Thursday, 21 May 2015

Little victories - the new triathlon (boxing, fencing, knitting)

I have always been a strange and unusual voice amongst the head teacher fraternity (no, I do not expected you to have swooned from surprise).  There are those who decry it the most difficult job to do, and those who say it’s the best in the world.  I veer somewhere between these two standpoints, claiming humbly that I am extremely lucky to do a job I thoroughly enjoy and pay some kind of service in the performing of it.

I often lecture people when I am asked what’s the difference between being a teacher and a head (which is never) that I think it is quite simple: when you’re a teacher, and a good one, you secure hundreds of little victories on a daily basis that warm your soul – you know the kind of thing; a child conquering a barrier, a brilliant lesson coming off, a colleague commenting on your displays.  When you’re a head, the victories come along far less often, but when they do, they are huge.  In both cases, you need to learn to ride the wave, because if you care about your job and what you do, there will almost always be hard times around the corner, and you need to store up the victories, camel-like, to see you through the negative winters.

Many of my victories as a head will come as no surprise: outcomes, improvements and the successful culmination of large scale projects always put a spring in the step.  Good inset days and staff meetings, and, as I’ve blogged before, the forging of a strong team.  It may seem odd, but I take not a little victory from our staff being snapped up by other schools and settings – is that not, after all, an extremely tall compliment?

But, do you know, I also take enormous personal victories out of the seemingly obvious, and it is only as I’ve got a little older, a bit fatter and a whole lot balder that I’ve come to appreciate it.  Because here’s the big secret, the real  game changer, the greatest victory: every so often, almost without noticing, several things you set in motion a thousand years ago suddenly click and – boom! You have something epic on your hands. 

It happens seldom, and I am in no way so arrogant to think it is all my doing.  However, I hope I was in some way a little instrumental in setting some of these things into motion.  The first head I worked for once told us “You all know when you do a good lesson, you get that warm feeling” and he was right.  It’s the same as a head, only that warm feeling comes along once in a blue lunar cycle, and it gives you a glow that would make ready-brek seem frosty.

It happened to me last night.  It was after school, and we were preparing for the full governing body.  Yet despite the fact that it was long gone 4.00 and school long finished, it buzzed with a vibrancy and activity redolent of 10.00 on a Tuesday morning.  Having delivered my governors stuff to the allotted room and snaffled a biscuit (you always get decent quality at governors) I needed to wander, to see what this pulsating energy was and where it was emanating from, praying it wasn’t the boiler, again.

No, it was nothing to do with any of the nuts and bolts.  Far from it.  In one hall, 6 of our oldest children were enjoying (I use that word loosely) the pains of the boot camp regime at the start of their boxing club.  The music pounded from the system as our learning mentor / boxing coach encouraged our charges to go for “ten more seconds, come on!” in one of the most uncomfortable positions imaginable.  They lasted.  They crumbled.  The groaned.  Then the solitary girl in the pack looked up at me and smiled. 

As I walked out from one building to the other, a legion of three foot high warriors had stormed the playground, all clad in visors and protective armour and wielding swords.  Momentarily, I feared world domination by a group of stealth minion . oompah loompah style ninjas, only to realise it was the key stage 1 multi sports group enjoying their fencing lesson.  The coach put one gladiator through his paces, then stepped back as he faced up to a year one girl, missed his time to thrust and lost the point with a sword to the guts, blood splattering the tarmac and entrails oozing … okay, too far.  Soz, LOL.

From around the corner, on the way to the other hall came some of our previous inmates, splendidly replete in their new secondary uniforms, collecting things from all around the site.  When I say things, I mean teddies, for they were gathering in the protagonists of the teddy bears picnic organised by our outstanding BoBs team.  In the hall itself, 50+ children were enjoying picnic treats and stories, joined by younger siblings, and having a ball.  Yet another triumphant event for our brilliant buddies who never cease to take things to the next level.

As I walked back to governors, feeling the starting salvos of the afore mentioned warm glow, it was further stoked and fuelled by the conversations I overheard in classrooms; colleagues working together on trips and displays, friends helping each other meet the (twenty minutes previously elapsed) deadline for data submission, and just adding greater weight to the meaning of a real team.  As I headed into the governors’ meeting room I thought I had seen it all but I was stopped by a gran I know well.  “Have you seen him?” she enquired.

“No, I haven’t I’m afraid.” I wracked my brains; too old for teddy bears and key stage 1, and not the boxing type, I hadn’t seen him at all.  Gran sensed my confusion.

“He’s at knitting club.” Knitting club.  How could I forget them?  I sent gran down to the library for the end of knitting club, only to see them strolling up the corridor together as a group to meet gran halfway, one of our year 6 girls carrying the box full of knitting club gear, and one of our year 6 boys covered in wool like a naughty kitten.

Governors went well, thanks for asking.  Long, but well; we got the chance to talk about some massive things: assessment, nursery provision, the budget, and an amazing potential vision for the future.  We also tackled some of the tougher issues out there: domestic violence awareness education for key stage 2 – should we place it on the SIP?  Dealing with staff conduct.  Almost three hours, but a thoroughly good and packed meeting focussing on what it so special about our school and where we are heading, and – isn’t this what it’s all about – who we want to be.

I drove home last night thinking three things:
11.  I’m later than I told the babysitter – she’ll be cross.
22.  What’s for tea?
33.  Sometimes, I am so lucky to do the job I do.  Another little victory.  Thank you.

Other than to say it was left-over-bolognese, that is all.