I managed to get my friend and new head Michael to pen a few thoughts about beginning the road to headship… BGW
Tell me what it’s like to be a ‘new head’ he said, ok, here goes…
My chair creaked, the way old chairs do, the fake leather chipped and worn by the previous occupant. I wriggled a little, trying to fit my slender derriere into the two cavernous indentations that had been left behind. My legs were stretched and crossed underneath a desk so vast that I worried that even I would be unable to cover it completely with paper as I am want to do with every other surface I’ve ever worked at. The desk, nay my desk, looked exactly like all ‘new head’ teacher’s desks should look. Lap top and printer perpendicular to each other, A4 ‘grown up’ diary flush to the left hand edge of the desk. An assortment of silver Parker pens in an old coffee mug and of course the telephone. How I would grow to hate such an innocent looking device in the next week…
Telephone conversations for me fall into one of three categories.
1) Calls to people to arrange stuff. These calls are brief and 9/10 of the time initiated by me. ‘Where are you?’…’ok’…’see you then’ or ‘can you come out to fix ******’ ‘good, see you then.’ nb most of these calls are now unnecessary due to text messages.
2) Calls to ‘chat’, although not made often, calls to Mam, wife and daughter are enjoyable if said recipients haven’t been seen for a while, sliding scale: wife and daughter 1 day, Mam 1 week. Again, initiated by me.
3) Finally, calls that people make to me, trying to make me do stuff I don’t want to do, buy things, donate to charity etc.
Generally I can avoid call 3 by not answering the house phone, or using the mobile to screen calls. Easy.
Since becoming a head teacher, I’ve discovered that there are more types of calls and that call type three is practically un-avoidable.
4) The call where you have no idea who the person is but they seem to know you and sound important. This has happened a lot…. ‘Hello this is *******, how are you getting on…’ is usually how they start, asking lots of questions about the school and data etc that I find myself blithely giving answers too. So far I have had such calls from the Head of Education in the LEA, his boss and my ‘new head’ (more of that later) mentor. All of them want to visit me. Of course I agreed, however as I pay very little attention to what people are actually called unless they interest me immediately, my diary is full of ‘meeting with important guy’ type notations. I did worry about this, but needn’t have as they have all phoned up to cancel the meetings that they put in place. ‘blah, blah, blah … I’m sure you’re fine anyway…’ Helpful.
5) Then there’s the call you make where you want to speak to somebody but end up speaking to someone else.’ Does exactly what it says on the tin to be honest, irritating, as the person you speak to can not help you but you feel compelled to explain to them anyway, but still have to explain everything to the correct person should you ever get through. (see category 6)
6) The call that never gets answered. I’ve found these calls are usually to important people who control money. I can’t tell you how these are resolved as no one who has their fingers on the purse strings seems to know how to listen to messages or return calls.
7) Calls from people that sound important but turn out to be in category 3. Very irritating, as in a school these calls can’t be screened and, due to my category 4 experience I have no idea who is important, and who is a rep.
8) Calls from parents. These calls could fall into all seven previous categories. The best one so far was a parent calling to enquire about the vacant Deputy Head position. Silly me assuming he was a teacher, fifteen minutes in before he revealed that little nugget of information. Note to self: interview question number one. Are you actually a teacher? Worryingly, he sounded pretty good.
I was going to begin this post with a useful insight to being a ‘new head’ however I seem to have lapsed into my usual flippant drivel about nothing in particular, have to go, the phones ringing…