Thursday, August 18, 2016

At My Old School - enter AMOS

Has AMOS been a visitor at your school?  

When AMOS appears, do you instantly worry about where it will take you, or do you find ways to embrace AMOS? 

AMOS is the acronym for what it is most commonly known as ‘ At my old school’.  New teachers in schools are often aware that AMOS can strike at any moment, and teachers who are established within their school can be ‘wary’ of AMOS.

All of us have been in the AMOS situation.   We have either taught at other schools and been the ‘new person’ when we have shifted, or, we have had practicums and placements at schools during our training.  

When we have taught at schools other than our current one, we are lucky enough to see different ideas that we can adapt, borrow or adopt. (and sometimes ones we might avoid like the plague, but that is another post!) 

New teachers into our schools bring with them a rich resource of ideas and other ways of doing things.  It seems to me that capitalizing on this resource to improve and innovate on a schools journey seems like a sensible thing. 

Some new teachers can feel very conscious of the fact that saying ‘at my old school we…’ may not be warmly embraced or welcome.  Even if it is just a matter of perception vs reality, it is an issue that leadership teams in schools grapple with all over the world. 

With this in mind, it is important to remember that for new teachers, it is not easy shifting schools and starting new – it can be quite disconcerting leaving behind your comfort zone to start fresh and this can challenge the most resilient!  Learning all the new ways your school does things, comparing how you used to do it and working hard to not ‘rock the boat’ whist you get to know your new team can be quite a juggle. 

Sometimes the establishment (and by this I mean the teachers who are not new to the school) are not very welcoming of AMOS, which will no doubt be for a number of reasons, including concerns about what change might mean for them.

I am very aware of AMOS right now, because we have quite a few new teachers in our school (thank you Auckland housing crisis, she muttered under her breath).  Today in a discussion with one of my SLT (senior leadership team) about some great new ideas that have come from some of our new teachers, a comment was made that several of them were worried they might be saying ‘at my old school’ too often, and I had a small epiphany. 

It started with a wondering about how we might embrace the ideas of our new teachers in a way that will help us move forward as a school, without taking away from the hard work and vision that has gone into some initiatives prior to our new teachers joining the team.   

I love having new people on the team – I love their fresh ideas, and I believe their strengths add to the total of all our strengths!  But, it does worry me that they might be concerned about AMOS.  So, I wonder how we might introduce a small innovation in order to encourage the ideas from AMOS, and allow us to be more inclusive so that new team members can share their AMOS ideas.  I wonder what the outcome for us will be if instead of discounting AMOS, we embraced AMOS instead. 

Enter the AMOS IDEAs document. 

I want to find out from my team, especially the new members, what wonderful AMOS ideas they have.  What an exciting opportunity this is for us to have a look at what we do, and to borrow, adapt or adopt ideas from other places.  What we do is far from perfect, and if I am to be perfectly honest, very little (if anything) we do is so set in stone that it can not be enhanced by new thinking.  New eyes always see things with a different focus and this is a great opportunity to use it to our collective advantage.   It would be very arrogant of us to think that we could not learn from other ways of doing things.  It is my expectation that we will be enriched by new thinking and I am confident that it will be a spring board that we can innovate from.  

It is what it is, to be agile.  You can read more about agile leadership in my last post "Are you steering the next Titanic'.  To not find a way to embrace the great thinking our new team members bring with them would not be to embody agile leadership!

I do have one caveat however - we may well have a tsunami of great ideas, and if we are to embrace all (or many) we will need to also look at what can be removed so that we can make room for these great ideas.  Embrace too little and it may result in an inability to 'walk the talk', over embrace and we will overcrowd workloads and overwhelm our teams - and that will not be effective or successful.  

If you are interested in embracing AMOS, these are the questions we are using - but you may already be an embracer of AMOS, and have some great ways you do this - I am keen to know what you do, so please feel free to leave a comment what you do.  Perhaps it is a part of your induction process.

After all, we may well like your AMOS so much that we will borrow, adopt or adapt it to our own journey!! 

AMOS Ideas
What is your idea?

For our school, is it a borrow, adapt or adopt idea?

What might it replace, or what could we remove in order to make it work here?

Do you have any other comments about your AMOS idea?


  1. Great idea. We love visiting other schools for ideas yet, ironically, see AMOS as a threat when suggested by new staff. It's time to give AMOS a welcoming hug!

  2. I like the 'welcoming hug' concept. It is true, we visit other schools for ideas but forget to include the ones that come to us. Both great resources to tap into!

  3. I LOVE this! Having worked in many different schools I can so relate to this! As a new member of staff it is quite daunting offering an idea beginning with 'at my old school....' I know at my previous school they were very threatened by any suggestions and ideas when presented with AMOS, replying with...'that's not how we do things here' or' we have always done it like this'. However, at my 'new' school when I begin with AMOS I see their ears prick up with interest and they are open to listening and have even gone ahead and implemented some suggestions. I think it just goes hand in hand with growth mindset, collaboration and future teaching and learning. With the way education is going we need to be open to suggestions, sometimes you don't know what you don't know and having an outsider's (new to staff) perspective is often very useful. Embrace AMOS!