“Do you know what leadership means Lord Snow? It means that the person in charge gets second guested by every clever little twat with a mouth. But if he starts second guessing himself that’s the end, for him, for the clever little twats, for everyone.” Allister Thorne (Game of Thrones)
Terms out. That mad head rush of inexplicable crazy is history. Do I remember it? A little… The special moments. The sad goodbyes and kind words. But the vast majority of year end is a waste of energy and space. It is created by us to sap and strain. It’s as though we feel so guilty because of the summer holiday that we have to cram a heart attack inducing final two weeks in to feel that we have earned the break. It is even worse when you are leaving your school. You throw strange emotions into the mix. This last week I have been in rehab (drink! swimming, reading… drink!). Tearing myself away so brutally was the hardest thing. Though I am convinced it was the best way to do it.
Now that I am going to a new school I have been thinking about all the things I have done that frustrate and annoy and wondering how I will do things differently in the future. So here are three reflections on my leadership style and what I feel about them now I am going into a new job.
Being TOO understanding.
I think it is called integrity. I really do try to do my best for everyone. This means that some people get an inordinate amount of my time, energy and goodwill. Is this fair? I keep thinking that in my new school I will be colder and harder. But will I? I am what I am. I can be as hard and ruthless as anyone, but I have always tried to find a way to meet everyone’s needs in a solution. Is this good headteacher practice? I read a guardian article today in which the Principle of a failing academy got rid of the councilor because the children needed A’s and A*s rather than a cuddle. On reflection being nice is tough. I am still principled and I still have to hold my ground and be strong – usually against those that do not understand what I am doing and why. Where this approach is weak is when certain people just milk your human kindness and never really pay it back by doing their job as well as they could. Though they will often be the first to say they are over worked and under paid. The issue is we work with lots of people and the efforts they put into the job (their motivators and drivers) are different and therefore we get such a range of outcomes from people we work with. I think I will continue to be understanding but I will be lowering my threshold tolerance for people who do not give back what they have received.
Getting your priorities right
School leadership is never dull. Since the end of term I have had a break in and social services issue to deal with in the school I am leaving (even though the corridors and rooms are like a ghost town). Keeping focused on the main priorities is a tough task. Especially when so many factors distract and demand your time. New school – new Rules! I will be keeping some simple – very basic – priorities in check. They are:
Learning… I keep teaching out for a reason (I will have a team of skilled people who can go in and impact here based on the learning findings – though in truth learning is teaching). Learning is a data driven, scrutiny backed, process for me. I will be in and out of classes, talking, looking, discussing, arguing and searching for evidence that learning is fluid. I will then be doing it for each and every one of the children in the school. I will analysis that data to within an inch of it’s number life (I will look forward to the late nights). I will then be testing that my teachers and senior leaders know the who, what, why and when.
Behaviour… Making sure that expectations are clear and secure for everyone. Especially the adults. I find, more and more, that children’s behaviour is easy to deal with (Unless the system has broken down or there has been a long period of gradual breakdown and inattention – in which case it is still the adults fault that discipline is broken and quite often their behaviour is on par with the unruly children). It is adults that need reminders about their conduct and expectations. How clear is this in the school? It will be a focus for me. Even if all seems well and wonderful. We, the adults, model the behaviour we expect from every one. No compromise.
Systems… We have so many in schools. My focus will be working out which ones count and are they followed? Starting with the policies (summer reading) and then on to the day to day routines. There is nothing I hate more than doing things that have no real purpose or, even worse, no real impact.
Looking after me
I tried rewording this altruistic heading but felt that I should write it as I mean it. The longer I have been doing headship, the things I have seen, had said to me (done to me even) and the toll that this takes means that I need a certain selfishness about my approach to the role. I am not a sponge but nether am I a stone. I am flesh and blood and have to accept that each battle, each challenging moment, every tragedy or success shape and form me into what I have become or will become. This does not mean I will be leaving at 4 PM every Tuesday. I will work the hours needed. What it does mean is I will be finding time to swim. I will find a mentor – someone I can talk to who is ruthless in their appraisal (someone who will not pander to my insecurities). I will also look for my new colleagues, new partnerships to build upon in Somerset (where I am going) but at the same time I will continue to build upon my existing ones.
Quite often when I have moved on I have seen it as an end to a chapter in the book of my life and the new start the beginning chapter (Corny I know). This is very true to how I feel as I write this. I have a new job (a big challenge), a new house (hopefully) and my family are all going through this BIG move as well. I loved my old school and my old life. I have deep fears for this new start… but I will not be second guessing what will be because I do not know. What is certain though is I have a feeling I’ll have some blogs to write about over the next 12 months… Let’s hope so