When I got a promotion to deputy headship I was given 2 pieces of advice by a senior leader: don't let the job/ school ruin your family and hold onto your sense of humour. I have been thinking about this advice a lot recently as I reflect on my first 200 days as a deputy head.
Job specifications for teachers, middle and senior leaders often have the essential quality of have a sense of humour. I have always been able to laugh at the ridiculous things I have done in my teaching career, there have been times when that laughter has been in hindsight. This term I sat in a serious meeting dressed as a flamingo from Alice in Wonderland and had to stop myself bursting into laughter. Being in a brand new job in a new school has been like leading in the eye of a storm, trying to cling to my high standards whilst being blown from one task to the next.
Humour often fails when you are pushed to your limits as your inner strength is slowly eroded over time. When I pulled over on the motorway due to extreme tiredness and illness I got the giggles. What would I say if highway patrol/ police asked why I had pulled over. It was in that moment that I started to piece together the reason why I had reached the need to just stop. Hours worked that week had been beyond the norm. I decided then to start logging my hours. I knew I had been doing a lot but a weekly working hours log told me I needed to find a better way to meet my own standards.
So did I learn from this situation? Sort of. I get the giggles when I remember Wednesday roast gate. A typically busy day meant I sat down to dine on a fabulous roast dinner with 5 minutes to go before the end of lunch. In addition it was interview day and I was running a task so needed to collect candidates, be professional and welcoming too. Have you tried to eat a beautiful roast dinner, yorkshire puddings etc in less than five minutes? It didn't end well. We might work in a building where we walk swiftly but I did run that day as a student was already sat in the sick room! My colleagues have nicknamed me the swan and will laugh with me when I say I went from that disastrous event to the interview, smiled and carried on regardless. Professionalism in the face of adversity and a situation I can laugh at. Next time I get asked to give an example of humour as a school leader this moment will pop into my mind. I now make sure that if I have only 5 minutes a yoghurt is doable! Lesson learnt.
So does my working hours log look better now? Have I a handle on workload? On Mother's Day weekend my daughter proudly announced we were going out for the day for a family meal. I immediately panicked. How was I going to get books marked, lessons planned and emails read?! Instead of enjoying the idea of being spoilt by my husband and daughter, who I really don't see much of during the week, all I could think of was work. This was a real low point this academic year. I can now look back and laugh at my ridiculous solution. Whilst mothers all over the country were having a lie in with breakfast in bed I had a genius idea. Get up a few hours earlier than my daughter to get my lesson plans done and emails replied to. Once she woke up I then enjoyed my day, after negotiating being home by 5 so I could mark my books. Frankly even I can see how ridiculous my solution was. I can confirm that it will not happen again next year and that I will give my daughter the quality time she deserves. Teacher workload is never ending but family times are for making memories together.
So that advice I was given continues to be in my head. My sense of humour is intact and I keep planning family time so that quality memories are made. This is my learning journey from assistant Headteacher to deputy Headteacher. Learning never stops and I'm looking forward to more giggles, even when it feels like I'm laughing in the wind.