Difficult situations

First thing this morning I managed to catch up with most of my teachers, a quick chat with them each before the children came in. This time touching base with them is so important. It gives me the chance to make sure they are ok. Some of my staff have very difficult things going on at home. It also gives them a chance to get stuff of their chests. In order to be able to be the best they can for the children, they need to be feeling strong and confident in themselves. The time is also spent discussing children we are concerned about. I can also deal with any little ‘niggles’ before they turn into real issues.

I had a multitude of tasks to complete. I sometimes find it hard to remember it all so I write everything down. I can walk out of my office to do one thing and be stopped five times on the way there by people all wanting an answer, or sharing information. At times there is just so much going on I can’t hold it all in my head without something leaking out.

I have learned over the last few years not to take on everyone’s problems and my staff know now to ‘come with a solution’ if they have an issue. This works well as they are generally in the best position to implement any solution and I act as a ‘sounding board’, helping them to think things through. They also feel empowered to change things. One of the few bits of advice about Leadership that has really stuck with me is the image of being handed lots of monkeys to look after and I try to ensure that I give everyone their monkey back! If I didn’t, I would not be able to do my job at all. As heads we can’t do everything and I don’t think we should try.

I did manage to achieve some of the more managerial stuff today – newsletter got written, SLT strategic day was planned, meeting was arranged with a local secondary head and Head teacher’s declaration form submitted for Y1 phonics screen to name but a few.

All this in what seemed a very ordinary day. And then, out of the blue…

I was in the reception area as a parent came into school for a meeting. She saw me and launched into a vitriolic attack. There are times when fulfilling our duty of care puts us in a very difficult position. As Heads we symbolise the establishment and any resentment people may have towards authority can be directed towards us. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. She didn’t really have anything to complain about and she has her own mental health issues which in turn create their own challenges in terms of how we work with and support her.

When something like that happens it is very difficult to remain unaffected. I was a picture of calm whilst in the situation but afterwards, as the the parent went on to her meeting I was left holding all her fury. I walked into my office. I shut the door. I locked the door. I burst into tears.

I am generally a resillient person but it is very difficult not to take things in when they are hurled at you with real ferocity. Crying enabled me to get rid of what she had dumped on me. Managing angry people is difficult. I am much better at it now than I used to be but sometimes it is hard to keep the anger out.

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9 Responses to Difficult situations

  1. Julia Skinner says:

    Over the years I was VERY grateful for my tears. They certainly stopped me going pop & at times bopping someone on the nose!

  2. Mel Whiteley says:

    It is easy to forget that Head Teachers are just like the rest of us. Your blog is a breath of fresh air. Thank you. Happy knack of bouncing back.

  3. Mr Neal says:

    Dear Headteacher,

    Whislt I appreciate your intentions for this blog are honourable, I am deeply concerned about the confidentiality aspect. It is a small world, a global village. I am sure that it is likely that some people are aware of which school you are a Head and this puts a risk to families.

    I write this in support of the good work you do, but please consider the negative impact…… it is so easy today to be traced and this would not serve your children well.

    Kind regards

    Another Headteacher

    • bergistra says:

      Thank you for sharing your concerns. It is something I have thought very seriously about. In order to protect identities key details are changed and there is much that doesn’t make it into the blog for precisely that reason. I have also taken advice from a wide range of sources to ensure that I keep things as anonymous as possible.

      • Leocap12 says:

        In our policitically correct world the madness of some people – make me mad.Your blog has helped me to change some of my responses and approaches when working tirelessly with disaffected children. Your blog is a breath of fresh air and written in a way which gives greater understanding in the role of a Headteacher. I have only just started reading your musings and I am addicted. Keep up the great work!!

  4. Anonymous says:

    I am pretty sure it’s a scientific fact that tears include a stress hormone, so by allowing yourself to cry, you’re literally getting rid of the stress from your body. Don’t hold back – and well done for keeping it together till you get to the privacy of your office. You’re doing a wonderful job.

  5. Anon says:

    This could be my school. I will share this with SLT so they know we are not alone. I totally understand and relate to you. Working in a challenging school is draining yet rewarding. You have to be strong professionally and personally and as you say, keep others going too!! I hope governing bodies truly recognise and reward staff who work in these settings, they make such a valuable contribution to these children’s lives and the community they serve. I wish you continued success!!!

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