I've been visiting a lot of schools recently, and I've loved doing so. I find it extraordinary how quickly the personality of a school shows itself to the visitor, and what a powerful impact it can have. Just sitting in reception waiting to be collected, watching the everyday comings and goings of a school, the casual asides which give an insight into the relationships, what's displayed on the walls, the way in which people move around - everything speaks to a complex and interconnected web of professional care.
Many of the positive effects of school on the mental health of students and teachers and the cohesiveness of an educational establishment stem from the sense that everyone in the school community is engaged on a common mission, which is to provide learning for students in a healthy, friendly, cooperative, collaborative environment.
Every school has its individual ambiance. A sense of a community working together to a common end is something palpable.
One of the great things about the teaching profession is that it is one where there are many opportunities for even the most junior teacher to take an active part in turning the school into a community. The opportunity to rise through the ranks swiftly is often cited as a great advantage of the profession, and so it is, but so are the many ways in which a professional can get involved in the softer side of the teaching game - working with other teachers and support professionals as well as students in order to help improve the environment for all.
When you start out as an NQT, it may feel as if there is no time for a home life outside preparation and delivery of your timetabled lessons, let alone getting involved in any extra-curricular activities, clubs or extra responsibilities. In fact though, you are already embarking on this side of school life. In a secondary school, it may well be that you are assigned at least partial responsibility for a tutor group. In either a primary or secondary school setting you will probably be working with other classroom professionals, teaching assistants or learning support assistants, to maximise the learning impact of what happens in your classroom. You will be acting as a member of the school staff in your interactions with students as you move around the school site, greeting or correcting behaviour or simply having a 5-second chat about their goal in the last school match or how they're getting on with the last book you suggested to them.
As you progress through your career and preparation starts to demand a little less of you, allowing the dust to settle a bit, it's a wonderful thing to get involved with extra-curricular clubs, or school trips, or Student Voice, or other areas of the school machine. But no teacher, however junior, is an island, and that professional collaboration and cooperation is a fantastically rewarding part of the job.