blog being late this week. Unlike many teachers who manage to make it to the first day of the school holidays and fall ill, I managed to (as is usual for me) do things in reverse: I waited until midnight last Sunday, a few hours before I was supposed to be returning to school after the holiday, to fall foul of the norovirus. This was my first personal encounter with the virus ever. I am generally blessed with having a strong constitution and I manage to resist many of the bugs encountered in school – I think sometimes being a teacher helps, it makes you build up immunity! I can safely say that I am so very glad that I haven’t encountered norovirus before and I certainly don’t want to see it again soon!! Suffice to say, writing my blog on Monday morning was not high on my list of priorities, as I lay in bed recovering all I could think of was trying not to think of food!
I hope you all managed to have a wonderful break over half term. I had a magnificent short break in Rome, where I was absolutely overwhelmed by the beauty of the Sistene Chapel, the Vatican City and the Colosseum. I admit to not being a great lover of history lessons when I was at school, it tended to be very dry, mostly out of text books and just did not seem interesting to me. I remember standing in the middle of Rome at half term and thinking, “I wish I’d come here on a school trip” as a group of youngsters filed past me with their teachers. It was being there that really made me appreciate with awe and wonder the enormity of the buildings, the skill and ingenuity of the Romans and the divine inspiration of the artists. And of course this is why we are so committed to providing opportunities for trips and visits to the students who attend the Deanery – we recognise the value of ‘out of school’ experiences, allowing children to discover new things, experience new cultures and be away from home.
On my return, you may have seen from my Twitter feed, that I had the privilege of visiting 10 Downing Street. The event was a celebration of the success of free schools and was hosted by the Prime Minister and the Education Secretary. We had afternoon tea, saw an exhibition of art work from children at local schools and listened to live music performed by 2 sixth formers. Mrs May and Mr Hinds made speeches, speaking inspirationally of how well free schools are doing and thanking teachers and leaders for all they do in our schools for our future generations. It was such an exciting day for me, to walk into the black door, and (I’m slightly embarrassed to admit) to be excited by the fact that it looked exactly as it does on the film, Love Actually! We walked up a staircase past pictures of all the previous Prime Ministers and that just made me gasp in awe, to think they had walked those stairs as well….. Finally, once the reception was over, we were allowed to regain our mobile devices (taken from us as part of the rigorous security checks on arrival) and pose for photographs at the front door. Needless to say it has become a bit of a thing for me to take selfies at most events and stages of the new build and so I waited patiently for 40 minutes, behind an equally excited group of Principals, Headteachers, Chief Executive Officers and Directors of Education, to stand under the number 10 and snap my now prized selfie at number 10.
On return to work this week, things have been very busy (as usual). I noticed with sadness, that for the first time I didn’t go straight back to work in my ‘normal’ place. My table in the Waitrose coffee shop is sadly going to be more and more empty now, as I find that a lot of my time is now being spent in the building. Hopefully by now you will have seen some of the fantastic photographs of the finished building from the end of last term. We are currently working with BAM to allow them time to finish the inevitable snagging (although I admit there are hardly any snags with the building) and to take delivery of all out furniture and fittings. Thankfully (!) one of the first things that went in this week was toilet roll holders and soap dispensers, clocks and mirrors. Chairs and tables will be arriving the next couple of weeks as will most of other furniture such as cupboards, desks and filing cabinets.
As time is marching on we are now finalising our recruitment and we have advertised for the rest of the staff that we think will be joining us in September (or earlier if they can hopefully!). Cheekily I have mentioned on the website that I hope either Superman or Wonderwoman are looking for jobs in Swindon, as my PA is going to have to be a real all-round super hero. Most of all they need to be flexible and adaptable, and most importantly they need to be able to manage me! I have learnt a lot about myself in this period of building the school. I am a teacher – a professionally trained teacher, passionate about bringing out the best in children, able to teach a range of subjects and ages, good with tricky children and able to motivate (most) teenagers, even to love their least favourite subject! As a leader I have learned so much and continue to learn as I document leadership in a values driven culture as part of my professional doctorate studies. But the thing that has struck me most recently is the absolute feeling of near desperation I am experiencing right now. I just want to get started, I want to get on with it, I want the children to come, the school to open, the registers to be taken, the lessons to start, the bell to ring, the lunch to be served, the clubs to start, the first trip to arrive back safely, the Christmas play to be rehearsed…… all the things that make a school a school, I want them, I need them, I cannot wait! To be honest, I have said this many times to most parents who I have met. The children coming to the Deanery have infinite potential and I cannot wait to meet them all, get started on helping them to flourish and set them off on living their lives in the fullest possible way. Mr Scutt shares this too I know, and all the other people who are helping set up the school. There is much to be done, we are doing so much, but equally we all want it to hurry up and just get started! And I am sure Year 6 and our new families feel this as well... So, let’s enjoy our excited anticipation together. Keep watching our website for new developments. Keep thinking of us as we make the last crucial decisions and plans. And keep praying for us as we are for you.