Never have I been more uncertain standing up for what I believe in. Never have I felt more exposed or more vulnerable… So says the blogging head teacher.
There is a palpable buzz of anger and disappointment around education right now. This is especially true on social media. Nothing seems good enough and you feel that your name and reputation is constantly banded around behind the scenes like some sort of dirty word.
“You put your head above the parapet; therefore you are fair game mate!”
This may be paranoia. Whether it is because of spending cuts, the business of academy, local and national politics or social media justice – it has never felt so hard to find the positive fish in this sea of bile.
Where has this feeling come from? Why have we become so bitter? Is this a cultural shift? Have the 1980’s and 90’s produced a generation of moaners who have dined out on a million depressing episodes of East Enders and reached a tipping point? Is doom mongering an art form we are naturally good at? Or is it the media constantly telling us we are being done over by every politician, toff and banker? Drip-feeding our minds with drug-like dissatisfaction. Is it our sense of injustice? Is it the distasteful EU debate dividing us? Is it the state of politics and a backlash upon public service? Or is it just human nature? I really do not know. I do feel it though and I feel I have to tread carefully because so many are watching and waiting in this quick to blame and shame culture.
I have noticed a creeping resentment for my role. I believe in doing the best for every child. Why would I not think this? And yet Facebook, and a small minority go out of their way to criticise and review my ability to do the job I have done for 12 years now. This is often despite what Ofsted, my school improvement officer, governors or children feel. I have stood on the gates time after time this year to positive comments and then a Facebook thread is bought to my attention and some parent’s talk of the terrible times to be had at our school. It is gutting. It is hard. But maybe they have a point? Times have changed. There is less money, people are losing their jobs, support services have been cut to the bone, expectations and testing is tough and as high stakes as it has ever been, Children are under pressure from young ages, there is rhetoric of no excuses and not good enough from up high and within the community itself and our society is divided on many key issues regarding human rights, jobs and culture. Why not look back to the good old days when bullying didn’t happen and every one held hands and sang songs of love and war with a twinkle in their eye?
This is why it is more important than ever for head teachers and schools to stand up and be heard. This is why schools need to be positive and forward thinking places. We need to aim for the future and we need to come together with a simple vision. Education is the answer to all of our woes and troubles. Education is a far greater force than hate or disappointment.
I care for EVERY one in my community – even those that seem to hate me. I will fight for their rights. I will challenge values that are fuelled by hate, misunderstanding and ignorance. I want every child and every family to live a happy and fulfilled life. I want them to be proud of their school. I want them to achieve their potential. I say this with no irony or smug self-appreciation. It is my job and it is easy to do. So why am I so misunderstood? Why is the head teacher such a prickly role? Even my own staff look at me with distant eyes when times are tough. My Friday briefing left me almost despairing this week. I tried to speak openly about a more positive future, I tried to be upbeat in the face of much adversity, and I knew I could not get through… I knew that I had to deal with it. I wanted to scream and I really wanted to walk out and pursue the other avenues I have (Weeding, Queue jumping and Wrapping) – But I have fallen in love with my school. I could never let it down now. Love is far more powerful than any other feeling I know. But love must come with understanding and a sense of perspective.
I would say there has never been a better time to feel the love for schools and learning. Never has there been a time to build hope in our schools for a better and more positive future. Children get it. Despite what Facebook tells me there has never been a more humane, caring, bright and brilliant school age population. If we cannot be inspired by them then what hope is there?
I received an email this week from a parent. I had refused a strong request for leave. I had unauthorised the request because I HAD to. They stopped what would have been a great holiday full of fun and learning (But not the official kind). Rather than be cross with me or writing hurtful words they thanked me and wrote a paragraph about our curriculum and what we were doing. It cheered me up and left me more determined to keep focused on what matters. If only we could get this attitude in to our society, one of care and love. It is contagious and it has a knock on effect. I immediately went out and gave some children extra Gold Coins (Our reward system) and they skipped off down the corridor making other children happy – the ripple effect right under my nose.
Despite the anger and the sense of shaming, in fact because of it, I will try to be even more positive. I will try to care even more. I will listen to every complaint and every concern and I will guide my school through the wind and the rain. It does not have to be this way. Times may be tough but just browse through the news headlines and know that we are living on a blessed Isle with many good, honest and positive people wanting the best for us all. Even more importantly we are teachers and we can change this climate rather than fuel it. So, kick me next time I am on a downer.