In the last two weeks, I have finished working at the school where I have been working for the last four years, been offered a place to undertake specialist dyslexia teacher training, presented some of my PhD work at an international conference in Wales and organised working with a local primary school. At this school, I have undergone some significant ‘life moments’: buying my first home with my husband, getting two rescue dogs (who have taken over my world), undertaking the role of Head of Learning Support and SenCo, and completing my PhD. It has been a big few weeks and with some major life-changes to follow.
Me as SenCo and PhD-er
When a great mentor of mine, the former Head of Learning Support and SenCo at my School told me in January 2016 that she had decided to resign from the post my mind went into overdrive. I had long discussed with her, members of the School Senior Management Team and my colleagues that I was keen to become a SenCo when I had completed my PhD. I was thus somewhat taken aback when my dream job became available at a school I knew and enjoyed working at with one small challenge to overcome: I had yet to complete my PhD!
Fast forward to September 2016 and I had started a first draft of my PhD, and been appointed to the post of Head of Learning Support and SenCo. I finally completed and handed in the ‘final version’ of my PhD at the University of Bath in November 2017, following a viva and ‘minor corrections’. I was interviewed by local media in Wiltshire and Bath, as well as the University of Bath press office and started to explore avenues to use the skills and knowledge that I had gained throughout my PhD. I was not entirely sure what exact route I wanted to pursue, but I was sure that it would involve working directly with young learners with specific learning difficulties and other hidden disabilities. A key aim for my post-PhD career trajectory was to be able to work with young people who may not have straightforward access to specialist assessments or support. I spent the first half of the 2017-2018 academic year working through potential ways in which to do this.
In my role as Head of Learning Support and SenCo, I undertook a significant amount of administration, overseeing provision for young people across the whole school (Year 1-13), maintaining policies and records and organising Exams Access Arrangements amongst other things. However much I enjoyed these tasks, the aspect of my job that I found the most satisfying was working directly with young people and their families to support them and help them to be their ‘best self.’
I took the difficult decision during Easter 2018, that I wanted to work as a part-time Teacher of SEN in a mainstream, maintained school, train as a specialist dyslexia teacher, and work with other organisations on a voluntary basis, using my PhD. On 6th July 2018, I left my post as Head of Learning Support and looked forward to starting a new chapter at a secondary school in Wiltshire!
Week 1 post-SenCo
In the first week of my 2018 summer holidays, I presented a section of my PhD work at an the international conference, ‘A Child’s World 2018 – New Shoes New Direction’ at the University of Aberystwyth. The conference provided me with an excellently-timed space and setting to reflect on how I might start to work towards supporting young learners with dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties who find accessing the curriculum tricky. I met fully-fledged university professors, alongside researcher-practitioners and PhD-students, all of whom met in a collegiate and supportive setting. We discussed the different ways in which we pursued research, or evidence-based practice at a myriad of different organisations and within a multitude of different disciplines. This conference was a privilege and confirmed that the standpoint I had in 2013 when I started my PhD: I don’t want to work as a University-based, full-time academic. I want the space and freedom to work with individuals and organisations on the ground, without the shadow of the TEF and the REF.
I will start working at a new school in September and today, I met with a local primary school to discuss supporting young learners each week. I have an unconditional offer to do Specialist Dyslexia Teacher training at Bath Spa University and will tutor learners alongside all of this.
It looks like September 2018 will be a busy one!