So September loomed closer into view, a blot on the summer holiday’s horizon. Very much like the slow dance at a disco: all the fun stops and the dancefloor slowly clears leaving you feeling isolated and alone – well maybe that says more about me than the start of a new term. But as I relentlessly updated Twitter on my phone desperately trying to find an important tweet to distract me from reality it became apparent that the dancefloor was not in fact empty. There were hundreds of folks on there, jiving away to the sexy and exciting tune of ‘I’m going to a new school!’ Fresh faced NQTs about to embark on a new exciting career; middle leaders about to start the rocky road to senior leadership; and once jaded long in the tooth heads, given a much needed shot in the arm as they prepared to tackle and untangle a new school of mysteries and problems. Was I the only person staying put? Was I the only one on the twittersphere without anything new to look forward to? Why will no one dance the rhumba with me?
So I went to sleep the night before school feeling…nothing. I wasn’t dreading it. I wasn’t itching to get back. It felt like a regular Monday albeit after a massively long weekend. I knew what I was getting: same school, same teachers, same kids, same challenges. I imagine at this point you’re probably thinking, that should the opportunity ever arise, you probably won’t be booking me for a motivational inset, but do you know what: I don’t care. Sometimes going back to school isn’t exciting, sometimes you don’t have a year full of anticipation and excitement and wonder. Sometimes you’re just going back to school.
I went out to the playground to meet and greet the children and parents. I do this every morning and I’ll admit that as the year builds so does the knot in my stomach as I pick up the school bell, push open the door and step out onto the playground. I scan the playground for faces that look like they have something to say to me which at 8:45am is usually not a positive, but a pent up, over-rehearsed, distorted and angry complaint. But on this morning, the first morning of a new year the playground was nothing but smiles and I realised, just then, that I should embrace this moment. No one has anything to say except for happy hellos and cheerful enquiries into each other’s holidays. The children are all excited to be back and there is a real buzz and most delightfully, nothing awful has happened that I can be blamed for!
Throughout the day I caught up with not only the staff but the children. I was genuinely surprised at how (almost) emotional I got when I saw a very ‘vulnerable’ child who I worked extensively with last year, bound around the playground looking happy and healthy. Seeing all the children en masse in assembly sat beautifully looking up expectantly at me, I began to feel so lucky that I knew them and they knew me and it was a pleasure to welcome them back to OUR school, a place we know and value so much and promise them that this year was going to be awesome!
Then the meeting with the staff to go through the handbook. The school’s bible, containing more than just the ten commandants – this epic tome makes clear every nuanced expectation, routine, system and structure in the school. Nearly two years in the making, it is now finished, a blueprint for the school we have created and I again, internally pause to embrace this moment. We’ve done it. We’ve built this school from the ground up and it is ours; it is ours and it will succeed. We go through the tried and the tested and although it’s a lot to digest, we take comfort in the fact that there are no more changes, we do not need to evolve because for now we are perfect.
Then there are the changes of course…universal free school meals, life without levels and the new curriculum. But we don’t care. Not least because we’ve already thought about them and have things in place – we don’t know if they’ll work but they’re in place. But better than that, we know that all schools are going through these changes. And for a third time I allow myself to enjoy being here, in a school that isn’t playing catch up to every school I know or have worked in, due to a lack of care or attention to policy and principles through past leadership regimes, because we’ve put that right. Now we can tackle the national challenges of the day on an even battleground and that feels…wonderful.
I know that one day I’ll get itchy feet and long for a new challenge. I know that one day my way will be the wrong way for this particular organisation and it will need a fresh pair of eyes to sort out the problems I would have become to blind to. And when that day comes I’ll be blogging and tweeting about how excited I am about my new venture, I’ll be dancing on the podium and spreading the love of change to anyone that will listen.
But for now, I want to enjoy being frozen in a state of suspended animation. I want to revel in leading a school I know like the back of my hand and where for the briefest of moments (and let’s face it, it will be brief) I am in control!
I haven’t moved schools…and I’m very, very happy.