Joining hi-impact: Liam Orr’s Journey So Far
I’m the most recent member of the consultancy team here and I had started my new position just as schools were beginning to close. Given that I started at a very challenging time, I thought I would write a blog about my unusual introduction to hi-impact!
My name is Liam Orr and I previously worked as a primary school teacher. I have always been a big fan of science and especially of the natural word. As a teacher I had always found it frustrating when science was pushed to the back of the weekly timetable and treated like a poor relation to the other core subjects. I also found the lack of resources troubling and I knew I could enhance my teaching practice if the technology was more readily available. When a job at hi-impact was recommended to me I was excited – I felt that, as a company, they embodied all of the same feelings I was carrying with me in regards to my own career.
The application process was more relaxed than I was used to and I wondered how different things would be moving into the private sector. I got a real feeling that the wellbeing and development of the staff was an integral factor of their business and I was delighted when they offered me a job with them.
As my first week rolled around the news was rapidly breaking of more and more cases of COVID-19 spreading throughout the UK. People were starting to self isolate and the office I had visited during my application process was becoming quieter. The consultancy room was especially silent as members of the team were off site delivering workshops. After a brief stay in the office to sign some paperwork, meet the staff and go over some housekeeping I was invited to observe my first workshop – launching bottle rockets on a windy day with a year 5 class!
The week progressed with me working in schools across Liverpool and Wirral in workshops that ranged from dissecting hearts, mapping the different clubs that have played Tranmere Rovers this season and even dissolving rocks in acid. However, in every school I visited I could see that uncertainty was growing, more and more teachers were beginning to self isolate and classes were getting smaller and smaller. On the Friday of my first week the news was broken that schools were to be closed. Everybody kept telling me that it was a crazy time to start a new job but I honestly didn’t feel it – the staff were all working hard and I had a feeling of calm around the office.
My second week began in a makeshift office in my kitchen. Hi-impact’s in house tech team had worked hard to set up and issue me a new computer and I sat down unsure what the day would bring. I had never worked in an office space and had chosen teaching as a career due to the engaging aspect of working in a busy classroom. During my first team briefing at hi-impact, Alan (Managing Director), after first checking to see if we were all well, set out his plan for working from home. This was to be an ongoing event with the entire staff coming together every day for a briefing at 08:30 to run over the plan for the day and to check in on everybody.
Much like the previous week, I was invited to observe the delivery of workshops, only this time instead of children the audience were educators and sessions were delivered remotely. I sat at my desk watching different consultants deliver training on different software and platforms that could be used by teachers while working from home. The level of knowledge and the speed at which the content was created was incredible and I was surprised at how fast the team could work together to create resources.
A lot of thought was placed in raising staff morale – Alan, our Managing Director, took the time to explain the situation which we, as a company, faced and ensured us that we would continue to work whilst in lockdown. Thought was given to how we could continue to be an enjoyable workplace and it was decided by our Head of Personnel that we would have weekly competitions. These range from submitting pictures of our home work space for “guess the desk” and weekly dressing up contests for our daily briefing on fridays. Here’s me as Rocky from the film themed briefing!
As the week progressed and I began to develop my own confidence and I moved into a supporting role. Sitting in with different colleagues as they delivered webinars, I answered questions on their content and supported our clients with any technical issues that they faced while in our webinars. This continued for another week before I co-delivered my own webinar.
The difference between talking publicly to a group of people who are in the same room as you in a classroom or assembly hall, and talking to a group of people through a monitor is disarming and I don’t think I was prepared for how nervous I would feel. As grateful as I was for all the support and learning I had received this was still a new world for me and I was learning on the go; finding out new features for the platforms we used with every question asked and encountering problems I could never have predicted. All the while, however, the team kept their cool and really showed a level of professionalism I hadn’t seen before.
Our initial bouts of webinars were very popular and we were all able to find our feet, reflect on our delivery and work independently; delivering content individually to groups of teachers and hosting multiple sessions during the day. The feedback we were getting was amazing and I really felt that for the teachers we were working with that this service was a lifeline. A lot of these teachers, TAs and Heads etc had never considered that they would be teaching from home and, as such, the idea of delivering lessons on platforms such as Google Classrooms, Seesaw or Purple Mash was alien to them. Thankfully, we have helped them adjust to this and I look forward to seeing how things develop further for both myself and hi-impact.