Wheels are made for rolling, mules are made to pack
I’ve never seen a sight that didn’t look better looking back
Wand’rin’ Star – Lee Marvin
After ‘Paint Your Wagon’, Lee Marvin did not release any other singles. He had peaked, musically. I sometimes ask myself why, after one headship, you would do another?
Many bands fear their second LP. Being a one hit wonder is not something you need in your professional career. I know I’d rather be a Pixies ‘Doolittle’ over Richie Valens ‘Tell Laura I Love Her’. (Though, as an ambiguous side-line, ‘Tell Laura I Love Her’ will be a vague Ear-worm throughout your day and may say much about failed first headships). I feel that, in a musical sense, always think of your Headship as an LP over a Single. An LP could be a metaphor for headship. A banging opening, a catchy follow up, a misunderstood classic, the epic, the short radio pleaser, the weepy ballad – You’ll get them all in school leadership.
So you made it through your first headship, riding high on the fact that
A. You have not been fired.
B. You have not been publicly humiliated by Ofsted or a criminal misdemeanour (for which you didn’t know existed before).
C. You have the energy to start it all again… (Some may replace ‘energy’ with ‘stupidity’)
So hurrah! Because you feel it is time to move on because:
A. You have taken the school to new heights and it’s time for a fresh perspective.
B. You are bored.
C. Ofsted are very overdue and things look a bit dodge…
You apply for a job that will challenge you further… and you get it!
First stop, prepare for the break up. Leaving your school, in any circumstances is not an easy thing to do. Like any split it can get messy. I found it even harder as a head. It gets personal. The school feels a little cheated by you; colleagues, who weeks before lived the schools vision, begin to distance themselves in preparation for the ‘new’ leader. Then the recruitment of a new head process starts. It is an odd experience watching your job advertised and the search begin for a bigger, better and shinier version of yourself. You find that everything you had been a part of is trampled upon, questioned and dragged through the critical eye. The processes just as well say, “We are looking for someone to build on this traitorous charlatan and their ‘so-called’ past successes which we are starting to feel were not as great as they ‘tricked us’ in to believing they were.”
About two years ago I got some coaching from a wonderfully calm older lady who kept asking me. What is it you want Brian? You are clearly doing well as a head but are you ‘really’ happy?
It is only now that I realise what a good question this is. When you go in to another headship – ask yourself that question and don’t lie.
On my second headship things slowed down. I know this because my deputies got frustrated, annoyed even, as I took time over decisions. I saw their irritation as they wanted things to move on and resolve and I would be going, ‘”Um and Aar”. The second headship sometimes felt like throwing stones in public and hitting the target at distance first throw… You want to stop there and walk away in the knowledge that everyone thinks you are great at throwing stones. If you throw 100 stones and never hit the target again you become a bit of a joke. On your second headship you need to prove it wasn’t a fluke, therefore you become cautious. The problem is you know from your first headship that something may have worked… but it was a fluke of circumstance and timing. You are not sure you can get away with it again.
I went to the Eden Project over the Easter break. I am afraid of heights but like an idiot I will always test this fear out if I can, usually to an observer’s amusement and to date never successfully. There is a platform suspended above the rainforest area that you can walk out on to about 40 meters up. I knew I would get vertigo, I was terrified but I started to walk out on to it all the same. 20 meters along and I froze, my son in front of me, people behind me. I could not lift my legs, I was spinning forwards and sideways and I lost focus; sweat began to bead and the panic was intense. Sometimes in headship decision making can feel just like this. I think the reason I still do it is because I need to prove to myself that the fear of doing it does not stop me, even if I am not certain of the success – if I don’t step out I will never have even one success.
My second headship was a gift. It is a hundred blogs and almost impossible to summarise. I miss the school. I miss the site manager, support staff, teachers, parents… But mostly I miss the kids – especially those about to go to secondary… But here is the key. I do not regret my decision to move on again, to step out. I was starting to be a weight and the school needed fresh ideas, a fresh perspective. I loved my second headship. I feel connected to it in ways that grow rather than diminish.
The biggest thing I learnt from this second headship was how obsessed we can become with personal validation. I found that I sought this (Embarrassed face) through seeking the ‘outstanding’ validation that Ofsted gave. When I got it I quickly realised that to dream is better than living the reality of the dream. This is what I find more and more in headship – our quest for validation is constant. This is where the One Hit Wonders must feel frustration. They know they could do it again, but for a number of reasons it just never worked out for them – even when the follow up was a technically better entity than the original.