Outstanding Teacher of the Year Ms Brookes on her passion for teaching - and love of drama
Spanish teacher and Assistant Principal Amy Brookes talks about how she almost became an actor before the teaching bug took hold, and her disbelief - and delight - on being awarded Outstanding Teacher of the Year
Before joining Bolingbroke what was your teaching experience?
My first school was an all-girls school in Hackney where I worked for three years. I then joined a new start-up school in Tottenham where I was Head of Languages for five years. I joined Bolingbroke in 2015 as Assistant Principal for Teaching and Learning.
What attracted you to teaching in the first place?
I did a training scheme called Teach First which puts you into challenging schools for two years. I liked the idea that it was only for two years and I thought I’d probably move into a different career afterwards. But I fell in love with teaching and loved getting better at it! I love the busyness of schools, the fact that there’s always so much going on and that everyone is always learning. The pupils really do have the power to make (or break!) your day!
What did you study at university, and did you ever consider a different career path?
I studied French and Linguistics with Spanish at Durham University. Sometimes it feels like I studied a fourth subject of Drama as I was constantly in plays and rehearsing in the theatre. I absolutely love drama and did plays back to back in my first and second year – I even did one in Paris on my year abroad! I thought really seriously about auditioning for drama school after uni, but realized I’m not someone who can live with the uncertainty of that career! I have so much respect for people that do. I actually think drama and teaching go hand in hand – even more so with leadership!
What is your teaching philosophy and approach to learning?
It has really changed since joining Bolingbroke! I used to be a bigger believer in communicative teaching and that talking, especially in MFL, is the best way to learn. I still think this is really key but I am now more convinced for the need for rigour around things like grammar. If you know your tenses it just allows you to use your languages much more fluently. Structure liberates!
What do you enjoy most about working at Bolingbroke?
The fact that the staff here are wonderful. A big part of my job is designing and delivering training and helping people to develop. There is such a thirst for learning here and the staff are so receptive and want to improve which is very energising. It also impacts the pupils as hopefully they see we are always striving to be better.
How did you feel about being awarded Outstanding Teacher of the Year? That's some accolade!
It was so great! I was genuinely really shocked and pleased! As a leader in school it’s sometimes hard to focus on teaching as much as I’d like, but I feel this is the most important aspect of my role. It was great to be recognised for the work inside the classroom.
And what are the biggest challenges you face at work?
Probably time! I have a three year old who, like most toddlers, is full of energy and does not want to sit down and have a quiet chat at the end of a busy day! He keeps me on my toes and forces me to prioritise and work smart so that I can be an effective leader and mum. I don’t always get the balance right but it’s certainly given me perspective and, I think, made me a more compassionate teacher.
What advice would you give to your 18 year old self?
Stop worrying about what other people think and be yourself!
What do you do in your spare time?
I have set up a leadership network with a couple of ex-colleagues which I’m really passionate about. I also cook (badly) and try to do exercise. Yoga is my favourite as you can do it even when you feel lazy!
Who would be your best dinner party guests – dead or alive?!
My teenage idol (so embarrassing!): Alanis Morrissette, my French great grandma, Marguerite Dumas – I’d love to chat to her about growing up in Saint Tropez. And a favourite chef: Keith Floyd - he could do all the cooking and I bet he’d have some great stories!