I obtained Qualified Teacher Status at the school. I could not have done this without the support of key members of the Senior Leadership Team. In addition to the career possibilities within departments, the School's pastoral, mentoring and behaviour management systems give additional options for career development.
Staff are very helpful and there is a very welcoming atmosphere in school. I feel that, as much as possible, the school tries to accommodate the needs of staff in a very humane and fair manner. The school makes every effort to reduce unnecessary stress on staff. I feel that there is at JFS a fair chance for career progression. Above all I feel the school recognises and values the efforts made by its staff.
Although JFS is the only school I have taught in I have had the most extraordinary variety of responsibilities. In my early days I was teacher in charge of Drama, a Head of Year, Head of House and most recently Head of Sixth Form. In my role overseeing the University Admissions process for the school it is both exciting to see our students fulfil long held ambitions or achieve well above expectation and secure fantastic university places; it is also instructive to see that universities of great repute highly value our students as they generally make excellent undergraduates after the grounding of JFS. I have stayed at JFS because the School has been so consistently professional. It would have been easy to have moved on at several stages during my career but there have been so many exciting new challenges on the academic, pastoral and extra curricular fronts.
I feel that the powers that be have a career plan for me within this institution. It doesn't make me feel like I should be looking around at other schools. When I look around and see people who have spent their entire career here, it puts the seal of approval on my judgment that JFS is a good place to work. I became Deputy Subject Leader at the end of my second year. This is not because of staffing shortages but, from my perspective, a nurturing of my enthusiasm for the profession.
All the staff I work with are friendly. There is such a collegial atmosphere. This extends to the students. After only three years I already have classes that I think are wonderful and of course the facilities for teaching and learning are excellent. Looking ahead I can see that there are many opportunities for career progression.
At first I was a bit awed by the size of the School but it is so friendly that within a year I had made friends across the departments. It is such a great working environment.
It is wonderful to have the opportunity to work with staff from every department and get good support from my own enthusiastic team. The School has been very supportive in enabling me to maintain and update my professional awareness for example with opportunities to attend network meetings of librarians, conferences and training opportunities.
In terms of professional development I have been part of one team which has been very supportive and had the opportunity in Psychology to develop a new subject at the School and lead a small team of my own.
Extra Curricular Opportunities for Staff and Students
There are of course many extra curricular sporting activities. We play in various local leagues and one gets the chance to know the students from a different perspective when out of School. I accompanied students on the Modern Foreign Languages trip to Strasbourg and spent time with our students as they lived in the homes of French families. I don't think anything can compare with the visit to Israel. It was fantastic and such an unexpected opportunity.
I participated in trips arranged by Jewish Informal Education Programme (JiEP) during my first year at JFS. The trips were tremendously inspiring and provided invaluable opportunities for me to communicate with students on a more informal level. I felt privileged to be present on these trips, and to witness the students connecting with their heritage. I have managed to keep in contact with students who attended these trips, through various reunions and lunch and learn sessions. This has enabled me to maintain the connection I forged with these students.
I play Unihoc, Soccer, Cricket and Tennis in various after school staff teams. This extra curricular dimension for staff is an additional bonus of working at JFS.
The school offers unique opportunities for visits to Israel and Poland. The Poland visit being a thought-provoking insight into the Holocaust.
At the start of my third year I accompanied a school party to Israel. Once we had dropped the students off at their residential centre, the school had organised a special two day programme for me and a colleague. We were shown around Jerusalem and paid a visit to the Dead Sea. I can't imagine another school providing such an opportunity so early in a career.
During the course of the term I will be organising visits from well known authors, I run book groups for KS 3 students and Sixth Formers. We have an annual Reading festival. This involves the whole school, staff and students alike and is both fun and stimulating. The LRC is packed at lunch time with students working on homework, coursework, reading newspapers and periodicals, playing chess or scrabble and those students having paired reading with Sixth Formers.
The school has fantastic premises and resources.
In a school of outstanding facilities, the PE Department is especially fortunate. How many other schools have two large Sports Halls, an Astro-Turf surface, floodlit Tennis courts, great pitches, a Dance Studio and Multi Gym.
As I know my other colleagues will observe, the facilities for teaching are excellent. I have run Chess Club and that has given me the chance to see students from other departments.
I remember coming to interview - surprised and intrigued by the dress code, impressed by the security arrangements and wowed by the facilities. I really wanted to come back to school. One of the governors interviewed me. He was the politest person I have ever met. JFS is a very inviting place. Although there are clear structures and guidelines for everything, the management style is relaxed and very supportive.
