My name is Joe White I am an Assistant Headteacher at a special school, supporting children with a range of needs, primarily those with a diagnosis of Autism and Communication difficulties. I am Mental Health and Wellbeing lead. Inclusiveteach.com started as a reflective blog for my NPQML and has developed into a SEND-focused website that provides resources for teachers and over 150 articles relating to special education. I want inclusiveteach to be a collaborative website and if you wanted to write a guest blog you would be more than welcome.
My Special Education Teaching Background
I originally wrote this for Kent-teach.com who asked me to write about my teaching journey. Click the link for the extended version. So how did I get into teaching? Now please don’t judge me for this, I don’t even know if what I’m about to say is really true or if I’ve told the story so many times that it has just become the de facto reason I became a teacher… The program “Teachers” was my inspiration to take up teaching. Was it the camaraderie, the constant challenges and never-ending variety of situations to deal with? Who knows?
So I completed my PGCE (Secondary Geography) at Canterbury Christ Church University. I naively thought I would have another year living the student life while occasionally talking about rivers, rocks and the one-child policy. What followed was the most intense and challenging 9 months of my life.
A Special Education NQT
I saw an advert for NQTs at a special school and thought why not?
I had no experience or qualifications in SEN. Quickly reassured by the Head that the children are so unique that I had to work there before any training or I would just be talking about stereotypes.
While I was on my PGCE, there was a view that you need to move schools after 2 years. I ignored this advice and spent 12 years at Stone Bay School in Broadstairs.
I started as an NQT in special education. With lessons pitched too high, too low, with no idea about Autism. With no idea how to lead a team of LSA’s. However, I had a very confident and relaxed Head who allowed me to try things and didn’t judge when those ideas were proved to be ridiculous. This confidence to make mistakes and grow as a teacher is a culture that cannot be overvalued. It is also one I fear is being lost on the quest for standardisation and outstanding grades.
The issue I have with the idea that to be a better teacher and leader is to move schools constantly is that you never fully see the impact of your initiatives and ideas. It’s very easy to launch an idea like mindfulness or peer observations, to see everyone use it then leave for bigger things. For it to be abandoned with all the energy effectively wasted. It is much harder to implement a meaningful change that has an impact over an extended period that then becomes embedded in the school’s practice. These take time and energy, leadership and passion but they are effective. I feel if you are not there for the whole process you can’t realise how effective well managed change and consistent approaches can be.
So I stayed and made a lot of mistakes, and consequently learnt a lot about myself and how organisations work. I still have self-doubts and the thought that others are better at their job than me. That’s fine, they are my teachers and I want them to be better than me. As long as I remain passionate about Special education and doing the best for the children I work for that is enough for me.
My first foray into leadership, I was ICT subject leader mainly because I was the only one who could figure out the computer in the hall used for assemblies.
The deputy head had coached me a bit suggesting I step up. I became key stage 4 lead in 2007
This was the hardest job I have done as it involved a lot of additional work and was very much a management position. But without the time to really lead anything. I had to deal with staffing issues and some very challenging students. I said yes to things I should have allowed others to do.
This pull between paperwork and teaching my class has been a struggle throughout my time as a middle leader. Everything became a compromise and I applied for a couple of jobs I didn’t really want. This period drew to a close though with a period of dramatic change for the school. I became acting Deputy Headteacher for 6 months as our entire senior leadership team changed. This period could be a blog all to itself.
A new Headteacher started and when our Deputy Head left I was promoted to a new role of Assistant Headteacher to undertake some of the responsibilities our Deputy had. The Head put us on the National Professional Qualification for Middle Leadership (NPQML). Which I wish I’d done as key stage manager.
As part of my wider commitment to Kent special schools and special education in the south East, I had additional responsibility for developing leading a team of positive behaviour support instructors from 11 schools across the county which gives me the fantastic opportunity to collaborate with a range of schools including mainstream schools and respite providers. When I left in 2018 this had grown from 20 to over 60 instructors in over 16 schools.
I moved to a much bigger special school in Easter 2018 and began a new chapter that will be reflected through new articles and resources on this site such as the sensory stories and emotional regulation resources.
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