Channeling Julie Andrews ….headteacher style : a few of my favourite things….

I am often asked why I want to be a Headteacher.  So dressed in a green brocade pinafore riding a bicycle down a leafy lane here goes….here are few of my favourite things….

– smiley faces pelting towards me the first day after a holiday anxious to tell me news and sneak a hug.

– sitting quietly at the side of assembly smiling inwardly. God knows how I got here but thank heavens for the privilege.

– walking through my open plan school mid morning feeling the buzz do learning and the excitement of enquiry.

– excited conversations with children about…well anything really.

– seeing children walking to secondary school who used to be with us.  a wild wave, a big smile or a shy raise of the hand…it all brightens my day

– a team member with an idea, any idea, a plan to execute and an excited fizz in their voice – Gold dust.

-summer lunchtimes, children crowded around making daisy chain, plaiting hair into knots and absent mindedly talking honestly, truthfully about what happens in class- insider information at its best!

-realising that the child who came to see me daily has stopped arriving.  Not because I didn’t love seeing them but because they are strong again and don’t need me.

-sitting for hours scrutinising the budget. What can I do with these beans to grow a beanstalk high enough and strong enough to alleviate life’s hardships.

– observing the change in a team members manner, attitude and mood when they get ‘it’ …that special something that makes an inspirational educator.




New year musings from a beach in Corfu…

The feeling is bliss a comforting, nothing else matters, the warmth of the Mediterranean sun spreading over my skin.  My tummy, hidden since last August, sings with the pleasure of the suns caress.  the well being spreads through my body not unlike the comfort of porridge on a crisp November morning.

This yearly pilgrimage is one of the many tools in my arsenal of weapons against the stress of my day to day life.
The red bejewelled sundress I threw on over my bikini and paired with yoga mat flip flops are a world away from the black dresses and heels I don in the real world.  The contents of my mind different too, now an eclectic mix of new term resolutions, recipes, reflections and of course the immovable ‘What can I do better, differently or more of to improve the life chances and enjoyment of the children in my care?’   I’m a head teacher, slice me anyway, analyse me, catch me in aware; somewhere at the heart of me I am a head teacher and proud of it. How will I be a better head teacher, for the children, the parents and my team?

I agonise over my tough image but I know  without doubt I couldn’t  lead the improvements we have shared over the past five years without being tough. 

those who peer inward at our organisation and claim to know me have no idea. the toughness comes with balance. I care, deeply about the children and my team, not in a sentimental, you can do anything you wish manner but in a joy in their development both professionally and personally (if they wish to share ) and a desire to empathise with the issues they are dealing with. 

We return to our school with a renewed sense of passion.  I feared for us six months ago.  I saw my team putting in 100% everyday.  The sparkling amongst them (there are lots)  from all areas of my team were relentless in their ‘I have an idea moments’ hovering in my doorway ready to feed the hunger of our school development.   it was however becoming hard to continue with the positive affirmation of ‘ We’re doing brilliantly’ as we were waiting for Ofsted and horror stories were relentless.  my young but oh so talented team were, at times, scared and although I tried desperately to act the swan, as they say, I too was scared not of being judged but the injustice, the lottery of Ofsted.  An eight week illness knocked me out.  I went to school daily but I was sick, an alien concept for me, I could sense fear.  If I wasn’t in top form how could I manage the Ofsted.  our progress is great, teaching consistently good-outstanding and results are still rising over the last five years but working in the highest deprivation area in Cleethorpes in that rare entity ‘ a junior school’ in an area were not being an academy leaves you vulnerable we had some issues to contend with. Cleethorpes has a recruitment issue to put it mildly, we therefor grow our own and we’ve grown some crackers.  With a firm commitment to CPD and coaching it all takes time though.

In June recovered from the worst of my illness with several  series of antibiotics, eyed drops, a closing down of everything but work we had Ofsted.  Literally we ‘had’ them , like a gang fight on the streets of Grimsby. my team gathered, rallied and made me glow with pride so bright Gove would have seen it from which ever stone he was hiding under. 

So instead of laying on the beach wondering how I can protect my 300 from a possible defeat at the hands of Xerxes /Ofsted. (Although Rodrigo Santoro in school is not something to be sniffed at!)  I am considering how to rally for the next assault on misconceptions and stereotypes.

