When I started teaching I never for one moment imagined I would end up as a Head Teacher. After leaving University with an English Language and Literature degree I had high hopes of working in the ‘glamorous’ literary world and I started my working life as a PA in a Literary Agency. And I absolutely hated it. I hated the whole making money for some private person, I hated the subserviance, the negotiating over contracts, money, in fact I hated the whole ‘up-itself’ world that I found myself in and was very disillusioned. Little did I know when I came into the teaching profession that I would find myself having to do things that I associated more with running a business than being an education professional.
My day today started with a follow-on to the lack of internet and laptop that had happened yesterday. At 8.30 my Bursar and I met with the ‘second in command’ of the company that provide our internet service (or lack thereof). The meeting lasted an hour during which time we complained, got cross, threatened to take our business elsewhere and generally played the ‘business’ game. Poor man, he left saying he had never seen a worse service than the one we were currently receiving. I think we had made our point. He also left with an ultimatum so we shall see what happens there. At least he had brought me a replacement laptop and our internet was restored. All was well with the world and my admin staff and Bursar in particular were much relieved, though as a consequence they, and the rest of SLT had acquired a large backlog of emails and other ‘paperwork’.
It never fails to amaze me how many emails I can be sent in one day, I think it averages at about 80 of which about 20 need my immediate attention. I like to have a day in the office now and then. They are usually puncutated by children appearing at my side (they just let themselves in) with good work to show me or completed achievement cards which require a postcard home. I love this. However when a teacher has decided that 10 children all need a postcard at the same time and I am in the middle of an important something it can be quite tricky!
Lunchtime with the ‘support’ class was quite interesting today. One of them had been away yesterday and was making sure that we knew he was back today. One of the things I have noticed about the community I serve is that there seems to be no differentiation, in terms of the psyche, between adults and children. All seem to behave like adolescents. Consequently adults allow their children to watch inappropriate films (I had a whole group of Y1 chilren who had watched SAW – and told me that it was ok because they could take it…) talk with them as if they were equals, and place inappropriate and unrealistic expectations on them. Adults behave like teenagers and will squabble and fall out just like they did at school. And the children mirror this behaviour.
This particular child today was behaving very much like a stroppy teenager, and as stroppy teenagers are in fact acting like stroppy toddlers, he was having what might be called one hell of a tanturm. Like the others, inside there is a little boy who just wants positive attention and to play, but his interactions with his mum don’t facilitate this. He is a child who will challenge everyone and everything, especially if he doesn’t get his own way.
In the class the children are expected to sit nicely ready to eat. It is one of the ‘rules’ of the group – we are trying to encourage them to be polite and we are also trying to counteract the idea that if they create enough of a fuss then the adults will give in. Sometimes it can be quite hard to keep that line and the class teacher and I feel more like ‘supernanny’ than teachers. Today it was my turn to ‘hold the line’ as I had told this particular child that when he sat down and was calm he could have his lunch. Well that did it. Chairs went flying, books were thrown and doors kicked. He told me, in a very colourful way, exactly what he thought of me and how unfair I was being. I believe I was allowing him to starve in fact. I sat firm and just kept repeating that when he was sat down and calm he could have his lunch.
It was interesting watching the other children as at times like these they can be tempted to join in. However today they did not and in fact they ignored him, which is probably the reason that he eventually sat down and I was able to give him his lunch.
I have noticed before with this particular boy that the reaction of his peers is much more important to him than anything an adult might say and he will ignore an adult completely if he is trying to impress one of the other children in the class. This seems to reflect the power base out on the estate. He tries to impress the children he thinks are the most important. In fact he told me once he had calmed down and was eating his lunch, that there are a ‘couple of boys’ who he sees in the park who he tells he has been ‘bad at school’. He then said, proudly, that these boys then tell him ‘well done mate’. Conversely, if he tells them he has had a good day at school they tell him off. His attendance is so poor (we are on the case) that it is very difficult to build the relationships that would be more important to him than those outside in the community and which would allow us to counteract their influence.
Lunch was eaten and chairs and tables restored to their rightful places. The boys spent their lunchtime break playing with cars on a playmat. It was actually lovely to see how they are learning to play together and are developing their imaginations. I thought it was very interesting that the child who had just effectively trashed the classroom chose to be an ambulance and a ‘fix it’ truck, which I pointed out to him saying ‘it seems that you want to make things better and fix them.’ He looked back at me and grinned.
Things took a different direction after lunch as myself and the rest of the SLT were being ‘briefed’ on the new ‘Appraisal’ processes that will become statutory in September this year. I think that the most difficult and challenging part of my role as HT is managing the people in the organisation. I have had to make some very difficult decisions in my time here, from redundancy, to capability, to misconduct and so on. Within this one of the greatest challenges is getting the balance right in terms of challenge and support for staff, especially when they have to deal with the emotional baggage that our children bring to school and throw at them every day.