Reconnecting the Dots: Getting Back into Classroom
I’m back in the classroom again, but my day has a much different start than it did before. Now, I’m spraying shoes, taking temperatures and sanitising hands each morning at the gate. Then, I’m off to teach Macbeth to children whose masked faces I never get to see.
Five years ago, I resigned as a teacher. I left a school I loved and a great position as lead practitioner, working with a remarkable group of teachers at an all-through school in south London. I resigned because, after 20 years of teaching in the US and the UK, I decided that I wanted to pursue a passion to work across different schools, in different settings to embed evidence-informed practice in the classroom. I founded TailoredPractice, an educational consultancy, and over the years I've been fortunate enough to work with a wide variety of schools, speak at conferences around the world and write a book. I always thought I might someday return to the classroom—but not in Spain and certainly not during a pandemic.
I am now an English and Drama teacher at a small international school in Mallorca and also the school's Teaching and Learning Lead. I started last week. The principal is an inspiring woman I previously worked with for years in London. I’m teaching the lessons and using the strategies I write about in my book Connect the Dots: The Collective Power of Relationships, Memory and Mindset in Classroom. I get to practise what I preach.
I’m also an educational consultant. Since I founded TailoredPractice, I have always loved working in lots of different schools and nerding out on reading educational research. However, as I followed Twitter over the last few months during this pandemic, I felt a yearning that I think many educational consultants feel after they have left the school setting a few years down the line. We miss the craft of teaching our students and working side-by-side with the same colleagues everyday; we miss being part of a community, chats by the kettle and meeting students at the door. There is an authenticity that comes with these moments.
Ironically, it is the pandemic and the possibilities for remote communication that has made it possible for me to pursue this new passion to be an educational consultant on the ground, in the classroom. There has been a global culture shift that has acclimatised the whole world to a new way of working—and learning. For better or for worse, it’s our new reality. ‘It’s the year of flexibility,’ one principal said to me a few weeks ago when I delivered a CPD to her primary school in London. Last week, I delivered another CPD to NQTs in London, remotely. Although I’ve been teaching for 20 years, I could relate to what it feels like to feel overwhelmed, cognitively overloaded, with the new routines and practices.
TailoredPractice continues, now with an even greater global outreach. From wherever I am, I will continue to partner with schools—delivering CPD, writing curriculum and working with teachers, students and leadership. I will continue to keep up-to-date on evidence-informed practice and find ways to communicate that to other educators, globally. I am an educational consultant and teacher. TailoredPractice is ‘grounded in research, shaped by experience’ and my time back in the classroom allows me to be authentic in that pursuit by:
getting immediate feedback from colleagues and students on evidence-based practice,
practising, adapting and adding more strategies, both in-person and remotely, to Connect the Dots
reflecting on what it takes to be a great teacher, which we all continually strive to be.
My deepest respect goes out to all teachers and leaders who have been on the frontline from the start of this pandemic. Let’s all hope this pandemic ends soon and we can get out of our bubbles and start sharing books again. For me, I am most looking forward to the day when masks come off and I can see the faces of my new students for the first time.