2014/15 holds promise, it holds hope. I am renewed and excited My team is reflecting that they feel the same optimism. The coaching and enthusiasm of an ethos of trust and honesty is now paying dividends.  a TA emailed yesterday while I was on the beach ‘ just an idea” but he ended the message with ‘have a good holiday, it’s going to be a great year!’     The positivity and coaching flows both ways and a appreciate this greatly. It balances the barrage of issues to be dealt with.

So how to make an impact? It is somewhat bizarre to consider time management in a two week hiatus of diary less bliss but much of my life’s effectiveness relies on military style calendar coordination.  Gym sessions are non negotiable, not because I believe in the body beautiful but for the two hour sessions away from questions spent with my men ( Luther, Stevie, Usher, Prince Johnny Gill) I’m sure we must be on first name terms by now as they’ve sung to me so often! What is under scrutiny is how I spend my time in school. I need to listen more, be still more, ready to receive questions, ideas and worries.  So many of my conversations start with the other person saying ” I know you’re busy but…’ I must alleviate their concern with more conviction.  Give the impression I am not pressured even though I know I will be.  How I do this I am not sure.  The building of a smart middle leadership I am hoping will help.  The widening of my circle of trust too.  I have in the past relied too exclusively on just the closest to me this has proved to be a mistake.  Deep breath= Trust, this team I have are the elite… I need to let them in.

With such a job to do in 2009, a school threatening special measures, I was spread thin and allowed only my inner circle to take the reins on sections one developments , we had a high percentage of eye rollers and tutters ( all now departed for more negative water) Time to trust again.

It is time to return to basics I feel. I wish to reconnect with the engine of our machine. The link between inspirational teaching and data.  More time in the classroom watching, reflecting and celebrating inspiration and a heads down to analysing data.  I have a great assessment coordination doing a brilliant job but I want to drive the F1 car not just go to Monaco, no scrub that, I want to go under the bonnet and tinker!  

I want to reconnect with the team and get to know the new members, we have a new teacher on September who trained with us last year I will mentor him I think. Two new TAs and 2 leaning mentors also worth coaching into the team.  whilst I have always encouraged a layer approach I want it straight from the horses mouth this year, what  are their reflections the school team and practices.  How could I improve on this?

The team is fiercely loyal and protective, like me, his is not always the best position from which to suggest change.  I need to reconnect and shake up some of my own misconceptions. It of course goes without saying that continuing to learn from others is a priority.  The wise clever leaders of twitter that in one tweet can have me reflecting for days are a key ingredient for me.  I often feel unworthy of being in their twitter community but I am, as ever, grateful to be tolerated.

However more frivolous concepts also have been considered and debated whilst I bake and dip on the beautiful island of Corfu.

Yesterday whilst swimming out to the buoy I considered Thai food and this floated around my head until by the time I left the beach I resolved to cook Thai when returned. In the villa I found a book on amazon and this will be an enjoyable adventure in my favourite genre: cooking. 

A second resolution ( I make mine in the summer as the academic diary rules my life) is to fin a house I love equally to the one I’m in now and make it my home.  The addition of a little space will make life easier and enable me to enjoy my lifestyle I have cultivated. This fills me with excitement as it a long time since I’ve changed something so key in my home life and I find it reassuring that not everything has to be about school.

The third resolution I’m ashamed to say is one failed a few times already. the TRX bands at the gym must become part of my regime. I have failed on this before and I do have a few excuses none of them point to much other than laziness and it hurts! ( my soft abs not my conscience)        A) I am embarrassed to do them with the eyes of the gym watching (a Friday morning session will be added from September)

B) I’m not sure I’m doing it right  ( I’ll get a refresher training when I get back)

C) It hurts my tummy which I only reveal for two weeks of the year so who cares- Not me until said two weeks it seems!

Lastly I have decided that my life is not complete without the purchase do three items

1.the red work bag I’ve been eyeing up

2.The nude wedges in Dune

3.The spaghetti dryer the Kitchen aid makes

These are not rational and I’m sure at least two will be shelved before I even step off the plane.