And he said ‘let there be light’ and there was…well it wasn’t as dark, let’s just leave it at that.

Beginning my third year as a Head I think we would all agree I am now considered something of an oracle of leadership. That must be why I have found myself co-co-ordinating an induction programme for new Heads in Bristol. There is not a lot I don’t know about being a head and all the fresh-faced newbies attending the five day course will find that out pretty quickly – I probably won’t show my powers too early for fear of intimidating them but, they’ll know…I mean one look at me and they’ll just know.

Or so I thought when @manwithadog asked if I would like to help him lead the induction programme – it was him that the LA actually asked for. In reality I think he only asked me to tag along for my PowerPoint and Prezi skills and to have someone to organise the photocopying. The fact that the local authority said ‘Who?’ when he put my name forward is neither here nor there and should be put out of the reader’s mind for the rest of this post.

So, yes, I was very pleased and excited to be helping the heads of tomorrow (well the heads of today really, but you get my point).

Then I made the mistake of visiting @PrimaryHead1 at the weekend, who has recently left the city to go and work in the country, under the delusion that the more cows at the end of your garden, the less stress you feel at the end of the day. After I had sampled the very best of country living (this consisted of walking past a chicken farm, attempting to row a boat, suggestively feeling up a bulrush and trying to get a cow to lick my hand) we started to talk about his new school.

It was about this time that I began to feel the old familiar pangs of insecurity and, whatever the word is that describes the feeling that you’re drowning in a pool of inadequacy whilst being arrested for fraud. As @PrimaryHead1 began to talk about his new school it dawned on me just how terrifying taking over a school is. I don’t care what kind of school it is, becoming the Head of it, is a challenge in the way that Everest is a steep hill. When you actually learn the reality of your own school however, that steep hill becomes an even more gargantuan climb. Think I’m over egging the pudding? Well, consider if you will, the last time you met a Head Teacher who said at the end of their first term ‘This is going to be easier than I thought actually’ and you can be rest assured that the egg in my proverbial pudding is over your face and not mine.

No, becoming a Head of a new school is terrifying. A school that is out of your comfort zone: even more so; and although that could mean a special school, a massive school, a small school, an urban school, a country school, an academy, a free school (I could go on) it could also, quite rightfully, mean any school where suddenly you are the accountable one.

So this was just great, I was now feeling that I would be the worst person to induct a bunch of new Heads, but I dutifully created a PowerPoint, did some photocopying, chose a tie that suggested ‘confident control’ and prepared to look wise.

As the first induction day continued and the new Heads appreciated both the transition effects I had selected for the slideshow and the fact that I had colour photocopied everything, we began to ask them to reflect on their year so far. Just like @PrimaryHead1, each of their situations sounded uniquely terrifying to me. But as we continued round the group I noticed some common themes, dilemmas and questions:

  1. What you were told about the school on interview day and what you found out about the school by the end of day one tended to differ significantly.
  2. How do you get the school community to see things differently and accept that change is coming whilst being sensitive to the fact that they’ve been working very hard to make this what it is today?
  3. Who do you ring when you have to do something ‘Headteachery’ and you haven’t a clue how?

After listening to their own tales of how they jumped out of the frying pan and ended up in the fire I began to relax – not because I’m a sadist but because I realised that I may yet be of some help. You see I know what it’s like to realise that the job you took on is too big for you and that if you’d known you wouldn’t have accepted, heck, if the interview panel had known they wouldn’t have asked you in the first place. I know what it’s like to be a lone voice within a community desperately trying to get them to come with you in the hope that they don’t all rise up beat you senseless with a copy of your own SEF. And I also know what it’s like to not know many, many things and be too fearful of ringing another Head for help in case I’m rightfully judged to be an idiot. I know all this…and I’m still a Head!

I’ve lived through all their fears – still do on a daily basis – and I’m still here.

I am the proof that you can do it.

I am the light.

I am the oracle.

I am a Head.

6 thoughts on “And he said ‘let there be light’ and there was…well it wasn’t as dark, let’s just leave it at that.

  1. Karen Elliot September 15, 2014 / 8:55 pm

    You’ve made me smile…I’m a new head, but in the school where I was deputy…just as scary! It’s rather like running on a treadmill which just keeps getting faster. I did think, the day before my first day, that I might blog, or at least log, my experiences ….as if there is time for that! I am rather jealous of the 5 day induction…no such thing anymore in my L.A. Other experienced heads have been great though. If any are reading this, pick up the phone and ring the newbie down the road…it really helps!

  2. Claire Westcott September 20, 2014 / 7:26 pm

    Thank you – that made me feel so much better!! I’m 3 and half years into my first headship and a baptism of fire is an understatement! Really hoping that one day I’ll feel like a headteacher rather than someone pretending to be!!! Keep up the great blog.

  3. georgehamceps December 10, 2014 / 12:28 am

    I had a training day soon into my deputy headship where the person at the front, after a long pause, simply asked the 5 or 6 of us, “do you think they’ve just not found you out yet?” We all looked at each other with smiles on our faces, another pause, before someone was brave enough to nod – all of us felt it.
    I still do.
    Second headship and I’m often thinking, ‘not been found out yet!’

    Hey, I’m looking for a post, I’m sure it was yours, where you gave a list of things that annoy you with teacher application letters – coloured tatty paper, spelling mistakes etc… Was it yours?

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