It’s 2:30 p.m. on the last Friday of the Christmas Term. The students have all gone home, we have said our goodbyes to three staff – one moving to Dubai, another who has been promoted to head of department and another who has secured a permanent post at a university – enjoyed end of term mince pies, Christmas cakes and drinks, before the usual staff wacky races exit of the car park.
I am about to move into my most effective period of headship this term. There is only myself, a few office staff, the site supervisors and cleaners on site. I feel that I am now at last in control, the ship is running smoothly on a steady course and I’m about to enter my Efficient Zone, so … Let us give thanks.
When I look back at the term, we have much to give thanks for and many people to thank. We moved into the final phase of our new secondary school building, which is absolutely fantastic, whilst at the same time welcoming a full Year 7 year group and good numbers into Lower Sixth. At a time of falling numbers this is something of a relief as well as something to give thanks for. To make sure I kept busy, we’ve also bedded in a brand new senior leadership team structure which will take us on the next stage of our journey and advertised the Headship at St. Mary’s.
We’ve held a Mission Week, as part of the Year of Faith, introduced a new programme for parents and students that allow them to see behaviour and attendance in real time via a web based interface, staged “Joseph the Musical”, worked hard in lessons and played hard across a whole variety of different sports.
Staff have given tirelessly of their time implementing a new curriculum into Year 9, fewer subjects for more time, and are busy writing a curriculum to put some rocket fuel into the level of challenge at Key Stage 3, as well as working with students in Key Stages 4 & 5 to prepare them for forthcoming examinations. We’ve survived the November early entry debacle, entering nearly the whole cohort for GCSE English but delaying Maths until the summer, assisted by the good nature and co-operation of our Year 11 students and the dynamism of our English Department.
The students at St. Mary’s and their parents are very generous and funds have been raised for the Philippines (£1,192), CAFOD (£1,020), Mission Week (£362), a Year 7 fun run to support partner schools in Ghana (£1,877) and local charities and families including an incredible £3,276 in the last three weeks during Advent.
In my new role as Executive Headteacher, it was fabulous to see Christ the King get a richly deserved “Good” in all categories from Ofsted and continue to oversee their new school being built, on what will be our shared site by next Summer. They work with some of the most disadvantaged children and families found in Blackpool which makes their success even more striking. Their Key Stage 1 Nativity Play was great as was the one I attended at St. Bernadette’s Catholic Primary School last night.
These Nativity plays always make me smile and congratulations to the primary school teachers and support staff who put so much effort into making these events so special. The plays take me back to when my own children were little and proudly wore tea towels on their heads. I have much to give thanks for.
This selfless work goes on in schools up and down the country. What has happened in your school or classroom this term that has given you “life and hope?” What would you give thanks for and who have you thanked?
I know as a Headteacher I should thank people more. I also know no matter how many times and how many people I thank it would simply not be enough. This is not to say I shouldn’t work harder at saying “thank you”, it just recognises that the brilliant work done in schools is so immense, overwhelming, outstanding. Thank You.
At the end of what has been a long term it is very easy to look back with a sense of regret about what you have not done or what you wish you had gone better. I wonder whether it is part of our collective psyche as teachers. Many schools RAG rate (Red, Amber & Green) various documents from improvement plans to lists of data on students’ progress – do you look at the red or the green first? My eyes are always drawn to the “Red” but maybe it’s time to focus a bit more on what is going well and the lessons we can learn and transfer from this.
Christmas is a time of hope. I hope I will find the time…, I hope I will be a better headteacher …, I hope I will actually get round to writing my SEF (I really must) … are all the wrong kind of “hopes”. These are not bad things in themselves and to aspire to be more I think is extremely positive. However, we sometimes set perfection as a goal and then berate ourselves when we fall short. “Leave perfection to God”, someone once told me, “you are just called to do your best”.
If you are a Newly Qualified Teacher, you are probably on your knees – don’t worry we all were, it’s just for some of us our NQT year was so long ago we can’t remember it! You may never learn, on the job, at this pace again in your career, first years are manic. I hope you’ve had a great first term. If not don’t worry, take time this Christmas to recover, reflect on what you would like to change, then start the new term with some serious intent – first years are for learning, we all had to.
If you are spinning the plates of work, family and Christmas then that is too many. I’m a workaholic, or at least my long suffering wife keeps telling me, but even I’m going to zip up the work bag and not open it again until the new year. I am reliable informed that all the work will still be there when I open my bag again, so don’t worry no little elves or fairies will steal your work from you over the Christmas period. It’s time for family, friends and Christmas, they don’t always get much of a look in during term time.
…. And Rest
Cath (long suffering wife) will be hoping I take some of my own advice. I find it hard to switch off, things churn around in my head so I’ve taken to writing them down in notes and my phone so I can forget them without forgetting them, if you know what I mean. I’m going to have a work, blogging and twitter vacation for at least a week and maybe even more. It’s time to refill the reservoir. I get grumpy and grouchy when I’m tired and I’m sure this applies to others. It’s time to rest as well as enjoy the festive season.
Wishing you and your loved one a very peaceful and joyful Christmas and Happy New Year 2014.
N.B. If any of St. Mary’s Catholic College staff are reading this please resist the temptation to leave a witty comment along the lines “Oh dear, you must have been tired all this term then!”