I love the School because it has such a buzz. The students are wonderful and my colleagues are so supportive and friendly. I welcome the fact that teaching goes beyond the classroom and one has so many opportunities for positive interaction with the students. This all contributes to making JFS a fun and exciting place to work.
I started with a firm of consultants specialising in advising private equity houses. It just didn't motivate me. I didn't care if wealthy companies got even richer. I went to Kenya, where my parents had been born and taught in a private school before entering the Institute to do my PGCE. JFS was the second of my training schools as a B T. I really wanted to come and teach here.
There is a large and diverse staff. The school staffing has an international dimension.
I have benefited by being a part of the team that makes up the whole staff at JFS. Everything at JFS is done to the highest standards. I have learned a lot about efficiency, professionalism and time management. I have also gained knowledge about my subject matter and teaching in general through working alongside experienced and proficient teachers who are eager to share their knowledge and expertise.
At this phase of my career, now as an 'elder' of the School whilst still in my early 50s I see a new generation of intelligent, enthusiastic, committed staff at JFS. I look forward to working with them in the same way that I received so much support when I first joined the School.
In a school that has such high standards it can be daunting. The students are so able and one's colleagues are so good that sometimes one has self doubt about one's own ability. There are so many colleagues to guide one.
Student Personalities and Behaviour
I came from a strong Methodist background and found that the moral values and ethos of a Faith School fitted very easily with my world view. I would highlight two features of JFS students:- their sheer teachability, much helped by very supportive parents and a great sense of wit and humour.
First and foremost, our students are a joy to teach. Because JFS is a comprehensive school there is a variety of behaviour and ability, but JFS has just the right mixture to keep the job very interesting.
When I think about the atmosphere in my own high school I feel so secure at JFS. The students are overwhelmingly well mannered and well disciplined. For those who are not, there are tremendous back up systems both for the students and the teachers who are managing challenging situations.
Teaching and Learning
At JFS I have mastered my subject knowledge, my classroom practice and my behaviour management in a benign environment which has been enormously helpful. If you want to ask a question of colleagues you know you are going to get a positive response.
I have a very varied job, working with a range of people from the Headteacher to the youngest student in Year 7. I enjoy the mix of ability amongst the students. One moment I am helping a student preparing for Oxbridge and the next second one is supporting a special needs student.
The school has very effective behavioural strategies and pastoral support for all students. For example I have been a tutor for a group of students for seven years, from Year 7 to Year 13. Each of them has had one on one tutorials with me to help their personal and educational development. To see a group of students all the way through provides a very good feeling.
Teaching Jewish Studies
I enjoy teaching Jewish Studies to students from a very wide range of the religious spectrum of British Jewry. This has required me to consider issues I have barely thought about previously and has obligated me to find new ways of communicating my love for and knowledge of Judaism.
Teaching Jewish Studies is a chance to share my passion with some who have not yet become passionate about their Judaism and others who, like me, found their inspiration at JFS. The formal curriculum and extra curricular activities, like the visits to Poland, Prague and Strasbourg, have been wonderful. Even the students who have very different views than my own are easy to teach and learn with because they are overwhelmingly respectful.
Working in a Faith School
Because all students have the same cultural background, it makes 'politically correct' an easy act to follow. It may be quite tricky to teach in multi faith schools.
As a practising Sikh I find it very interesting to learn about Judaism in conversations with the students.
Although JFS is a faith school, I don't find that it impacts one way or another on my role or persona. However, I have learned a heightened sensitivity in my teaching to the culture of others.
The Bottom Line - Several members of staff share their personal views:
'One of the things I like most is that the School has such a history. Here I am working in a state school that was founded in 1732. It seems to me that JFS is always developing and now I am part of the next chapter. I feel that I can contribute and make a difference and that makes JFS a great place to have a career'.
'In 2002 the chance arose to teach at JFS. I had had such a wonderful time at JFS as a student that I chose to come back and do something positive with my life rather than just making money for people'.
'I am a practising Catholic. When I thought of applying to JFS, my colleagues told me you would never get a job there. It is a Jewish school and they only employ Jewish teachers. I applied. How wrong my former colleagues were'.
'The students represent the diversity of Jewish culture, practice and belief. They are generally well behaved and eager to learn. I chose to live in Golders Green, one of the major centres of Jewish London and it makes me, a secular person of no religious denomination, feel a part of the community'.