I have been a teacher for 27 years, a Headteacher for 12 years and, 31 years since his passing, this much I know about my dad’s essential self.

dad fruit picking

Judging by the parched ground, this photograph of my dad was taken late in the heat-wave summer of 1976. At the bottom of our garden were three plum trees, an apple tree and several blackcurrant bushes. Dad has a basket of freshly-picked plums in one hand and a Tupperware box of blackcurrants in the other. He seems to be contemplating whether to return to pick some overlooked fruit from one of the trees. He would have been 48 years old.
I love this image of dad because it captures his essential self. Above all else he was a gardener. He knew instinctively how to create the conditions for growth; his vegetable garden and flower beds were bountiful. As the old shoes, inelegant socks, ill-fitting shorts and un-buttoned lilac shirt confirm, he didn’t worry too much about what he looked like when he was gardening. He was unaffected. He was at home. He was in his element.
When he retired my predecessor Chris Bridge said he was going to rediscover himself again and throw off what being a head teacher had done to him. As I contemplate this photograph of my dad on the 31st anniversary of his passing, I wonder about my essential self, who I am and what thirteen years of headship have done to me.

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This post has 4 Comments

  1. I know how you feel John, I retired from headship in January 2015 and whilst continuing to do some consultancy work in schools, I have slowly found myself. I’m enjoying my sporting pastimes and finally withdrawn from term time planning . It is not easy to step down.

  2. Ahhh, lovely! I know what you mean – I have a set of friends I made when I was 16/17. These women, like me, are now entering their middle forties and are especially precious to me because they know both the girl I was and the woman I have become. They still see the essential me, and they smile when they tempt her out, beyond the cares of life, motherhood and work. I hope you have those friends too – the ones who remind you of who you still are.

  3. Lots to think about here. I loved being a head – it was important to me (and I think I probably was in my ‘element’ in the role) but I always knew that if you took the headteacher out of me there would still be a person left in there! Into my sixth year now since finishing my headship and still enjoying my involvement with education and educators – it is something I’m passionate about – BUT I have a better balance in my life and I realise I am happier.
    Good luck with your future choices, John.

  4. I have been retired from the NHS for 4 years, I loved my job and now love retirement more. Takes time to relax into it, to accept people you worked with are too busy to keep in touch, your essential self takes over – have focused on giving back in ‘school governor’ role but now time for focus on all leisure and pleasure time. Best not to stay at work too long – the job will benefit from a new pair of eyes and you will benefit in just being yourself, with time to focus on new projects or precious time to do nothing! Enjoy.

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