This post comes about as a result of @gazneedle highlighting that in previous posts there is mention of the ‘positives’ of going into headship without actually alluding to what they are. He said that he’d love to have it sold to him. Well here goes…
This might seem strange but I’m going to begin with a perceived negative and try and flip it on it’s head. By far the biggest reason that I hear of teachers not wanting to aim for headship is the responsibility that goes with it – the fact that the buck stops with you. Well I guess the short answer to that is ‘yes it does’ but there is another point to be made. As a headteacher the buck does stop with you and yes that is daunting (at times) but life is about taking risks, stepping outside of your comfort zone, pushing yourself into unchartered territory and putting your head above the pit. It’s one thing to think headship isn’t for you because you enjoy the role of day to day class teaching too much (although as a HT you can still be heavily involved in learning with the children) but don’t be put off by headship because of responsibility. When you eventually depart the Earth no one will judge you for being a good or bad headteacher – they will judge you on your strength of character and attitude to life. With that in mind here are the positives of being a headteacher so, if you are a teacher or senior leader, then take them onboard and start aiming for what is a great and fulfilling role.
#1 Implementing your vision
There is no feeling like steering a school in the direction that you totally and utterly believe. It is a great feeling to know that you have the ability to draw out everything you believe in education and implement this into a school. I’ve worked for some great HTs who had exciting visions but nothing beats guiding a school in the direction you believe.
#2 Empowering the children – showing you care
When I first started as HT two years ago I set myself the challenge of getting to know the name of every child in the school (360 of them) within a month. I managed it and now, when I stand on the gate in the morning, I welcome them all in personally. I also know what interests they have (this takes longer to acquire this information and then remember it!) and it’s a great feeling to see their face light up when you welcome them onto the playrgound by using their name and referencing an interest. Children know when an adult is genuinely interested in them and it matters to them that the person in charge of the school values them as an individual. We’ve all worked in schools where the HT locks themselves away and is rarely seen – to know that standing on a gate, smiling and welcoming children into school makes a difference is a great feeling especially when the child who is often quiet and shy starts to come out of their skin and shine. As a class teacher that’s a great feeling with a class of 30, imagine what it’s like with 360. Magic!
#3 Developing people
It is a real privilege knowing that you have the ability to positively influence a person’s career – this is the real moral compass of headship. So many leaders had a positive influence on me and if one of them hadn’t shown interest and faith in my ability the journey to get here would have taken longer. To know that I now have the responsibility of similarly developing people is a real honour and, when a staff member who you have invested so much time in, takes a step forward in their career it a very rewarding experience. It might sound a bit twee but I love the quote: ‘All the flowers of tomorrow are in the seeds of today.’ That quote not only rings true for the children but also for all staff under your stewardship.
#4 Leading change
I know a lot of people dislike change but that is an element of the job I love. I really enjoy looking at the school with a clarity and objectivity to see what we have done well that’s worked and what else we can do to improve. The process of focusing on an area that needs improving, implementing change and then assessing the impact is rewarding and you get lots of feedback (quickly) about whether the strategies you are implementing work.
This one is totally selfish but I think it is very important. Headship is a wonderful experience but also stressful at times, particularly in your first one. The amount of times I doubted myself, worried that I wasn’t up to the mark (see the post on coaching for how to deal with this) and generally felt daunted was quite a lot in the first year in particular. There were only two things I didn’t waver on and they were the direction I was taking the school and the vision – I may have doubted everything else but I never doubted these two things. So, when you get your first OFSTED inspection, it’s a big thing. If it goes well then you are validated – no one can ever take that away from you. I was fortunate that mine went well (OFSTED REPORT 2014) and instantly, for the first time in my mind, I had credibility. It’s hard to describe that feeling – it’s (and this is rather sad) one of the best feelings I’ve had. To know that you have led a school through a period of change and come out the other end with your methods vaildated is a hugely motivating feeling. I’m not sure that I’ll ever replicate that feeling and I may spend a lot of my working life chasing it. It is a unique and highly personal thing to experience.
Education needs YOU!
It’s a well known fact there is a real shortage of headteachers – that’s because it’s a pressured job and a lot of people can be very negative about it. Don’t let them put you off. If you are a good to outstanding teacher or senior leader and are reading this then you need to be seriously considering aiming for headship and what’s more schools need you. We need talented, inspirational leaders who are willing to give it a go.Of course you’ll worry about whether you’re ready. Of course you’ll doubt yourself. That’s natural but don’t let these barriers get in the way. Aim for headship!
If you would like a a free copy of my guide to aiming for headship then click here Securing and Surviving the First Year of Headship. If you are thinking about taking the first steps towards headship or are about to step into the role then get in touch with me via email@example.com or on twitter @tambotaylor and I’ll be happy to help in any way I can. It is a genuine offer so take me up on it!