Is your school right for you?
You know when a place feels right. It gives you that sense of order and security and that, on the whole, everything is okay. If you are really lucky then your place a work is somewhere you wouldn’t swap for all the tea in China. It’s not uncommon to hear people in this position to say, “this is me” or “I’m part of the furniture” – a comfortable institutionalisation sets in.
But what happens if you aren’t part of the fixtures and fittings? You might belong to a school but have no sense of belonging. I’ve had a couple of school experiences like that and without belonging you can cut a lonely figure.
There are various definitions of what it means to belong but I’m opting for this one by Levett-Jones and Lathlean (2007) who say,
Belongingness is a deeply personal and contextually mediated experience that evolves in response to the degree to which an individual feels (a) secure, accepted, included, valued and respected by a defined group, (b) connected with or integral to the group, and (c) that their professional and/or personal values are in harmony with those of the group.
When you join a school you join a school community and a unique school culture that isn’t always apparent until you are in post! What the world sees from the outside isn’t always what you get on the inside that’s for sure and everyone will recognise this.
If your school culture is a toxic one, even in pockets, then that sense of belonging is hard to capture and enjoy. Schools with friction can be hazardous places to navigate, especially staff rooms and staff meetings.
Even if there is no toxicity in your school and it’s a nice place to work with great people, you still might not feel the shoe fits.
Lots of people ‘put up or shut up’ if a place isn’t right and yet although this might pay the bills, your wellbeing pays too. Being in a place where you don’t belong isn’t easy and leaving is far from simple but if you aren’t connecting, there is a clash of values and you don’t feel respected then heading for the exit is a must.
Getting out means just that. If you don’t belong then exit as soon as you can to safeguard your wellbeing – doing it Brexit style and still being in a place two years later is doing you no favours and could damage relationships and your health.