You want a piece of me?

Serious question, asked @yorkshireht, how long do you think you can survive the pressure of headship over a career?

I love education. I absolutely adore it. It consumes me. It fills me up, right up until I’m fit to burst. Like a stick of Brighton rock, ‘education’ runs right through me.

And, believe me when I say that I love education in all its forms. I love the:

children, laughs, graft, pressure, data, policies, learning, breakthroughs, frustrations, changes, growth, teachers, playgrounds, trips, topics, behaviour, detentions, planning, marking, failures, ofsted, support staff, local authority, friends, colleagues, peers, social workers, therapists, parents, innovations, camaraderie, help, governors, arguments, struggles, budgets, office, safeguarding, displays, corridors, libraries, subjects, homework…

I could go on but I think you get the point. There is nothing I would rather spend my time doing than contributing to the legacy of education. It’s noble. It’s honest. It makes a difference. It’s a privilege.

You get me working in your school and, you might not get the best headteacher in the world, but you sure do get a devoted one.

I will be yours and I will act on your behalf at all times. No matter what stake you hold within the community, I have your best interests at heart and I will never give up the belief that we are going to make it, together.

Odd then that my response to @yorkshireht would be: not sure how long I can sustain my role in education.

Why is that? I’m not old. I’ve not been doing it for that long. Why on earth would I want to get out?

It’s not, despite where you think this could be going, the workload. I’m at my happiest when I’m busy. You know that manic feeling in Term 2, just between the assessment deadline and Christmas, I think that’s the most wonderful time of the year. I revel in firing on all cylinders. So when I hear about the endless changes coming our way from way up high, I don’t necessarily baulk. I may not embrace but I aim to embed. I enjoy the challenge of making it work and I’m proud that, as a profession, we constantly evolve.

It’s also not because demands have increased or goalposts have changed. Although yes, both of these facts are making my job quite tricksy. I’ve always been a pretty calm and collected frood, but even I can feel those stress-related behaviours seeping out of me as I try to improve upon the already improved-higher standards that are now expected to be higher than they were last time I blinked. But as I said earlier…I like change, so, no, it’s not because the demands are increasing.

So what is it, I hear no one ask.

I think what is slowly grinding me down is the growing perception that schools, Heads and teachers are public property. Now, I know we work on behalf of the public and I know that we should, quite rightly, be held accountable for anything written in our job descriptions. I understand this and accept it wholeheartedly. But over time this has become confused with being accountable for things that any individual just doesn’t happen to like. There is a growing public mind-set that if something is not liked, not only must it be expressed, but it should also, by virtue of having been communicated, change. This is also the case for individuals’ misunderstanding of national policy or educational headlines: we must respond to what they think and any attempt to ‘put them straight’ through use of our knowledge is smeared as subterfuge, back-peddling and uncaring unprofessionalism.

It cannot be a coincidence that I am feeling this during an era where the profession is on its knees begging for its professional stature to be handed back. When people are told that they can create their own schools with their own curriculums, why should the state maintained parent care what their local school has to say anymore? When schools can appoint unqualified teachers then why shouldn’t parents tell the qualified ones what to do too? If any school can be a coasting school – and no one really knows what the definition of ‘coasting’ means yet – then why should any parent feel satisfied? Why isn’t any gripe or individual’s whim worthy of whole school change?

You see, what starts out as the public, rightly, not settling for low aspirations or quality education, ends with the potential vilification of perfectly good schools and professionals, for the sake of matters of limited consequence. As this continues, so strengthens the belief that the professionals within the school are completely owned by the public, and every demand, no matter how contradictory to the last, must be enforced, or else, we are accused of apathy. The truth that schools are accountable for achievement and children’s well-being has morphed into the fallacy that we are accountable for everyone’s idea of everything else that is important as well.

As the Head, I feel this the most. I am the one expected to jump the highest whilst dancing to the largest number of tunes. Personal comments are expected to wash over me. People are allowed to judge me holistically without respecting my right to be a person and I must take it because I am a public servant. My ownership is up for grabs and every piece of me is on sale. A public servant I may be, but I feel as though my soul has become as accountable as my performance.

Something’s got to give. And I’m not sure I want it to be me.

3 thoughts on “You want a piece of me?

  1. ishackleton May 19, 2015 / 10:10 pm

    How true! This is exactly how I’ve been feeling for the last few months. I lead a fantastic school with brilliant committed teachers but to some what we do is never good enough.

  2. Jane Taylor May 23, 2015 / 10:19 am

    The truth hurts! As a school business manager in a small primary school within a deprived community I can fully concur with these thoughts. Time and time again the parent is at the door or on the phone wanting something new, something else. It has got to the stage where everyone one wants a little more, everyone thinks that they should have what they want when they want it. How many hats can we wear, how many balls can we juggle before something does give?

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