Finding the balance

I have completed my first week as deputy. Phew! 

It was a particularly busy week as there were extra meetings with governors  to sort out interview questions for the headteacher interviews and a very long staff meeting (apparently normal!) 

Added to this my own class, getting to know them has been vital for me this week. I have actually rewritten my timetable five times, five!! But I think I’m getting there.  I have a feel for the kids’ needs, there are lots, and how we can run our week smoothly. My teaching assistants have been incredibly supportive and I feel like we have a little team already!

I have helped solve a communication problem between teachers and midday supervisors, for which I was thanked by one of the MSAs which touched me deeply. I have booked in performance management for the TAs this week, this will give me a chance to get to know them better. I have been described as ‘really strict’ by an older class who found it difficult to walk sensibly from assembly. Oh well.

I have provided chocolate.

Obviously my week involved much much more than this, the introductions of new behaviour systems (class dojo) in my class, talking about growth mindset with the idea of FAILing being positive and teaching the children about peer critique and feedback using Austin’s butterfly as an example, then having the pupils create astonishingly good stamps of the queen for her 90th birthday. 

I have returned home each night to my three sons who have sorted themselves out, got on with homework, washing, cooking whatever and I have felt both blessed and exhausted. They have been incredible with their support of me, and now they’ve seen that I am out of the door almost as they wake and back pretty late, they know we need to be a team. My vow is to make it home early at least once a week, I owe them that.

So Friday night’s glass (or two) of Prosecco was needed and earned I felt, giving me a slight fuzz on Saturday as I began working my way through my list of jobs.Then the familiar thump of post landing on the doormat was heard. A parcel? Inside, this –  

I am thrilled and honoured to receive this signed copy from Mary. She is someone I truly admire and turn to with my leadership questions. Receiving the book gave me a jolt to get a wriggle on so that I could delve into the pages. Unlike John Thomsett, I haven’t quite been able to read it in one sitting but:

It would be doable to read in one go, it’s immensely readable, with short chapters that engage you with examples of real practice.

The theme of high challenge, low threat is explained from many angles. The focus is always on how leaders can represent this in human ways, but with rigour. ‘It is important that it is one big thing at a time, that we are prepared to go in deep to discover the gems, sifting out from the coal dust and irrelevance to distil this element of improvement.’

Mary talks from the heart, she is herself, I can hear her. The word human crops up again and again. Leaders who put human before professional, who distinguish the work from the human, they can create a ‘bank balance of goodwill..which can be..drawn on for tough conversations.’

Change is a constant in my life and the life of my new school, where we are appointing a new head for September. I know how important change management is and Mary has a chapter devoted to it. ‘Effective leaders are comfortable with the uncertainty of change.’ She talks about how good leaders distil the key elements of change to make it work in their setting, particularly recent curriculum changes. ‘Fewer things in greater depth’ is a mantra of Mary’s and one that if considered makes changes transition smoothly. ‘There is a paradox in going slow in order to achieve more.’ But whether in terms of curriculum or any other aspect of change, allowing change to happen little by little with everyone on board allows it to become embedded and natural practise.

Throughout the book there are tips and examples that are already working their way into my psyche. There are moments for me where I have thought, yes, I do that, I think! And there are post it tabs running the length of the pages for me to refer back to. I could keep reviewing all the way through but I just don’t have time and need to crack on with my NPQH project. So buy the book yourself, if you are a leader, aspiring leader or even at the beginning of your career, there is something in there for everyone. And I am not lending mine out!

Thank you Mary for timing my parcel just right so I could sit back and reflect this week.


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