Leaky Pipes

Interviews are always a challenge. What questions will they ask? How should I answer them? What are my strengths and areas to develop? However, I do not recall being asked about perimeter fencing, leaky water pipes and dealing with asbestos.

The wonderful variety of activities we offer in schools and the range of learning opportunities never cease to amaze me. Schools are busy, hardworking and exciting places to work. Even in my first few days the eagerness of the children to learn, the engagement of the teachers to teach and buzz of activity in school is truly heart warming and at times restores all faith in the Education System. What an honour it has been in my first three days to look at a school through fresh eyes, meet with new children and engage with new adults.

I am, according to my reading of ‘The First 90 Days, currently accelerating my learning. I have started to take in vast amounts of information Speaking and listening to parents, pupils and staff. So many names to learn, so many questions asked and so much to take in. I have started to carryout a STARS diagnostic, again from my reading of the book. I have started to identify key areas in school that fit into each element in order to focus my work in the coming weeks.

No day has been the same. My first three days have flown. No day the same. The children are so eager to show me their school, discuss their work and tell me their jokes….What’s wobbly and flies in the sky?…..A jellycopter (year 1)

The striking thing?The number of people who talk proudly of this school and the work they do there. These are not schools. These are magical places at the heart of a community.

So what I have learnt? I have learnt I know nothing about burst water pipes or asbestos, but that somebody else does know about them. I have learnt that meeting and greeting parents before and after school is a quick win. I have learnt some more names. I have learnt how to consume a whole Yorkie bar without taking a breath……Have also learnt to try and take a lunch break.

Have an email now too.



Day one

Bananas and smiles!

That was the order of my day. My first day started at 7:45, meeting and greeting a wonder around the building to check everyone had enjoyed their break. After teaching for many years it was certainly strange to not be preparing a class for the day ahead. I therefore empathised with the teachers who conversed with me, despite trying to set up for the day ahead. A meet and greet on the playground was next, as I attempted to meet new parents and get my face noticed. This is certainly something I will need to work on as I smiled, then defaulted to speaking to the people I am most comfortable with. The children. This is something  I will need to work on in the coming weeks. Another case of being aware of my strengths while also working on my development points.

Assembly was bananas. literally. Smiles, energy, growing together and avoiding slipping on them. Very deep for a first assembly. I spent the remainder of the morning meeting as many of the school community as possible.  I am determined to learn the names of the pupils in the school but at the end of day one I am already struggling. Plenty of time yet. Lunch involved more meeting and much more smiling.

I spent the afternoon using key questions from the book ‘The First 90 days’:

  • What are our biggest challenges?
  • Why are we facing them?
  • Where are the unexploited opportunities for development?
  • What would need to happen to develop these in school?
  • and what would be your priorities if you were me?

I plan to use these questions to build a picture from SLT as to where our areas of focus may need to be.

It was then on to looking at network cables, building plans and walls. My conclusion? I have very little to say on network cables and where to put them, let alone walls. However, I consider them reasonably important and therefore will endeavour to find someone this week who knows about network cables, switches and where to put them.

My first day has gone quick. The pace certainly picked up as the day developed and I am sure will develop further tomorrow. I was taken aback at the number of questions that I faced as the day progressed. I want to watch, listen and learn. There is however a want by people for you to act, talk and do. Again this is an area to be mindful of moving forward. Relationships with parents and how we work with the school community is integral. My reading will now take in dealing with hard to reach parents and developing the school community.

After a difficult game of Guess Who with my daughter, which involved more questions. I am now ready for bed.

The learning has only just begun. But the challenge is real. Are they wearing a hat?


‘Twas the night before Headship

It is my headship eve. The night before I take up my first Headship post. I feel that this is the second holiday I have spent thinking about this post. At Christmas it was the thought of interview and being prepared for the questions I may be asked. Easter has seen my time spent preparing, reading and visiting the school where as I was appointed, following that New Year interview.

I don’t feel nervous, scared or daunted. I feel relaxed, excited and eager to begin my new challenge. As with everything in life, I feel that I could have done more with the time I had before tomorrow. But I did what I could. Visiting the school, meeting the key staff, reading key documentation and liaising with the chair of governors. I have also done some reading, I say some as I wish I had done more. With two very young children I find reading at home a challenge. However I do feel ready.

I have been somewhat surprised at how my mind has looked for things to focus, things that I ‘think’ I should be doing. I spent a day at my new school in what will be my office. Having always worked in classrooms (or in supermarkets) I was , and still am, unsure as what to do with an office. I spent hours tidying, dusting, moving and generally filling the time. Returning home I then found myself worrying about the position I left the desk and the chairs. Over the 10 years I have taught I have started each new school or new term with my plans, timetable and overview, I have always known where I want to be by the end of that year. This is the first time there is no plan, timetable or overview. Yes I have things that need to be done, things I want to do, people I want to talk to but there is no definitive plan. I find this strangely refreshing despite not having my ‘lesson plans’. I think that this has led to my mind wondering on to less purposeful tasks.

