Regular readers will know that last year I was lucky enough to be selected by my institution to apply for a National Teaching Fellowship award. I am delighted that, in my first blog post of 2017, I am able to report that I did it – I’m now an NTF! Well, I will be once I’ve been to the super glam awards ceremony in a few weeks’ time.
This post is not about blowing my own trumpet. I’ve had an abundance of hugs, emails, very lovely words, and lots of ‘very proud”s from my mum. I’m definitely feeling all the love (if I was inclined to put emoticons in blog posts there would be a large smiley face here).
Instead, I want to do two things:
- Thank everyone who supported me on my NTF journey; and
- Encourage others who don’t think they could possibly go for an award like this to jolly well go ahead and do it.
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, you need a team
On page 1 of my NTF application, I told a story. A real one, set way back when I started my first teaching role. I wrote about the members of staff that filled 21 year old me with confidence. Confidence to walk into a room and teach students often much older than myself. Confidence to design seminars and workshops on topics I had just got to grips with. Confidence to speak up in meetings which, even now, I would find intimidating.
I was out there, doing my thing, day to day in the classroom. Little, 21 year old me. At the front of the room, walking round the tables, encouraging participation, discouraging disruptive behaviour, and probably making awful jokes (I like to make jokes, which teacher doesn’t?). When I look back now, I realise I was never alone in any of the classrooms I frequented. I was enveloped, cushioned you might say, by an invisible bubble of mentorship. The sort of mentoring that doesn’t announce itself, but quietly, stealthily builds you up and shapes who you are. Now, aged 36, I’m fortunate to still be in receipt of the mentorship ‘bubble’. I’m surrounded by colleagues who help me find my direction, who model excellent practice, and who provide practical and emotional support.
And, throughout the years, there have been countless teams, with countless members, encouraging, supporting, laughing, crying, having a good whinge, providing solutions, rolling metaphorical sleeves up, sharing the load. Being there. You don’t get to where you are alone. I certainly didn’t. Thank you.
You could make a wish, or you could make it happen
I was sat on the left-hand side of an East Coast train carriage, next to the window, in a two seater when I started following the NTF twitter account. A slightly fuzzy memory – as it’s an old one – but it’s there, fixed in my brain. I can smell the dusky seat covers. I can feel the phone in my hand, and my OH’s leg pressed up next to mine. I can see me scrolling through the enthusiastic tweets on learning and teaching, and I can sense the longing to join in. But I didn’t. I sat there and scrolled and read and dreamed about being a part of the NTF community.
As I’ve said before, I nearly didn’t put an application in. And you know what? That application was tough. Night upon night on the sofa, candles burning, music on, crafting something that embodied what I was about. Worrying that something that embodied what I was about might raise eyebrows, or be totally off the boil. Revising, rewriting, cutting bits out, digging hard to say – eloquently – what came so naturally to mind but could not for some reason make it out on to the laptop keyboard. I’m unsure I’ll ever produce such an intense piece of work in that sort of timescale again.
Just getting to the point of submission was a major achievement. Honestly (really honestly) I didn’t expect to be successful, and I felt absolutely fine about that. I was in my PJs when I got the news. I walked upstairs, into the bedroom, stared at my OH and said ‘Guess who’s an NTF?’. And then I made him read the email just in case I’d got it wrong.
Dreams do come true sounds a bit too schmaltzy – even for me. But, what I do know is that things don’t happen unless you give them a go. So do it. Just go on and do it. It may not work. Heck, most of my stuff never does. But every now and again, it might. It just might.
Photo, Jesmond Dene, Newcastle upon Tyne (c) Elaine Campbell, 2016