I have given myself a STRONG talking to recently (In the privacy of my own home and alone – would hate anyone to think I am unstable). I read through some of my Blogs from last year and got to the point where I felt, ‘Shut Up won’t you… What’s with the constant whining? Oh politics are dirty and rubbish, Oh schools are falling apart… oh poor me!’ It was tiresome. So, I am going to try a new tact (Amazing what 6 weeks off does to the mental state). I am going for a positive Blog month. Upbeat and forward thinking. So, here goes.
You know ‘they’ are coming! (This is me doing ‘positive’!) Those first days back when dragging your carcass from the warmth of sleep feels like searing metal beneath your soul, the stomach turning lesson observations, the book scrutinies, endless raise on line and exam analysis, meeting after meeting, school development planning and CHANGE (often initially baffling change), SIP visits, OFSTED, governor visits, Christmas, data deadlines, parents evenings, performance management, reports and at least ten (as yet not invented) new initiatives to distract you from marking, planning or doing the basics of the job. Then there are the children and the intricate, untold stories that are waiting to be weaved in to life.
YOU KNOW THEY ARE COMING!
That is my first point. Be prepared. School years are pretty formulaic. One of my major observations of teachers is HOW they use their time. Quite often I’ll be told, “I am over loaded!” but then when we sit down and go through the ‘overload’ there are three or four things we ALL agree are just NOT priorities for ANYONE (especially the children). The teacher is still working to breaking point but those ‘little’ things can often be the straw that breaks the camels back. Please note what it is you are doing. Don’t get bogged down supporting a competent teacher only to find you have neglected your own planning or marking just before an observation or scrutiny. Don’t spend hours redrafting letters, or re-cutting shapes, or re-planning a timetable because ‘you’ feel it is messy, or sorting out the pencils in shades of colour, or deciding to clear the cupboard before an inspection, or covering the books because everyone is in to ‘Poke-Alfs’ (Or whatever the latest craze is). These are ALL true issues I have dealt with just before either an Inspection or at Performance Management reviews. I am not saying these things are not worthwhile, but if you are under pressure – go for the priorities first. Ask yourself, ‘Do I know what my top 3 priorities are?’ Discuss with others what you are doing and ask them what they would prioritise .There is nothing wrong in being honest about this. What is hard is it is often the things we ‘enjoy’ doing that can smother our time and the things that we find most difficult that need to be done. Next summer (Yes, despite the weather I am still pretending to myself we have a summer left) you WILL be writing reports. If you are experienced you know what a massive barrier to overcome this is. You need that resolve through out the year. I have always sworn by the Eisenhower Matrix below. I have adapted it so that I no longer write down ‘not important’, not urgent’. (It’s mainly emails and meetings). But the top left hand area is vital – they should be things you are doing NOW. Ask yourself how aware you are of what is in there and then ask… should it be?
Another method is simple listing. I worked with a deputy a few years ago who got me doing this. I find it works better if you list WHAT I WANT TO ACHIEVE TODAY… rather than long term.
Another method I use to keep focussed is something I saw on @theprimaryhead’s office wall. My version IS better (It’s ok he never reads my blogs!). Everything I need to do over a term is initially written in red. This is done during the first SLT team meeting together. Then, as things are done I rewrite them in black. Rewriting feels good!. You also see which things are left to do. It can be frustrating when things drag on (Some term 1 things were still red in term 3!) and you have to be clear WHEN to write it in black. What does DONE mean? For me it means I can ‘let go’.
What is also useful is by looking back over Term 1 I have a good template for this year. I even have pictures (Always take a picture of it) for the coming terms. He’s last years term 3.
A short blog but I hope it proves useful to some. If not I will have to go back to the good old ‘moaning’ blogs of the past. I hear those politicians are messing with … STOP!
I think the next blog will be entitled… The Year Ahead – Keeping Sane when times are tough.