Speaking as a man I can confidently say that term six is a lot like going through childbirth for a second time. You recall that it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park the last time…but surely it wasn’t as bad as this!
It’s just so busy. I mean, like, crazy busy! And it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Now, that should mean that it’s going to be over soon but my list of ‘stuff that needs to get done’ doesn’t seem to be reducing as swiftly as the days are disappearing.
I know that this is true for every person working in schools at the moment but, trust me, it’s especially bad for me this year. I promise you that I have it worse. If there was a competition for how busy we all are I would definitely win it but I wouldn’t be able to attend the award ceremony to pick up my prize because, well, I’m just too darn busy.
What with staying up all night to get the SATs results the second they’re released, finishing the appraisal cycle for teachers, attending all the Year 6 performances, reviewing the SEF, writing a final head’s report, reading and commenting on 420 children’s reports, transition week, meeting the new Reception parents, FGB, the summer fair (where, this year, I am literally getting taped up to a wall!) attending the leavers’ assembly, cheering through the sports day, preparing and attending the review meeting with the local authority, going on camp, and, meeting with parents who don’t want their kid to be taught by a job-share next year, this term puts the ‘if anyone bemoans teachers having six weeks off in the summer I’ll punch them right in the sangria’ into busy.
On top of that my school is undergoing significant curriculum changes next year. To cut a long story short we’re throwing away the rule book and running a subject specialism model. This involves teachers not only having their own registration class for most of the week but also having to teach every child in the school their subject specialism for two days a week. It might not sound like fun but we’re all very excited. It has however tripled the amount of work that needs doing to be September ready. So, before we’ve had time to be exhausted from all the usual term 6 hoopla we’ve also been writing schemes of work, thrashing out the logistical nightmare that is a subject specialism timetable, presenting the idea to parents, assuring governors that our standards aren’t now going to disappear and carrying out trial days followed by immediate reviews.
On top of that…I’m leaving my school at the end of the term. I’m handing in my pass and heading to a new school and a new challenge. Hurray me…but blimey, that don’t half add to the workload. I’m normally pretty nonchalant about trying to get everything ‘done’ by the end of the academic year. I usually operate on a more existential level safe in the knowledge that school development has no knowledge of the summer holidays. Some things will happen by the end of the year, others will quite happily wait until September. But now….I want to get it all done!
So how, dear reader, does one cope with these pressures? Especially at a time when your reserves are pretty low? How do you look ahead to next week’s set of deadlines without bursting into tears? How do you enjoy being a visible Headteacher when you only have the time to be in your office getting stuff done?
My advice? Go with the flow. Accept the fact that a ‘strategic workflow’ (or peace and quiet as I like to call it) is going to be an absent friend for the foreseeable future. You can do this because you know that you have successfully carried out 99% of these tasks before. Admittedly, you may not have completed them in such a concentrated time-span before but you DO know what to do and you CAN do it. So, allow yourself to be buffeted around like a pinball, as you bounce from event to event, safe in the knowledge that your performance will be consistent and more than adequate.
Also, forgive yourself if a day swallows you whole. Don’t worry that nobody saw you or got to speak to you for the whole of yesterday afternoon. Chances are, they didn’t notice because, like you, they were too busy trying to get through their mountain of summer-term-stuff. If they did notice then they either have a highly astute level of emotional intelligence which means they should at least offer you a cup of tea, or, it means that they’re not working hard enough.
So, close your eyes, grit your teeth, and get ready for the next day. And remember, just like when your giving birth: breathe.