No plan I hear you ask? Well I have an outline, a thought process and a vision. I have been reading ‘The First 90 Days’ by Micheal D. Watkins and must say I have found it particularly useful. I have identified my strengths and areas to develop. I think this is important to ensure I do not retreat to areas that I know I am already strong and therefore miss the areas that may well need developing. I also strongly agree with the fact we were given two eyes, two ears and one mouth to enable us to do twice as much watching and listening as talking. Something I feel integral to my first 90 days.

At the point of writing this my priority is relationships and accelerating my learning. I want to get to know the school community as quickly as possible. I have also started to consider the STARS situation and will apply it in the coming days to the key areas for school development. This way I hope to establish where my focus will be in the first 30 days.

Tomorrow will be my first day of headship. I have coffee, tea, biscuits, a pen and a nice new notebook. I have planned my assembly, put together my introductory staff meeting and written my first parental letter introducing myself.

I am excited, I don’t feel tired but know I must sleep, I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring. Just like the night before Christmas.

But just like Christmas, I am ready. I’ve got this.

The Journey to headship (Part 2)

I sit in my office on the final day as a deputy. I have, over the last few weeks, been very reflective on the journey that has led me to this point. In particular where I started. My first blog last week covered the journey up to the start of a new manager and my increasing understanding of the leader I would never aspire to become.

The new store manager had been appointed as I took up my new role as chief display assistant. This move was seen as one that could ultimately lead into management with the possibility of being a store manager in the future. This was something I had given little thought to while in retail but I now considered it a possibility. Or at least I thought I did.

The new store manager was ambitious, aggressively ambitious. He dressed in powerful looking suits that were double cuffed and shaved his beard into a neat moustache. He was very clear on what he wanted. More power, more money and more success. It was his way. His vision was simple. We were to make more money as a store and work harder.  He patrolled the shop floor and warehouse like a night guard dog. His nose would twitch at the sound of shop floor chatter that was not focused on work.

Clearly we had differing approaches to work. Mine being a typical 20 year old laid back approach. His focused on career, money and power. This relationship was not going to work. I would be asked to pick litter from the floor (he was above this), I would be verbally shouted at in the warehouse to ensure others would hear his dismay at my lack of thought, I would be given a BIC razor, shaving foam and told to shave in the toilets if I was not cleanly shaven. A job I had enjoyed, found to be fun and social was now a job I hated and did not want to do. I no longer wanted to be there. My sickness record increased, I was absent often, would look for excuses to leave early and, inevitably, I became depressed.

I was never clear if it was his direction and vision or whether he simply disliked me. My job in retail now frustrated me. I felt trapped, not challenged, jobs I had enjoyed now became repetitive. My best was never good enough. There was never an end point. I would go home thinking the job was done only to return the next day and be told it was, in fact, not good enough.

The social aspect kept me going to an extent. Nights out, Christmas parties any excuse for a night or day out. But the seed was planted. I did not want to do this for the rest of my life. I did not want to one day become like this manager. I did not want a career in retail. I wanted to enjoy work.

I worked in retail for some years after this. A new manager started and my career picked up again. I enjoyed some good times in the years that followed but my mind was made up. I never again wanted to work for a manager like I had. I wanted to be one step ahead. I would ensure my work was always of the highest standard but would also ensure I would not again be pushed around so easily. I worked until I was 23 in retail. The store was closed and I was offered the chance to move into management as a trainee or take a package. It was the package all day long. This was the opportunity I had waited for and I wanted to grab it with both hands.

I was living at home still supported by two very loving parents. I returned to college, resat my GCSE’s and in 1 year secured a place at University. I had achieved more in one year than I had in several years in retail. What’s more I was enjoying it. I enjoyed learning again, I had to read and study, I spent the the hours I had worked in the library writing assignments. I felt engaged, challenged and positive about the future. I had also made a significant decision. I had decided to teach.

The next four years at university were fantastic. I was so enthused by the other students, I felt part of something and respected my teachers while often seeking their advice. The work ethic and routine i had developed in retail stuck with me. While my peers lay in bed until 3 in the afternoon, I would be in the library. I would read books, research papers, surf the net (still in its infancy at that point), even study maps and examine learning resources. I loved it.

I was studying for a degree in primary education which meant blocks of teaching practice. What more could I ask for I was working, studying and still had the most amazing social life! The teaching was amazing. I worked at amazing schools, with amazing teachers and the most incredibly supportive children. It was a fabulous four years.

I developed a style of teaching over those four years. I was creative, an actor, lively, engaging, a risk taker and loved it. I was given the opportunity to work in different environments in differing contexts. My first teaching practice was in a diverse location, with children that had a range of needs. I would never have believed that I would be back there years later. In a very different role.