Returning to teaching, refreshed and ready!

Naomi D'Cunha

Education Manager for Cambridgeshire & Peterborough

“Really? You must be mad!” cried my friends and colleagues as I announced that after a two and a half year gap I was about to return to teaching.

Let’s rewind a little. Up until 2017 I had been teaching secondary music in a job I loved. I had been through the typical route straight from University, PGCE and then into the classroom. Working through a variety of schools and roles, I found myself still in the classroom 25 years later.

Did I think I would ever leave or was I looking to leave? Not at all. So what prompted the change? It was a simple as being passed an advertisement for a job and being inquisitive about what it would be like to work outside of teaching. Also, I recognised that these opportunities do not come up very often and I might regret not taking a chance! It was a big decision with so many unknowns and the agonizing moment when you tell your students you are leaving. The biggest draw for me was the opportunity to work with an organisation connected to Arts Council England. To be honest at that stage, the Arts Council didn’t mean much more to me than a logo and I wanted to know more.

The rest as they say is history, I was lucky enough to get the job and have enjoyed all of the experiences that have come with it.

The biggest change was the pace. The school day goes past in flash, suddenly I had time to reflect and think, and it felt okay to take that time. Working from home was a little challenging but after some adjustments everything fitted into place.

The journey over the last two years has been amazing. As part of the job I have visited schools to help them move through their Artsmark award, and this has been the best part of my job. I loved going into all the different settings, being inspired by what I saw and who I met. As a secondary teacher for my whole career I can honestly say I have a new found respect for primary schools, they are amazing places. Working with them on their Artsmark journey I now understand how they craft their curriculum, and this will definitely affect and benefit the way I build the curriculum for my year 7 and 8 students.

I have also learnt a lot from working with teachers in specialist schools. Before I took this role I hadn’t had the opportunity to work with SEND settings and I can honestly say I am blown away by them. Their commitment and drive to make every moment for their students as creative and inspiring as they can is incredible.

I had a really good think about how the experiences of this role have affected me returning to the classroom and it has only highlighted positives. Having taught for so long I had started to stop looking outward, something I recognise on reflection. Experiences like being in a room full of head teachers at Tate Britain, all advocating passionately for arts and culture in their school. I have been able to listen to so many inspirational educationalists that have challenged my views and made me think very differently. These will all affect my teaching in so many different ways.

Working with Festival Bridge has felt more like a sabbatical. It has reinvigorated my passion to teach but also help me to focus on the sort of teacher I want to be, a passion that I can now take to my new school. I have a renewed energy to collaborate, to work with other schools and teachers, to put the time into partnerships, as well as the confidence to call an organisation and see what is possible. I have clearly seen the difference it makes to everyone involved but most importantly what it brings to the students.

I think all of the things that make teaching one of the hardest jobs also make it the best job in the world. The drive to make a difference and a change is built into your everyday, if that’s what makes you tick then it’s hard to ignore and this is ultimately why I am returning.

Will I miss working with Festival Bridge and the Norfolk & Norwich Festival team? Definitely, and there will be times when I’m sure I will long for a quiet office or the long train journey. The best thing is I don’t feel like I’m leaving completely, I feel like I will simply be working with them in a different way.

I am returning refreshed and ready, with an outward vision to positively impact the lives of my students and my staff. My mind is buzzing with what I will now look to create next term….

Festival Bridge is currently advertising to fill Naomi’s role as Education Programme Manager for Cambridgeshire & Peterborough. This is an ideal position for someone who has current experience of working in a school or education setting. Deadline for applications is Monday 1 April, find out more here.