Not one to say no to an opportunity in my personal and my professional career, I took on my first Headship in a new school two weeks ago.
I am back to a high level of learning – fully embracing the outskirts of my comfort zone as I balance my learning and teaching modes to strive ahead. It’s been exhilarating, exhausting and at times frustrating – but then there are those moments that you can see how it will all come together and that it’s going to be magical.
Below are ten things from my first ten days of being the Head of Secondary.
1. BE RECOGNISABLE. Meet your colleagues – get into lessons, take a few minutes at the start of briefing to greet the team, check in with new staff [and share experiences of being the newbie], learn everyone’s name and smile. A “Host the Head” initiative [thanks to @MrSallisTenby] has allowed me to spend time with Heads of Faculty – a great opportunity to get to know staff and their areas of responsibility quickly.
2. MEET THE PARENTS. In partnership with the principal of our school, parents have had opportunities to meet me, hear my passion for teaching and learning, my values for a holistic education and my commitment to providing opportunities for their children to become successful, resilient, confident, global citizens. It’s also been a great chance to understand their concerns, clear up any misunderstandings and get quick wins by actioning feedback.
3. WALK THE WALK. Earn credibility and keep teaching. Simple. That’s why we became teachers, right?
4. LOOK AND LISTEN. What happens across the day, at different points around the campus, in lessons? What is the body language of staff and students like while teaching and learning in the classrooms – as well as around the corridors, in between lessons? Take note of the quality of the aesthetics; what can be improved to make your space look more professional, more inspiring, for your colleagues, students and visitors? So many things can be actioned in a day, and others take budget meetings and persistence.
5. HAVE A CLEAR SENSE OF YOUR VALUES. Be authentic and confident in your vision and values. Have your own style, just take the best bits from what you have seen, read and experienced. That’s how I am able to remain calm and, even more important, consistent. Remember, you can read all you want on leadership but don’t compare yourself to others.
6. IT’S OK TO BE A LEARNER. You must be curious and accepting. My constant thought is “How can I improve this?” I’ve asked an insane amount of questions about everything to everyone – teachers, middle and senior leaders, younger students, older students, parents, parents association, admin team and the librarians [to name a few!]. Make sure you clarify your understanding at the end of the conversation and where necessary follow up with a bullet pointed email to clarify any agreed actions.
7. LOOK AFTER YOURSELF. Healthy body, healthy mind. Work life balance is a necessity to keep going. Enjoy your time away from work. Follow #teacher5aday to see that it is fine for teachers to relax.
8. GET ON THE CATWALK. Model what you expect – start meetings on time, dress smart, get to duties, interact with students, be up the front in assembly, be inspiring and always do what you say you will do.
9. BABY STEPS. I’m learning that you can’t do it all at once, as much as you really really want to. As hard and as time-consuming as it is now, I am taking the time to invest in developing people’s skills now to enhance productivity later.
10. GETTING BETTER ALL THE TIME. We are all teachers and every teacher should want to keep improving to enrich the lives of every student. Driving the continual improvement of teaching and learning is at the heart of what we do to provide the best possible opportunities for our young people to achieve their potential.
Sometimes you need to teach the organisation and sometimes you need to learn. As easy as it is to rush in to prowess and prove myself – I need to understand the values and the heartbeat of the school community. I need to truly learn how this international school is unique to ensure it remains relevant and reaches its true potential. At the end of the day, I simply want the world to be a better place because of our students and our teachers – that’s not too much to ask, is it?!