Saturday, 15 October 2016

This much I know about…a teacher’s most valuable legacy

I have been a teacher for 28 years, a Headteacher for 13 years and, at the age of 52, this much I know about a teacher’s most valuable legacy.

What does it matter if you leave a legacy? Recently, one of my favourite leadership gurus, Tim Brighouse, warned all school leaders seeking a legacy to beware. Such an endeavour, ‘so easily leads to hubris; that kind of narcissistic confidence in your own almost supernatural powers which tempts some leaders to think they can do almost anything’.[1] As Brighouse points out, ‘some heads are prone to hubristic tendencies, and heads of chains of schools – even CEOs of teaching alliances – are certainly at risk’.[2] Any school leader would do well to heed Brighouse’s warning.

We deal in flesh and blood, not wood and steel. If we leave a legacy, it is surely within the children we teach, not some shiny building or a sprawling multi-academy trust. This week three past students’ accomplishments reminded me of the only legacy that matters…

The new Oxo mum is one Morag Whyman. She was before my time, but a Huntington alumnus nonetheless and one fondly remembered by many of my current colleagues:

A starter for 10! I taught Chris Ducklin in a resit English GCSE class back in 1989. He was determination personified as a youth and last Monday he was a member of the winning (and possibly oldest ever) team on University Challenge:

ducklin

BTW, there is a new Twitter account entitled @Duckers_shirt.

The new Francis Ford Coppola? Lastly, there’s Matt O’Brien, a lad to whom I taught the Gangster movie genre back in 1999. He is now a film maker and his first advert for Teach First was released last week:

Although the Apprentice parody is at the heart of the advert’s success, perhaps, just maybe, the lesson where I deconstructed the restaurant assassination scene in The Godfather is embedded, somewhere, deep within Matt’s 50 seconds of genius?

We lost one of our own recently. Ann McKeown, head teacher of Huntington Primary Academy, died suddenly back in July, just before term ended. This Sunday afternoon we will be celebrating her life in a memorial service. My eulogy to her tireless work for her pupils ends thus:

In the end, the most valued testimonial for any head teacher is the children she sets off into the world, and year after year for a decade Ann has passed on to our school a precious cargo. Children who are confident, independent-minded, passionate about learning and intellectually challenging, for whom nothing but the best is good enough. Indeed, when you consider those epithets – confident, independent-minded, passionate about learning, intellectually challenging – they can only be Ann’s children.

Ann lives on in the hearts and minds of those she taught. I see them every day on the corridors of our school, Ann’s very own family of Mini-Me McKeowns!

[1] Tim Brighouse, “Ministers should recall: pride comes before a fall” in The Times Educational Supplement (TES, 18/25 December 2015, no. 5177), p. 17

[2] Ibid.



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