“I’m standing here in pieces and you’re having delusions of grandeur!”

The Empire Strikes Back – THREEPIO

I got a DM from someone I hardly know but deeply respect last week it said,

“Noticed your blogs seem ‘darker’. New job giving you grief?”

I then joked… I’m fine. I’ll write a positive blog next week. @Emmahardy did a great one. So I thought, “YEAH! Let’s do the same!”

I tried… I really did. But I couldn’t do it… I just… could… not… do… it!

If Heineken did Educational Blogs they’d sack me… This is more Francis Bacon than Monet.

So I am now applying the Film Trilogy principle to my blogs. This is number two. This is my Empire Strikes back… and yes it gets dark! But, don’t give up… I may have Ewoks in the third blog!

I really do love my job. The vast majority of everything is fantastic. My staff are wonderful. The kids make me laugh. A Y6 girl said to me this week:

“Mr OPH I LOVE your tie!”

“Thanks! It’s a Paul Smith!”

“Yes, it’s the same colour as my bathroom.”

I see their future lights shining so brightly. Specialist provision teaches me things about the world, myself and love each and every day. I have a new build that makes me feel like king of the castle. I see potential that can take my breath away. I lead in a way that, at times, makes me think I have got it absolutely RIGHT.

But, times in educational leadership have changed and with it the climate of being a school leader is no longer what I thought it once was.

Am I any good at it? I no longer know, even when I am told otherwise. This is not for dramatic effect. There are just too many things to get wrong. I feel that we tread such a fragile skywalk.

This is from a head who should be cocky and proud.  I mean no one can take any of the following away from me:

I have led, successfully, in four very different schools. I took a school from satisfactory to outstanding. I have never run a school with a deficit budget. I have successfully worked in Tower Hamlets (A Y6 teacher where pupils progress was in the top 3% nationally). I successfully taught and led in Withywood and Easton  (Bristol) – areas which present real challenges.  I coordinated Bristol’s new heads programme (Inducting over 20 new heads), very successfully, for many years. I was an original member of one of the country’s most interesting collaboratives. I have mentored and supported many MANY heads and senior leaders in challenging schools. I supported a school in special measures (The kids seemed sad when I left). I now work in one of the country’s biggest primary schools.  I blog and get a few hits…I played guitar at last year’s Primary Heads of Bristol Association conference… I am a national leader of education.

I mean, I should be bloody well living the dream people. Standing on top of the mountain and shouting –“ Look at me!” With an aura of HEADSHIP smothering me like warm ice-cream. “Look at me god damn it…” I should have a file on my desk top which reads.  Evidence for my Knighthood! I should… I should…


You see. I think I may have got carried away.

I LOVE the new BECK LP. I found Mr K West’s protests hilarious. There is a song I have listened to almost every night, this week, going home from work called, ‘Wave’. It is utterly spellbinding. When Beck calls out repeatedly, “I…SO…LA…TION…” I get him. I am there.

Headship may just be the worst thing that can happen to me?

I was told this week how a head once described their headship like having needles pushed into their hand. A hand that over the years had become numb to the pain. When they left they felt each and every pin as it was removed. The relief was not just emotional – it was physical.

….. And here’s the twist! I wrote this on Wednesday night…

Then Thursday happened…

On Thursday, after driving around the local houses looking for my Deputy whilst she talked a child back into school in the pouring rain something happened… something that I cannot really talk about. I wish I could… it was one of life’s utter challenges… We had arrived back in school successful in our mission and happy. Then the phone rang…

All I can say is if this sounded a little negative before… Thursday and Friday left me and my senior leaders numb… In fact it beat the whole school up. My team dealt with it like the brilliant professionals they are… but it hurt.

I am desperate to say how wonderful headship is…And in my 10 years 90% is… but that 10%…The 10% is dark stuff. As I said in my last blog ignore it at your own personal risk.

Supreme Being: Do be careful! Don’t lose any of that stuff. That’s concentrated evil. One drop of that could turn you all into hermit crabs. Time bandits

I want to be the spokesman for ‘Being the leader’ But right now? I look at heads who have moved on and think:

You did it…

You got through

You lucky lucky…

The pins have been removed and you are starting to feel again… I want some of that.

Is this dysfunctional thinking? Better call the head doctor?

Sorry… a word we sometimes say far too often in education… Sorry. As one person said this week, you are being ambiguous. I am because I cannot say what happened this week. I can only say how I am feeling.

I think I dealt with it well. I only cried once, in private, when the adrenaline had wore off late Thursday evening. I cried because when you are living in the moment you are focussed, when you reflect it is somehow magnified. I had just gone into head mode and (I feel) stood strong and tall for all the staff…  I remember asking that we got a towel for the child who had tried to abscond. After that, it was all a blur… Five hours and if you asked me to tell you what I did I would be hard pressed.

Before I went home I spoke to my wife and mum. I needed someone to hear me. I phoned them and said nothing… I could not speak. They both know me well and knew to give me time. I then went through the process I need to when I have to deal with tough days. I need to talk. I did that. I felt much better.

Sorry. This is probably self-indulgent tripe to most of you. How dare I sully the joyous ride that is headship? I’m probably a flaky no good head anyway… You know the type – emotional wrecking balls.

But, here’s the twist in the twist…

I finished Friday with a celebration assembly. It was a joyous event. The teachers made me laugh. The children made me laugh. My Deputy made me laugh… In fact despite it all, there was laughter… We had jokes and we had joy. I bounced out of the hall at the end and though I had some difficult things to do I also had real hope… Hope that I had come through and believed I could still see the road ahead. This road was full of the true purpose of headship… I could see the light at the end. This test still has much to throw at me I am sure… but there is just a small chance I am not cracking up…

And finally…

I only did 50 hours this week.