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.
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.