WomenEd Unconference – 3rd March 2018
#Press for Progress #WomenEd #10%Baver
Stepping up to Headship and Still Standing
So for those of you who attended this wonderful event yesterday here is what I planned to say but ended up free-styling!
Having met Jill Berry in early 2014 at the end of the MLDP course when she came to an evening of celebration I had just applied for a Deputy Headship position and felt happy and contented with life! Jill invited me to something called a ‘Teachmeet’ at Quintin Kynaston Acadamy. That day I was introduced to Mary Myatt meeting her for a coffee prior to this ‘Teachmeet’ event and Jill made sure that I opened a Twitter account and challenged me to ‘tweet’ throughout the day!
In October 2015 I met ‘the tribe’ – WomenEd and have not looked back since!
I am now in my second year as a Head Teacher – for me personally WomenEd have certainly achieved one of their mission statements – to empower more women in education to take their next leadership role! I have not only been 10% braver but in my eyes I am 100%braver than I was back in 2015. My first teaching job was in a large comprehensive school near Watford in 1989 and 27 years on I took on my a Headship – I was not in a hurry, I was enjoying teaching way too much to really think about it! (I only had 10 weeks off working for maternity leave back in 1999 and that is another conversation (Emma @MaternityCPD and I had a great conversation about the situation now.)
Did I feel prepared for Headship? Crikey No! No matter what training or courses you do it has been the biggest learning curve I have ever experienced; a roller coaster ride but the thrill and the adrenalin is in incredible. Having just turned 50 this truly is the best job ever and I feel that I have reached the pinnacle of my career.
I am saddened on occasions when I hear young teachers who have just entered the profession discussing their 5 year action plan – with the ultimate goal of being a head teacher as quickly as they can. My advice is to enjoy the journey, take time to appreciate every experience, work in a variety of settings and schools (even overseas if it appeals to you – I loved those 6 years of my career in Tokyo). All the experiences I have had , the people I have met have moulded me into who I am now. Have I ‘matured’….heck no! Life if for living – we only get one crack at it – so let’s not take ourselves too seriously! (I shall not include my anecdote about my recent injury!) That is not to say that I do not take my job seriously.
So how have I survived?…
In my first year I had a coach (highly recommend) – I was fortunate to have Dr Jill Berry (highly recommend). I kept a reflective journal (also highlighted by Bukky @rondelle10 in her leadmeet yesterday). A ‘happy’ file has also been very useful; keeping emails, letters, cards etc of all the positives – so valuable to look back on on those tough days.
I asked for an external consultant to conduct an appraisal for me 17 months into my Headship. She spent 2 days interviewing 16 groups of people from the school community; pupil, parents, staff, governors to gain their perspectives on how my leadership of the school was going. Thankfully it is all going in the right direction and it has given me permission to breathe….not take my foot of the gas but just breathe!
Building relationships, good communication and sticking to your values and principles are key. But most important of all if you are contemplating headship is finding the right school, which you want to lead – not just taking a headship for the sake of it being a ‘headship’. I now laugh with my school Principals as I had almost stalked the school having met one of the Heads (who is the proprietor with her husband, now my Principals). I had met her at a conference and she spoke about the school with such passion that I was intrigued and when I saw the advert that they were looking for a new Head (both retiring after 29 years of leading the school) well…the rest is history.
I work in the independent sector, I was possibly in the minority of teachers at WomenEd from this sector as we are only approx.. 7% of schools. I made this decision some time ago. I would not claim that independent schools are any ‘better’ than maintained schools – they are just different in some ways but ultimately they are the same. Children, parents, staff….education! (Although our school is just the best!)
Our ‘clients’ pay for a ‘service’ to educate their children – and that brings many different demands. Do not think that independent education is only just for the ‘rich’ and that the schools are full of stuck of teachers – it just not like that at all! I am a comp girl through and through –brought up on a council estate, the first person to go to uni in my family and group of friends. I know where my roots are but I have always been up for a challenge, always been out to improve myself and in education always out to improve what I do to benefit the outcomes for pupils.
It is important to me as the Head to teach…..to be a Head teacher! The time in the classrooms keeps me in touch with the staff, the pupils and of course that’s why I went into education in the first place.
I am not trying to deter people applying for Headships but it is not for everyone and often it is seen as the only way of progressing one’s career. I wish that the Chartered College was around 10 years ago – what they are doing with the launch of the Chartered Teacher programme is superb and if I were still in the classroom full time this is certainly the route I would have gone done. So important to keep good teachers in the classroom and not lose them too early in their careers.
As a Head I have the desire to continue learning; I am currently on the assessment board of the Pilot Chartered Teachers programme, this week I embark upon a rigorous training course to be a school inspector – looking at educational quality and compliance. And of course I will continue to support the work of our tribe – @WomenEd. Attending Teachmeets and other such events are all part of my continued CPD. I want to inspire all my pupils and staff to continue to learn – keeping that desire to inspire alive!
A Head’s job can be a lonely one thus it is so important to have a network outside of school – people that you can share experiences with that perhaps you would not share with your SLT.
Mental health and well-being is crucial for everyone but as the Head teacher if I do not look after myself and burn myself out then what example am I to the staff! (I have just returned from my Sunday morning yoga class!) I do leave work at least one evening at a reasonable time, do not bombard staff with unnecessary emails or make them attend unnecessary meetings or do unnecessary paperwork. My mindfulness though is what keeps me fully grounded – I teach both the paws b and .b programmes at school and practice myself.
I have a great staff and superb school Principals and although my Headship really is still in its infancy I truly believe that I have found the best job ever. Thank you WomenEd – for giving me the confidence and community in which to grow!