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Farewell to William Morris Sixth Form - my leaving speech

Farewell to William Morris Sixth Form - my leaving speech

I have been told that if I must make a long speech then I should at least turn it into a drinking game. So every time I mention the name of a member of staff, either past, present or outgoing, you have to have a swig of whatever is in your hand.

Paul is that okay? John – any comment about Health and Safety? Hanka -  you okay with this kind of pedagogy?

I first came to WMSF in October 2005 - 11 years ago - as a Beginner Teacher.

Almost every first impression I had of WMSF turned out to be wrong.

First wrong impression: Claire, my BT mentor, was about to have Mike’s baby.  Imagine to my surprise, therefore, when Mike got married to Anthony some years later. That was an awkward wedding.

Second wrong impression: Parita was just about the scariest human being to ever walk the planet. I know what some of you are thinking - that's not a wrong impression.

She let me take over her Citizenship class. I still get the sweats thinking about her observation.

However, as it turns out, Parita is a warm, kind, lovely person for whom I had the pleasure to share an office with for two years when we were senior tutors - still the most exhilarating two years of my professional life when Barbara, Matthew, Parita, Raj and I worked together on the pastoral team – I really felt part of something quite special.

Third wrong impression: Ian did not do enough exercise. Indeed, When I first met him everyone just called him Bacon Baldwin.

Turns out, Ian liked running and for some reason found great solitude in running around Tooting Common late at night. You can all ask him about that after this speech.

When I started here I don’t think I fully appreciated just how supportive everyone was.

Raj gave me loads of advice on how to teach and I responded by forgetting to invite her to my wedding.

Claire just let me get on with things but always gave great advice when I was feeling overwhelmed.

Mike’s calm demeanour was also much appreciated in that first year as an NQT.

Still, it was really only when I came back as an NQT the following year - 2006-7 - that I fully appreciated the wonder of this place and especially the leadership of the legend that is Liz Walton.

Those of you who shared a tube ride home with Liz know two things: 1) is that she stands too close to you and 2) is that she is quite a remarkable woman who convinced me that I was in the right place.

Her values were very much my own and she brought an energy to the place that I deeply admire.

I remember walking around during the Ofsted inspection of 2007 - the one where we were graded outstanding - and the buzz was palpable but quite frankly organic and normal.

Back in those days I became good friends with Nick Smith, Parita, Raj and Ian. We were all so hard working and ambitious... but behind all of that was a genuine concern to improve the lives of the young people we serve.

Indeed, you can see how that is true of everyone in this room, whether that be through the relentless campaigning of people like Chris Horner, who has had a big impact on shaping my views on education and the wider world.

Or through the creative thinking of Matthew Coulbeck when he was in charge of the one year students - always looking for ways to turn kids around and never giving up.

You see that creativity and relentless focus on keeping students on track continuing with Anthony, and of course it is there in all the little areas of this wonderful building from pastoral to art to business and learning support.

Those brief but supportive conversations with students cannot be recorded on any spreadsheet - but they add up and are like tiny little ripples of hope, as Robert Kennedy spoke about, which together create a wave upon which our youngsters can surf.

I ask all of you here to not lose that creativity or relentlessness. That quiet word at the end of the lesson makes a difference.

That extra comment on a student's essay makes a difference.

That welcoming look when your little ducklings come into class… makes a difference.

That crazy stamp that Julian has that prints "epic win" students’ Extended Trial Period forms. That makes a difference. No data can tell you any of this. Just know that you, and you, and you make a difference.

Expanding on this point, don’t become slaves to systems. We should be the masters of Excel spreadsheets, not the other way round.

Anyone can input a result onto Sims - let’s ensure that’s not all we do.

Accountability is one thing, but sharing resources, collaborating, doubling down on great teaching - that’s the key to unlocking the potential of our young people.

Some of this stuff simply can't be measured but here’s how I see it… think of your perfect vision of a family and if this place feels like an extension of that then you know you have got it right! Results follow where there is love, support and happiness. End of story.

My son’s school, Granton Primary School, talks about the Granton Family. I think WMSF is a family.

I have worked here for over a quarter of my life. Some major life events have happened while I have been here. I got married. We have had two beautiful children. We have experienced heartache too of course. My mother is currently very ill.

Yet in this place people come to your aid, just like families do.  I know some of you will be nodding your heads as you think of a time when someone here has supported you. I am heartened by the words Paul Smith sent to me in an email when he heard about my mum.

It is these acts of human kindness that make us, make Morris, a true family.

Last year Paul, when you first stood up and spoke to us, looking dapper as you always do in your cream suit, you said we needed to take what is important about this place and lock it in a cupboard so that the vultures don’t come and peck at it.

Well, I believe that in that cupboard is a wonderful, generous family. It is time to unlock that cupboard and unleash the potential of that family once again - let the vultures come and we will be ready, so long as we continue to remember what our values are - I am encouraged that yesterday's CPD focused on that.

I want to thank everyone in the humanities dept and I hope you don’t mind but I want to single out Sarah Ashbolt who was my NQT mentor. She guided me and I have to say I really appreciate the fact that she always tells it how it is. She is a wise and talented teacher.

Indeed, I have so many people to thank for all the opportunities I have been given. Barbara, you taught me so much as my line manager. Claire, you understand that family comes first and always proved willing to be flexible. You placed your trust in me.

Thank you to Matthew, Barbara and Claire – my three line managers – for believing in me - perhaps even more than I did myself.

Claire, I will really miss your sense of humour - and for laughing at my jokes. More people ought to laugh at my jokes.

I have really enjoyed going back to T1, still the engine room of the college.  It has been great sitting next to Emma Blake, who I can officially unveil as the next T1 Rep. Let's wish her well with that incredible burden.

I will really miss Corinna who is incredibly funny - I feel she ought to write a blog entitled innuendo.

I am so pleased that Lisa is taking over politics, and that some great people are joining the leadership team even though of course some wonderful people are leaving.

I also want to thank all the people who have ever worked on the support side of things (people like Kathy/Nicky etc) - my mum did your job and I know how thankless it can be. Thanks of course to the pastoral team - the mentors and the careers/HE people. I relied so heavily on them when I was senior tutor –

I think it is really important that we never become dogmatic and always think outside the box when it comes to helping young people develop. Having the kinds of support services that these individuals provide is vital in order for us to truly help young adults.

I move on now, but my heart will always be with you. Just as no one ever leaves the KGB, no one every truly leaves Morris, which is why I have established a Morris alumni page for all past teachers on Facebook.

Perhaps the greatest legacy of this place is that teachers leave here with quite a clear sense of what their teaching principles are. "Leave no child behind" was a slogan stolen by George W Bush - I think it is time we stole it back. I know you will forever attempt to do this. Good luck with that, and thank you so much for the memories.

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