I have been a teacher for 32 years, a head teacher for 17 years and, at the age of 56, this much I know about when it is time to move on.
One of Huntington’s most notable alumni, Oliver Burkeman, after a decade writing for The Guardian, concluded his last column – entitled “Eight secrets to a (fairly) fulfilled life” – with this final secret:
So, like Oliver, I am moving on from my post as Huntington School’s headteacher at the end of the year. I have lots of other things I want to do in the years ahead – like working with my mate Tom Sherrington again, handing the baton on to a new generation of school leaders – and I am both excited and terrified by the prospect of leaving a job, my colleagues and the school I love. I know I will miss being a part of the Huntington community; as Joe Strummer said, “Without people, you’re nothing”.
Our boys are young adults making their own way in the world and my wife is still working. After 33 years of teaching, with 18 of those as headteacher, there are some things I want to do before I shuffle off this mortal coil, and now is the time to do them before my knees go completely!
I have done my bit: the pressure as a head teacher of 36 results days, setting 18 budgets, leading through a pandemic…
I feel way too young to be drawing my pension, but come September I will be 57, almost exactly the same age as my poor old dad when he passed away, and I would hate to have regrets about things I did not do.
I just feel hugely grateful that I can make such a decision, and that come the week beginning 1 September 2021, I will be salmon fishing on the River Tweed…
That’s not to decry my teaching career in any way. If I had the opportunity to go back 34 years and contemplate a different career, I would still choose teaching. I cannot say it is the best job in the world, because I haven’t experienced every job in the world – I reckon head whisky-taster at the Talisker distillery on the Isle of Skye wouldn’t be a bad gig – but I have loved being a teacher. I would recommend it to any graduate, without hesitation. From novice teacher all the way through to long-serving head teacher, it has been a blast.
Teaching has been a career where, importantly, I have been able to be myself at every stage. A round peg in a round hole.
And what I love about teaching most is the teaching; how students in my current Year 13 Economics class – my last examination class in 33 years of teaching – are sending me practice paragraphs to look at this very day, a gloomy Saturday in late pandemic January.
I am looking forward to exploring “fresh woods, and pastures new”. Working on exciting projects with the likes of Tom, Stephen Tierney, Mary Myatt, Jonny Uttley and colleagues at the NCE, will be great fun. And then to have time to read and write and fish, and just be.
To be honest, this is a bit of a moment for me, but I have always understood with utter clarity how organisations carry on regardless; that no one is indispensable. It won’t take long before staff at Huntington will be saying, “What was his name? Was it…Tom, or John…maybe it was Ron? Anyway, that bloke who used to be headteacher…grey hair, big nose…you know, what’s his name…he liked primroses, or was it daffodils…and insisted we had shortbread on training days…mmm, it might have been flapjack… anyway, him – ”