Where are they now? – James Rourke

James 6x4

In these ‘Where are they now?’ posts we will be asking students who trained at York St John to write about their experiences at the university, to tell us what they are doing now and to share with us their advice for trainee teachers and NQT. Who is first? Well, James Rourke.

Introduction – who you are?, what you do? When were you at YSJ?

Hello! I’m James and I studied the ‘old’ 4-year BA (Hons) in Primary Education at York St John from 2003 to 2007 with a specialism in Theology & Religious Studies. I’m now the headteacher of a small primary school (about 100 children) on the outskirts of York.

What are your memories of YSJ

I have many fond memories of my time at university. From the nights in the student union and pub crawls around town, to my first taste of independent life as a resident of Limes Court – they were all happy times. I remember painfully writing assignments in the college library from midnight to noon and running through the Quad to get them to the office by the deadline of 12pm. I also remember the crazy early mornings in my first year’s placement, having to be on campus for quarter to six in the morning so that I’d manage to get my bus to Doncaster. Above all, though, they were exciting times and it was there that I nurtured a love for my job and the skills to succeed in such a challenging yet fun profession.

What have you done since leaving?

On the old four year course, we were lucky to have our third and final teaching practices in the same school. During my fourth school experience, which lasted the entire autumn term and was luckily based in a York school, I was offered a job there starting after I finished university in the summer. I also decided to enrol straight away on a part-time Masters at the University of York which, although was challenging in terms of work load during those first two years of teaching, I look back now and am glad that I got the academic side of things out of the way. After all, once you gain a qualification, nobody can take it away from you.

After finishing my NQT year, I was asked to take on the leadership of literacy across the school – a role which I jumped at and tackled with real gusto. I then gained a Senior Teacher post and led the Key Stage 2 phase and had my first taste of being part of a Senior Leadership Team. In 2009, I was then approached to become a Lead Teacher in literacy throughout the local authority which was really enjoyable and gave me an insight into working in a wide variety of schools.

In 2010, I became deputy headteacher of a challenging and diverse primary school, experiencing the highs and lows of special measures, an academy conversion, staffing restructures and many visits from Her Majesty’s school inspectors!

After five years as deputy, I then became the headteacher of Rufforth Primary School. It’s my second year in the role and I absolutely love it. Every day is different and it is always wonderful to see how you can have such an influential effect on young people’s lives and their futures.

Advice for people starting the career

Enjoy yourselves – it’s later than you think!

It really is scary how quickly time flies! The days roll into weeks, into terms and into years. Before you know it, the latest Christmas nativity has been and gone, the most recent round of parents’ evenings completed and the curtain falls on that year’s summer production. As a teacher, I sometimes worry that I’m wishing my life away until the next school holiday so one big piece of advice is to make the most of every single day and not let school and the job take over your lives.

Embrace challenge – it’s when you learn and develop the most

In your careers, there will be that first time when you have to deal with a challenging parent, a child with significant behavioural difficulties, an awkward conversation with a colleague or that OFSTED observation which goes abhorrently wrong. What’s important to remember however is that things never seem as bad as they are and it’s fruitless worrying over them. You get through those tough moments and they form and develop you as a teacher and person. That is only, however, if you truly reflect on them and think about what you could do differently the next time around.

Always look on the bright side of life!

Over the past year in my very first headship, there have been days when I’ve been physically and mentally exhausted. I’ve been drowning in paperwork, had an ever-increasing ‘to-do’ list and had several issues/incidences lurking in the background which needed resolving. Throughout these moments, I’ve started to learn that the best antidote to the challenges of teaching isn’t just a large glass of Pinot Grigio but also reminding yourselves exactly why you went into the job in the first place. I keep a box file of hilarious memories of the things children have said, drawn or written over the years and when I’m feeling that way inclined (and find myself losing the plot), I take it down from the shelf and laugh about what a unique and privileged position we are in to work with such hilariously funny people.

What do you look for in NQTs?

Enthusiasm – somebody who is willing to give it their all and try their hardest
Humility – somebody who is reflective and keen to learn from others and their mistakes
Courage – somebody who is brave enough to be innovative and creative and experiment with different teaching approaches and strategies – ‘thinking outside the box’
Resilience – somebody who doesn’t give up at the first sign of failure or challenge
Passion – somebody who is passionate about making a difference to children’s lives and keeps that at the centre of every decision they make and every lesson they plan
Sense of humour – somebody who would fit in well with ‘the team’ and laugh, smile and keep positive when the going gets tough

Anything else you want to say.

Teaching is truly a great career and I wish absolutely every single one of you a fantastic time at university. Make the most of it because you’ll soon be in a place where you would just love to go out ‘til four in the morning on a school night but realise that an early night and a mug of cocoa is all you’re getting!

Ian Wilson

Currently working in higher education as a senior lecturer teaching primary mathematics, science and computing on the initial teacher education (ITE) programmes. I have a keen interest in e-pedagogy especially how technology and social media can be used to support teaching and learning.

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