And find out why ATL is the fastest growing union in the education sector
It’s 8.30am and I’m running late for my first day at my new school. I scrabble in my bag for my mobile and that’s when it hits me, I’m still wearing my pyjamas and slippers. Oh my God! I’m late for my new job and I am completely lost. Panic!
This was just one of the many nightmares I had before I started my new position last September. When I actually started at my new school I found my fears to be completely unfounded. I was fortunate to work in a school that had an extremely active ATL member. He introduced himself to the other NQT and me on the very first day of term. The ATL rep made it very easy for us to understand the role the union would play and also made things that bit easier for us by taking away the burden of any extra paperwork.
As my first term progressed the positive and active role that ATL played in day to day school life became increasingly apparent. By the end of my second term not only did I appreciate the hard work and effort ATL put into looking after all members of the teaching profession but I had been converted into an active member, attending meetings and the Annual Conference.
ATL has been really helpful in the literature I’ve received about guiding me through the process of applying for jobs. The Apply yourself! publication has very practical advice; accessible and easy to digest. It has certainly helped me in feeling that I am prepared for interviews, and for the early stages of my NQT year. ATL doesn’t just want you to join as a member and then take a back seat. They’re happy for you to get involved with projects that are of relevance to students and NQTs. It is really nice to know that your opinions are valued and, more importantly, taken on board. As important issues in teaching change, ATL is extremely keen to hear what people who are just entering the profession think so their views are represented.
This may sound really daft, but I actually had very little clue as to what induction was all about when I started out. I knew I was entitled to a 10% reduced timetable and an induction tutor who would observe and assess me but that was about it. When, at uni, people banded about terms such as ‘career entry’, ‘profile’, ‘transition points’, ‘mentors’ and ‘buddies’, I sort of nodded along and hoped that at some point someone would explain what on earth they were on about. So for me, ATL’s publications were a major draw, especially Induction: making it work for you – I could look things up on my own rather than having to admit my ignorance in lectures!
I was also terrified about taking children on trips. It was the legalities that frightened me. How many staff members should I take? What were the rules about using public transport? What about first aid and so on. ATL’s Taking students off site publication came up trumps. It’s important to take advantage of the guidance that’s available to you – in your first year, you need it.
Being in my third year of teaching many of the concerns that I faced in my NQT year are still with me: what do I do about students who insult me? Is there more to teaching than observations and form filling? Thankfully, there are usually positive answers to these and other concerns.
Being an RE teacher I had a dilemma when starting at my current school: I am Scottish, a Christian and a gay man in a school that is primarily Sikh or atheist, in a community that is very ‘traditional’ in many of its views (and in England). ATL has helped immensely over time, through good research, useful publications and some excellent policies; their equality statement for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender staff and students is superb and I wish every school had to implement it. Things haven’t always gone smoothly – I’ve been subject to racial abuse, religious intolerance and homophobia. However, my ATL representative has always been more than willing to fully support me. The effect on myself and my pupils has been great, with very positive working relationships and the development of school policy; the word ‘gay’ as an insult is fast dying out. ATL has made me feel welcome in my school and at its Annual Conference – the best I can say is thank you.