I have been a teacher for 27 years, a Headteacher for 12 years and, at the age of 51, this much I know about how our colleagues are first and foremost people.
Do what I tell you to do because you can die of this. So said the GP back in February when he diagnosed me with pneumonia. He went through a risk assessment and calculated that he could allow a 51 year old man with a pacemaker who had contracted pneumonia to go home to bed with a bottle of anti-biotics for just one night; if I didn’t improve within 24 hours I was off to hospital. Thankfully, amoxicillin was just the ticket and a stay in York DGH was averted. Praise be to the NHS!
Lessons from geese. Surely you’ve seen this management training video? It is amusing and very 1990s, but one lesson from our feathered friends has resonated for me over the past few months: when a goose gets sick, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it…

You don’t have to be a superhero head. In my first ever post, I wrote that, When I admitted I couldn’t be a perfect Headteacher, I became better at my job. It was in my fourth year as a Head and I have just prioritised ruthlessly ever since. Some things can slip through my fingers now and then, but I still sort out the important stuff. Well, over the past few weeks, as my energy has waned post-pneumonia, friends, colleagues and governors have been my First Aid geese. There’s Stephen Tierney, who is leading the Headteachers’ Roundtable think-tank with some élan; Terry, Alex and Abi who are co-leading the SLT for this term; my PA Kate who has sorted out my diary when things threatened to disintegrate; and Jo Olsen who is leading our 50th anniversary celebrations with operational brilliance. My thanks to them is limitless.
Everyone has a backstory. If I have learnt anything this year, it has been from chatting with my colleagues about things other than work. We all have a life going on beyond Huntington, a life which is more important and which is often emotionally demanding. I am amazed, on a regular basis, at how colleagues keep doing a great job when they are living through difficult times outside of school. Our colleagues are first and foremost people, something school leaders like me do well to remember.

Previous ArticleNext Article

This post has 5 Comments

  1. Hi…My strapline is almost identical to yours…I’ve been a class teacher full time for 29 years (i’m 53)and a deputy head with this for fourteen years……I had a discussion with my head teacher this morning which went something like…” You need to stop stressing about some of these petty little things….we are human beings and if we lose that, we’ll be rubbish teachers, not better ones”. We too are working flat out, doing what we know is right for our school, but still getting hammered for the silly little things we’re not doing, like writing up our ‘pupil premium’ grant paper work in a perfect way!!! It doesn’t matter, when some of our most vulnerable children and families need us there and then. I too had ‘flu with a pneumonia a couple of Christmases ago, and had to take a half term off….the only time I’ve taken off (apart from short maternity leave!!) and it was trying to be ‘superhuman’ that caused it….no one benefited from my ‘trying to be a hero’ but it didn’t half teach me how to actually survive as a teacher/manager and what to pass on to colleagues in order to help them with this. Sometimes the ‘lows’ teach you how to reach new highs!! Anyhow, our school goes from strength to strength, in one of the poorest wards in the country, thanks to ‘human being’ power! Look after yourself!! Paula Hillman

  2. Just catching up with this, John, and so sorry to hear you’ve been ill. Think I’ve been out of the loop (probably several loops, in fact…) Hope you’re soon feeling fully better.
    And it’s salutary how something like this does reinforce for us what, and who, is important and how much we should value them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.