There I was being ‘the leader’ I wanted to see. Walking the walk amongst Reception asking them how the pantomime had gone. It was ace apparently… in between telling me how tall they were and how so and so had fallen over and bumped their head . I was with them! I asked questions, good questions, about the narrative and characters in the play. We became engaged in a deep and meaningful learning exchange…
…and then SHE sneezed in my face. Not a general sneeze, a light miasma catching my profile. This was a full on rocket. This was a snotty nosed uncontrolled blast that forced my head back – a slow motion Rocky head punch. I tried to look composed as mucus slowly dripped down my beard on to my blue tie. I felt like I’d been slimed aka Ghostbusters- 1984. I didn’t feel so funky. In fact within 5 seconds I felt I was coming down with something tropical. I’ll be bed bound by Christmas Eve.
Sometimes you can get a little too close to things in education.
It’s been the season to be merry in schools this week. Nativities, pantomimes and performances- singing, dancing, old jokes and forgotten lines. I LOVE it. A hundred miles an hour creativity. So this is Christmas and what have we done?
In our school we go from choosing a play to performing it within two weeks. The quality never fails to impress me. I am often at the back watching one of the 14 performances we put on, teary eyed, laughing or just brimming with pride. Well over 1500 people came in to watch performances this week… community at its best. There are very few experiences like it. You see it’s the narratives behind the performances that I love. That super quiet lad from Y2 now in the main role in Y5. The missed lines rescued. The child who misses half the rehearsals with a cold but still turns up and puts in a special performance. Seeing fears overcome, right there in front of a couple hundred people – children growing up in front of our eyes. I often watch the faces of the parents and grandparents. There is little to compare to the experiences of a Christmas School Performance.
But, this is the hardest term for teachers… and sometimes it’s hard to be merry when you are exhausted. Leave at the door your personal troubles. Your failing marriage, latest diagnosis, bank balance, sick cat, poorly family member. Don’t take the parental complaint in to the room before you address the gathered… just keep that smile on. School at this time of year can be a brutal place for those merry giving teachers. You are under a spotlight of expectation… centre stage.
I talked to a lot of my community this week. Those that read my blog (hello) and those that appreciate all that teachers do. It was SO uplifting. Grandparents in particular are incredible. I don’t think we understand enough about the power of our community to lift us up. We know as leaders all too well the negative side. The incredible pressure we are under. But reverse it and just soak up those small conversations… they are an incredible gift. One parent passed me by at our final Nursery performance and simply said some nice words to me, about me… I don’t think she thought too much about them. I was 60ft tall all day. Just writing about it makes me feel good. A simple small gesture of incredible worth.
A very good friend of mine asked me last summer…
‘Brian, why are you so needy? ‘
This was after my school received the TES awards but I had also put on twitter a few cards children had sent me saying nice things about me. This question has kept with me ever since. Why do we as school leaders, as teacher, seek validation? Why do I, after many years a head need it? We see it all over twitter; cards and affirmations.
Look at me mum! Look at me! I’m up here mum!
I took a day off at the beginning of this week because I was poorly. It may have been the aftermath of the snot shower but deep down I was exhausted and feeling very low- sore throat and headache. I think that the reason I seek affirmation from people, from teachers, strangers on twitter, from the job is… there is no security in what we do- there is no one way to do it. Education is a ruthless and transient thing. I have always said, “No one person is too big for a school.” It is true. No matter how long or how hard you have worked. No matter how amazing your story and the journey you went on with a school… within a year no one will care. So, soak up the moment. Enjoy the awards- honestly when my schools name was called out for TES Alternative School of the Year I still get goose bumps thinking about it. The numb denial… the- did I just hear that? The faces of those around me and the absolute shock. I’m alright with feeling good about it.
But, my friend is right about being needy…
Why does it take the spotlight to give me pleasure? Why don’t I just find the pleasure and validation in the things we do that we take for granted? The plays and sports days. The laughter in the corridor and lives turned around. I bet if every teacher were to list the ‘small things’ that happened this term they would be shocked at how much they have achieved and feel a hundred foot tall – no award can beat that feeling… Maybe next term we should say:
‘This is our job and we do this every day.’