I have been at breaking point this week. Long hours, emotional lows, staffing complications, the worries that only a head teacher can feel and a busy and complex home life that has left me feeling like it would take just one person to take me down. One snappy word to crush my last stockades of resilience. Often in headship you feel like you are on the eve of a war… that the odds of something terrible happening though unlikely is inevitable,
“The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one… but still they come!”
Jeff Waynes, War of the Worlds
Things that were once small and manageable such as parent gossip on the playground, people commenting on the good old days when you weren’t the head, staff questioning decisions, workforce worries – at times like these no matter how much of a superhero/ heroine you try to be; rocks of Kryptonite lodge in the back of your throat and you falter. These, so called, small issues utterly knock you out. It takes epic levels of inner strength to stand up straight and walk through the thorns of glass again.
So imagine how @ThehopefulHT must have felt this week, getting on with the job? I took one line from her pinned tweet this week,
‘I’m okay, your kindness outweighs the nastiness’
As head teachers there is no doubt that we are leading in the Katie ‘Hopkins’ era. That someone so vicious and divisive can be held up as a ‘voice with influence’ shows how difficult the land lies for the hopeful when they are making massive decisions in large communities. The numbers of people who attack with vitriol seem to have gone viral in the social media age. Even when the initial concern raised is genuine and important there seems to be an army of people just waiting to start typing, click baiting their own fame at the expense of others. I read a great book recently on the 2015 Munk Debate between Steven Pinker, Matt Ridley, Alain De Botton and Malcom Gladwell, ‘Do Humankind’s Best Days Lie Ahead?’ Gladwell says, “So, 99.9 percent of us might be better off now than we were previously, but the remianing .1 percent of people can make our lives really, really miserable. It only took one Stalin to wipe out twenty million people in the Soviet Union.” Though not as dramtic it seems that it only takes one person in the social media age to create ripples that turn to waves that leave a path of destruction in their wake.
Education, in particular, is a bloodied battleground. It feels worse than ever… maybe the facts don’t evidence this out. Maybe it’s just those in the fishbowl feeling hurt, battered and bruised? I seriously cannot understand the constant personal attacks and the trolling I see – on any side. The school shaming. It has to stop. The only way we can do this is in the seeds of what I saw this week. People in education – coming together. It was fantastic to see so many people contacting @ThehopefulHT and reminding her just how important and brilliant they know she is. People who said this knowing what head teachers do and people saying this who have personal experience of working alongside her. This support cannot be underestimated because most head teachers know… facing a ‘storm of crows’ alone is a truly terrifying prospect. I really hope that I have that support when the ‘murder’ assembles. In folklore one of the explanations for the collective noun, ‘a murder of crows’ is – ‘that crows will gather and decide the capital fate of another crow.’ Let’s just hope they have not been informed via social media or the Daily Mail.
I want the seeds of what I saw this week to become the thing that goes viral when good people, doing a good job, come under attack for all the wrong reasons. There is a huge difference between people disagreeing with the way you do your job to knowingly cheating or crimanal activity. The two should never be treated the same. When people do things with the best intentions, knowing the context and bigger picture – others should never be allowed to take precidence in the debate. They should never be allowed to take centre stage without the full facts… and yet they do. We almost thrive on the exsitence of ill-informed finger pointing. The fake news machine in full flow. I know what it is like to have something you do taken out of context and I know the feeling of helplessness as it begins to pick up speed and anger as it rolls down the twitter news feed. This goes further than the events of last week – it goes in to how the very debate is carried out in education. Of course we should be disagreeing and questioning but WE the professionals should set the standard in how this is done. With dignity, facts and a will to do good. That is the difference beween the Custodians of Hope and the Guardians of Animosity.