Like many a teacher and many a headteacher I packed my bag as part of my rituals on a Sunday afternoon. Then started my thinking of the week ahead. Here is a light hearted list but with a hefty dose of truth.
1. A proper fountain pen and proper ink
Heads sign a lot of documents, contracts, policies, orders, cheques. Be prepared. there are also letters, lots of them but the best are my own letters. I often wrote to thank people for their work or contribution, if I was a banker of course that would be a £ cash bonus but this is the public sector, people had to make do with a letter. However a letter with an additional hand written note from the head is good. We don’t receive many letters these days in a world of text, twitter and email so a letter or a postcard from the head should stand out. When I left one student thanked me saying “Sir, I have 7 letters from you…..all pinned on my wall.”
2. Chocolates, biscuits and fruit
Lots of people in a school are very busy and don’t have time to look after themselves; late lunches, no breakfast. Rushed. We need to get better routines but in the odd crisis, the head’s stock of biscuits and fresh fruit on the table helps. Hey it helped me the number of times a meeting overran, or a conversation of 2 minutes becomes 20 and it was hardly fair to say, sorry I need my lunch. Top up on good quality fruit, nuts, biscuits and why not – chocs.
I had a few things in my office needing batteries but the one which ran out most was my “B*ll**it” detector. A legacy from the previous headteacher almost worn out with detecting. Not just meetings in my office or elsewhere, it was sometimes pupils and parents, occasionally colleagues and officials and most often twas me. It is good to listen more, think more and say less. Whatever you decide to do make sure you have a cr*p detector, and have it switched on permanently.
4. A set of clean clothes
There are long days, not always a 3.30 pm escape as you know, it’s a normal school day then meetings then plays, or shows or parents meetings and a change of clothes helps freshen up. But I have also discovered other occasions like when our y 6 transition day on the Anglo Saxons saw me demonstrating the stocks and surprisingly needed cleaner and drier clothes after the event. At my school we needed a new umbrella – a split site school and trying to still see our children onto their buses at the end of the day – when just a few times it…..pours
5. Tip top organised briefcase .
No one ever helps teachers understand their paperwork, not even my NPQH; it’s a bit of an unspoken task we are all expected to manage, maybe no one knows how to do it. My colleagues always urge to read any document just once. This is often difficult for a scientist like me. I liked to ponder and think but that took far too much time, so get a system, get a new system, get advice and make life as comfortable as possible. Believe me decisions come in thick and fast, some are simple and straightforward and often made by others – so the head gets left with those complex and difficult ones, but that’s the job. I never had a PA, I did use our office staff to help me hugely but I liked to keep myself organised – others can judge.
I had a diary, paper and electronic, I knew what I was doing but I tried to add reflections and also use it as a reminder of the bigger picture. The days can be full of operational stuff, and interruptions so a chance to stand back and re-engage the bigger picture needs noting. the person who stops you in the tracks and makes you think – get that in a notebook/diary. Capture if not for now, for later.
Yes there have been a few tears. not too many from me but some from the other members of the community. Staff under pressures, pupils under pressures and parents. Even some difficult conversations with parents can end in tears. My tissue box was a part of offering hope ( see blog) There was no deliberate attempt to get tears but they happen and need dealing with in order 1) tissues 2) hope 3) solutions. A simple fact of dealing with families and a reminder schools are communities NOT businesses.
What do you decorate your office with? Timetables, DfE updates on curriculum changes, teacher standards, rotas? I had one small notice board and the rest of my four walls were covered in photographs of school – activities, opportunities, pupils learning, studying, working chatting, playing. Pupils in classrooms, on the yard, playing sport, performing drama and music. Teachers, TAs, secretaries, groups. I regulalry renewed a few but I loved those photos and when bogged down in some policy or reading a long-winded update from the LA or DfE I reminded myself of what schools are all about. I actually think no data in school should ever appear just as a cross or a point on a graph they should all have a photograph of that little person.
9. Any presentations or papers for the week ahead.
One thing I learned if there was a talk to do, an assembly to give, an important meeting to lead, it must be done by Sunday evening. There is unlikely to be any other time in the week save a chance to check and edit. No time to write so get that done and in the briefcase.
10 Fresh cover work.
I hated covers, actually I grew to love them. They did interrupt me in whatever I was doing – but hang on that was a me me me type cry. I loved covers, they reminded me of the job staff do day in, day out and children’s experience day in day out. They gave me a chance to talk to pupils and hear from them, to see their books and hey to teach them. Even my weakest subject ( not telling) I am prepared. ( PS had a copy of “Stig”, I carried him with me for all my early years and if there was no work, we read a bit of Stig – nostalgia isnt what it used to be.)
In fact with that number 10 job done , am I prepared for anything………oh hang on
11. Hope – my bag was full of hope , but it needed topping up fairly often.
Feel free to add in a reply the most important item in your packing for the new term, or tweet them back and I’ll add them here:
Q1 What are the important items in your bag to do the job properly?
Q2 What stuff is there and worried about but unnecessary?
Q3 Any advice for an NQT briefcase/bag ? a new middle leader’s briefcase? or even for an old SLT member’s briefcase?
and for those working in a church school:
Matthew 26:19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared…
Matthew 3:3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”
2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction