Sorry about the title. I tried thinking of a better way to phrase how I feel about the role I now have in headship and this was the best I could come up with. I heard a headteacher using it a few weeks ago. She was joking with her senior team because there was some positive feedback to give out and asked if she could give it because all she seemed to be doing was dishing out ‘shit-sandwiches’.
There is little joy in the role of headteacher right now. I cannot remember a time in my career (20 years) where I have felt so disillusioned, so angry or so disappointed. I have never spent so much time on issues that are not directly about teaching and learning (but are so destructive to a school ethos and the hope that is central to running a good school community). I have never felt so isolated (even when surrounded by so many good people). I am now a manager and my leadership is carrying me through but my integrity is in constant question.
This is not a weak plea for sympathy. I’m over that. As I have said I have some amazing people in this with me and they would ‘kick me in the shins’ if the self pity took over. My governors are brilliant, my staff wonderful and many many parents have listened to me and understood the dilemma I have been given and trust me to stand tall and champion our school. I will. In fact I am more determined to ensure that I make things better with less than at any time (The shame is this means the cuts, tougher testing etc will do exactly what is wanted… improve schools. For the record the school will NOT improve because of us getting better at managing cuts or passing tests… It will be because I ensure the soul of the school meets the needs of the most important people in it. Our school will not improve because of government policy – it will improve despite it. That is my pledge!). I am immensely proud and know that deep down my love of the job I believe in is drowning in a sea of misguided and unconnected rubbish. My anger is misplaced because I cannot change the policy behind why school leadership is a constant (relentless) strategic battle to keep your head above the manure pit.
I was heartened by Toby Young’s quotes this week in Schools Week. In particular,
“As someone coming into education from the outside, the bits you see of other schools are only the tip of the iceberg. You’re not aware of everything that is going on beneath the surface. You think, ‘well, I could do better than that’, as you are pointing to the tip of the iceberg, without realising how much more there is to it.”
I wish those that are now making the biggest decisions that are shaping the future of our education system (the future of our country) can have an epiphany of this scale. Toby Young had it because he walked in the boots of those doing it… He learnt from it and I respect him for that, even when I disagree with so much of what he has stood for. We need someone in government right now to follow this example. We need something dramatic to open the eyes of the people who are SO removed from the reality they wouldn’t know a child from a light switch. There may be a good reason a Mad Business Tycoon Celebrity has an opportunity to run the most powerful country in the world… That reason is politicians uncanny ability to alienate people (the majority) and yet offer up a perceived hope. I have never understood or had to walk ‘servitude leadership’ more than I have in the last month. Imagine our government understanding what servitude really means – where EVERYONE is an equal partner in it.
I have never felt more like a puppet entirely controlled by circumstances beyond my influence. We always believe we have choice when suddenly faced with the reality that choice is an illusion and freedom is in fact just self awareness and hope having a conversation – a pointless and time consuming conversation that in the end gets you nowhere. I blame progress. I blame the fact that we think we are free when in fact we just have not realised we are being controlled. Maybe we need mad national leadership to take the decisions away and then we can blame them for making us dish out sandwiches full of crap.
Ok… I’ll get over it! Rant finished!