If you are a senior leader, how has the start of the academic year been for you?
This is the 4th in the series of The Life of a Deputy Headteacher. The reason I wanted to write this series, is to post online how I am developing in my new role and to offer to others who are in similar positions, a place to reflect and share together. I have often pondered how life would have been different for me from 1999/2000 when I first entered into the world of school leadership; a world without Facebook, Twitter and mobile phones in our pockets. Did we just rely on local education authorities for best practice? Were we that isolated? How things have changed for us all …
This September has been the busiest start to any academic year that I can remember for a long time. I still quite haven’t put my finger on the reason why this maybe the case; I’m not sure if it’s a mixture of excitement (to be back at work), the post-exhaustion from writing my new book all summer, my workload, events planned on the calendar, my role as a second-year deputy headteacher; or due to my lack of strategic fore-thought, to be able to predict pinch points ahead. Moving house the day before term started has not helped either! But, what I do know, is that after four weeks of 55-60 hours, (and 3-6 hours on each weekend) I feel burnt out already! I’ve spent most of the weekend lying down sniffing and coughing and the summer holidays are a distant memory …
So, what I hope to offer here is a snapshot into my working life, to help the reader to compare, suggest or to use for reflection.
Return of the Deputy:
In ‘The Life of a Deputy Headteacher’ blogs gone-by, I can sum up each individual blogpost in one single word; note the time of the academic year may be a factor;
- The life of the deputy headteacher-part one: written in May 2015 = relentless.
- The life of a deputy headteacher-part two: written in June 2015 = prioritising.
- The life of the deputy headteacher-part three: written in July 2015 = tweaking.
The work of any teacher is NEVER DONE. Teaching is not a job for perfectionists; I realised this very early on into my career and still need to constantly remind myself. If you do not remind yourself that the to-list will never, ever be complete, you are heading for a bout of idealism.
Teaching is not for idealists. There is always a task or to do list to tackle, it is a constant vocation. My last headteacher reminded me that we are always developing; embedding or refining. This applies on all levels, no matter what your role is in schools. Take a look at my to-do list in July before the end of the academic year. (This is taken from the top sections of the whiteboard.)
- I must interview for x3 shadow leadership team members this week.
- I also must interview for x4 teaching and learning team members this week.
- I must to tweak our appraisal stage 3 template in preparation for performance related pay in October 2015.
- Our new staff induction is during first week of July.
- Our Learning Policy goes to middle leadership consultation this July.
- A draft INSET programme will be published before the summer; to share plans for the first 2 days of September.
- A meeting with the EAL department will form our priorities for the year …
- We are hosting an IRIS Connect conference in July at our school.
- And finally, Safer Recruitment training online is for all of our senior leadership team to support our appointment process.
Despite the anxiety, I managed to achieve all of the above (and more as indicated below).
Something is different this September. 55-60 hour weeks are very normal for me; this is not to say that it is acceptable, or expected by anyone. I love my work and I enjoy making systems better. The life of a deputy headteacher requires you during the working day, to be supporting students and staff. Quite right! But (sadly) a deputy’s own time, after the bell and into the evenings, must be spent working on your own to-do lists and finding a quiet space to write strategic policies and documents. These are the key documents that support whole-school systems during the day. It is impossible to get any of these ‘big jobs’ completed during the working day. This time must be spent for staff and students.
I could quite easily complete the administrative work that I need to do from 8am to 5pm. You know, the paperwork, meetings and events. I could turn up, look after my day-to-day to-do list and head home at the end of the day. But, leadership is so much more than just sorting out your own workload. It’s about predicting the work of others and putting in place systems, documents and so forth to enable teachers to function well; to make their lives easier too. In reality, this is a huge challenge for all of us working in schools, particularly those of working in inner-city schools, or those branded by OfSTED as ‘requires improvement.’ There is an unwritten pressure and expectation placed upon all of us! It is my duty to keep this pressure away from staff, yet it is a tough ask.
And I’d be a fool to write here that I do not work from home; of course I do! Yet, I’m still trying to establish my own (new) routine after 13 months in post. There are two nights of the working week where ‘I could’ run home after the school bell. On 95% of occasions, you will still find me sitting at my desk until 6pm or 7pm, hoping to complete work without having to take it home. I am still trying to come to terms with my increased workload, and finding a solution to re-address the balance.
This 4th post in the life of a deputy headteacher can be summed up in one word; realism. I need to be more of a realist.
The whiteboard in my office to support this blog is below (photograph of current to-do list):
… and here is the list of tasks completed in September alone.
- Two INSET days on 1st and 2nd September; my key role here was to organise the programme and ensure all staff were equipped for the week ahead. What many staff do not realise, is that organising just one CPD event requires a great deal of planning well in advance; especially if you are looking to involve more than one person leading a presentation, and more so if you want to avoid ‘death by Powerpoint.’
- Plans and preparation for Team Building twilight for all staff. This took over 3 weeks to organise and cost …
- Preparing new (whole-school) displays for Open Evening and our new building.
- Stage 3 appraisal systems for all staff.
- Appraisal meetings with staff I line manage.
- Exams analysis.
- Writing parts of the school development plan and self-evaluation.
- Supporting middle leaders through the above five bullet points processes.
- End of September INSET day for all staff; new ICT systems. We have moved over to Google.
- Launching our new Learning Policy for all teaching staff. So far, we have launched Mark and Plan.
- Speaking at a local primary school for open mornings/admissions.
- Preparing for personnel governors committee meeting.
- Kick starting our Extended Leadership Team.
- Kick starting our new Teaching and Learning team.
- and probably much more …
The fun stuff has been put on hold for now e.g. TeachMeets; iPad observations; CPD menu; CPD loyalty card. I will get back to you on this topic after the half-term. I’m hoping things will have calmed down slightly and that my health will be back to full strength …
More importantly, I hope to be able to report back to you how I am managing my own work-life balance.
“I’ll be back …”