Someone had belief in me and I took this opportunity

An interview with Rob Notley, Head of Sixth Form and Physical Education Teacher

Rob Notley joined the British School of Bucharest in 2019 as the Head of Sixth Form and a Physical Education teacher. Rob studied Physical Education at the University of Chichester and, before coming to Romania, taught in schools in the UK. For the last three years, he has been a Director of Sport in a large school in London where he completed a National Professional Qualification of Middle Leadership at University College London.

Why did you go into teaching?

At school I wasn’t particularly well behaved. I would constantly spend time with my Headteacher as an infant and then my Head of Year as a secondary student. It was assumed by everyone I would go into a skilled trade. Each report said, “Robert has the ability to do well if only he was to apply himself”. I entered Year 11 with a lot of work to catch up on if I had any chance of succeeding at GCSE’s. This is when my Head of Year pulled me aside and asked me to help coach the Year 7 rugby team. I’m certain he has no idea on the impact this had on me. Someone, a teacher, a teacher I respected asked for my help. Me! Someone had belief in me and I took this opportunity and ran with it. At the end of the year my PE and Headteacher pulled me aside and asked what I was going to do in the future. My reply disappointed them, they told me I had all the qualities to be a successful PE teacher. This stayed with me forever. When I left my previous career I knew I had to pursue teaching. I had to give back to the industry which showed faith in me. Teaching allows other industries to exist and flourish.

What made you want to join BSB?

I was impressed with the emphasis on community. Reading the ISI report before applying I was delighted to discover that BSB had a strong pastoral network. It was clear that staff and students love the School and this speaks volumes. I always enjoy the special atmosphere that you get from a small school. You get to know all the students personally. In addition to this you get a real sense of staff cohesion. The willingness to help each other out in difficult times or when somethings needs to get done is greater in a smaller school.

In how many countries have you lived?

I have come straight from the UK. Romania is the only country I have lived in outside of England.

Which school, where you have taught, was most different to BSB? From a cultural and sociological point of view.

Probably the school where I was Director of Sport. A very large secondary school in London,over 2000 students. It was a state-run school which had a large variety of students. Multi faiths and a vast range of cultures. The students came from council estates which had issues with drugs and gangs. Many of our students were caught up in issues outside of school. Their priorities were different to BSB students, the thought of going to a Russell Group University let alone Oxbridge was never considered. Having said that, it was amazing to see them come to life when their own religious holidays were celebrated. The different customs were well respected by all. In the PE department alone we had four different cultures.

What do you believe is the most important thing to understand when trying to teach Physical Education to children?

I was always told by my University lecturers, “You are either a teacher of children or a teacher of your subject”. That is something that stuck with me, I am very much a teacher of children. The most important thing to understand when teaching PE is understanding that not everyone enjoys sport or PE. It is a love or hate subject and Luckily most at BSB love it.Unfortunately, the media and negative experiences older people had in PE makes our job even harder. We must ensure we break down the stereotypes; The ‘macho’ male PE teacher who only cares for the superstar footballers and not the student who avoids PE at all costs. The student who avoids PE is the most important student to look for and work with. The superstar footballer will always love PE and most likely get lessons outside of school.

In your opinion, how does sport help a child’s personal development?

Luckily fitness tests like the Multistage Fitness test (Bleep Test) are a thing of the past. 1980’s PE is no longer seen across schools, meaning the fear of embarrassment has disappeared (hopefully). Sport and PE can help a child’s personal development in a variety of different ways. I always explain to students and parents that a student may have four top grade A Levels but if they struggle to work as a team, don’t accept losses or victory gracefully and compete they aren’t as employable as others. PE develops social skills which employers look for as much as qualifications. PE also drives up confidence, perseverance and resilience.

What inspired you to study leadership?

Leadership has a lot to answer for. Leadership has a huge impact on a variety of things. Staff well-being, student well-being, the education delivered to your child and the sustainability of the school. A well led school can be the difference between a good education and an outstanding education. I am intrigued by leadership, what aspects play a part in decision making? What are the different models of leadership? How can a leader get the best out of everyone? How does the use of words impact on the reactions of people involved?

The subject is so diverse that reading and studying leadership makes you question everything you do as a leader. It makes you think twice before talking with people.

Learning about leadership for me, is learning about people!

If you weren’t a full-time teacher, what would your dream job be?

I would love to work at a water-sports activity centre in the south of France! The idea of waking up in the sunshine and spending all day in a kayak or sailing boat excites me.Looking out into the distance with nothing to see other than water. It releases a real sense of space and freedom.

What are you enjoying most about Bucharest so far?

Bucharest offers a range of different activities. Bucharest and Romania as a whole are truly hidden gems of Europe. I enjoy the number of restaurants offering culinary delights from around the world but also being able to taste authentic Romanian dishes.

And finally, tell us something unexpected about yourself.

In 2017 I captained my Rugby Team to an undefeated league promotion to London 1 Division and we were named National Team of the Year, a very proud moment. A documentary was also filmed around the team, rumour has it Apple TV and Netflix are looking to air it.