I know it’s an old cliche but being a Head Teacher really is rather like being the captain of a ship sent to explore distant lands. Sailing on unpredictable waters which sometimes swell into giant storms, striving to steer a steady course towards calm seas and islands where we can learn new things. And never knowing exactly what tomorrow is going to bring.
People come and go, and for the time they are with us, children, families, and staff, their lives and ours are closely intertwined. We share their hopes and dreams. We share their moments of sadness and desperation. And all the while we hold onto the vision of creating better opportunities for the children that we teach and the families that we support. We hope that our staff grow and develop so that they will, should they choose, find their own ship to sail and their own crew to develop.
As Head I have, at times, felt overwhelmed with the journey ahead and sometimes I have lost my direction. The fallout from Ofsted, had a much bigger impact on me personally than I had realised and when I came back to work it was with a renewed determination to get the ship into peak sailing condition. I am not someone who has great confidence in my own abilities and was very aware that I had lost something of my creativity. One of the outcomes of the amount of emotional support that I have to provide is that I get very tired and lose my ability to think properly. I had been looking for someone to support me in mapping out the course ahead and last week, by chance, I found them.
I had lots of ideas about what to do next and where we should be going but I was struggling with the details of how, exactly, to get there. We know that our focus has to be continuing to improve teaching and learning and together with this person I was able to create a framework that pulled all my ideas together into a coherent course. It is incredibly exciting.
The first week back after the Christmas holidays had its high crests and low troughs as the waves tossed us about. On the whole, the children came back very calm and were clearly glad to be back. Staff are rested and ready to get stuck in. Assembly on the first day was an absolute delight, discussions of aspiration and hope for the future, children keen to learn and recognising that to get the futures that they dream of will involve hard work on their part as well as ours. I have had lovely conversations with the children; about their holidays, about their learning, and have eavesdropped into their lunchtime chatter.
It is the quiet children that I have engaged more with this week, a child who is being overwhelmed by a sibling and who needs some space away from them, a child whose sibling may not live to the end of the month. It’s so incredibly important to keep things ordinary for them and I have been chatting with them in the lunch hall most days. We are going to set up a science club. One child said she likes explosions and wants to do chemistry. I have a plan for this…
The children in the support group have come back lively and unsettled. So much challenging behaviour is driven by anxiety. One of the children is always ‘showing off’ to who he sees as the dominant member of the group, desperate to be accepted, and therefore protected and kept safe as not a target of this child’s negative behaviours. They are also having to get used to a change in staffing, which they have actually managed really well.
They are building lego mansions again. With the usual bbq areas, swimming pools, garages and outdoor fridges. They are also, very subtly, excluding one of the members of the group. When he goes to play with the lego with them, they will give it a couple of minutes and move away. The staff in the group are trying to address this. It is a clear reflection, again, of the macho culture of the estate. The excluded child is different from the others. The ‘top dog’ was telling me about the fights he gets into outside school. The other children behave in a way that they hope will gain his approval and if this means not engaging with one of the group, that’s what they will do.
I am going to be spending a lot more time with these children this term. I am really looking forward to it!