Reflections on Deputy Headship #2
LETTING GO / NOT LETTING GO
I was always someone who enjoyed sitting outside at lunchtime in the summer, watching the children playing. Last July, as the countdown to my ‘retirement’ from deputy-headship drew towards single-figures, I went outdoors almost every single day, thinking how privileged I had been to spend a working lifetime amongst primary-aged children – in nearly all respects the most life-affirming companions one could wish for.
The school I taught at, and had been deputy-head at for over 23 years, is within walking-distance of my home, so I told myself that come September I might stroll down from time to time when the weather was fair to eat my bread and cheese on such familiar, friendly ground.
But I had not reckoned on the psychological impact of relinquishing such a long-standing senior role within the school.
When I drove up into the car park one early afternoon near the beginning of term it felt so alien. How could this be? How could things have changed so much in the space of six or eight weeks?
But pulling up as a mere visitor, rather than driving in first thing in the morning as deputy-head, then striding down the corridor to my office for the start of the day, my reporter’s notepad teeming with jobs still to be done, jobs crossed through.. well, it was discombobulating in the extreme.
The fact the school had had new security doors fitted during the summer holiday (albeit not yet fully functional) made things even more disorienting.
I had some keys and a school laptop to pass over and I found myself wanting to get this over and done with as quickly as possible and then skedaddle.
Somehow or other a small key fob had found its way onto the keyring holding my house keys and a return visit was unfortunately necessary. I went there by foot very early in the morning, when I knew not many people would be around.
I am enjoying my freelance life (dividing my time between photography, writing and ACHUKA) so much, there is a sense of wanting the old world of work to be ‘out of mind’. It is only recently that I have stopped dreaming about situations involving the school I worked at, and I am pleased they have finally subsided. As any teacher will tell you, school invades the brain in a uniquely demanding way.
I do miss managing the school’s online presence and know that in that regard I have found it difficult to ‘let go’. Just when schools need to have a professional and regularly updated net-face, it seems to be becoming increasingly difficult for them to achieve, either because the skillset required is not present in the staff, or insufficient time is prioritised for it. Visit a few school websites at random, and compare them with your general websurfing. Of course there are exceptions, and one of the things I intend doing in this section of the ACHUKA blog is spotlighting the good ones. (If you know of any, drop me an email.)
I remain fascinated by the ongoing policy developments in education and am hoping to visit a couple of free schools next month, beginning with the Judith Kerr school, which is taking a dual-language approach to teaching the curriculum. It will also be intriguing (and a great privilege) to go into some schools in the coming weeks as a supply teacher. Signing up with an agency might just be another signal that I am finding it hard Letting Go. My availability for work is quite limited, however, and I am far from being convinced that I can ‘cut it’ in the role. We shall see.
But as a deputy head I did maintain some level of class contact to the end, and imagine that I will still get a kick out of testing myself in that situation. It will be difficult to report specifically here, because of not wanting to make reference to individual schools, but I have just been booked for my first supply gig – tomorrow afternoon in a Y5/6 class.
Perhaps going into another school will cure me of my unanticipated phobia (which I do sense is beginning to subside) of setting foot in the school where I was so happy for so long.