Whist thinking about what to write as the next reflections on the first two years of senior management I keep coming back to how I spend my time. I am inclined to measure my day by what I have achieved, how many tasks I have ticked off my list and there is the tendency to feel disappointed in the day if I haven’t ticked everything off. I don’t expect I am unusual in this, I would hazard that most teachers are ‘doers’. However, adapting to remote learning and needing to support my middle managers as they support their own teams through a very challenging time, has required me to spend a lot of time sitting and listening. Taking the time to call up my Heads of Department at least once a week is very much time well spent.
Corridor conversations or that quick chat in the staff room can’t be had at the moment and the temptation is to resort to email for all communication. If we do this we lose the human touch, the chance to hear in people’s voices and see in expressions how they really are. The coronavirus has meant the we can’t pop into each others classrooms or offices and simply catch up at the end of the day – these encounters are vitally important when we are in school. When we are physically removed from one another as a school community perspective can be more easily lost or distorted and worries or anxieties heightened when we don’t have someone to talk to. We need to replicate those regular encounters.
As much as those corridor conversations happen without any planning or advanced warning, it is important to plan in meetings or phone calls. We don’t know what else is going on in someone’s home and it is better to arrange a suitable time rather than calling someone on the off chance, that way they can create time and know that, as a leader, we are considering their wider context of family life as well as their teaching.
Over the past few weeks I have set up an alternating pattern of cluster groups of HODs and individual HODs meetings. The cluster groups has worked incredibly well as a way of sharing best practice on Microsoft teams as well as other digital resources, discussing ideas and creating a space for everyone to share their ups and downs. Feedback has been really positive as staff have had the chance to see one another and know that they aren’t alone in the plethora of emotions that come with the ‘coronacoaster’. In these and individual meetings, my role has been largely to listen, to hear how they are and encourage those that are finding remote teaching particularly challenging, although we are all struggling at times. Over the past few days I have met with all 18 Heads of Department for approximately 30 minutes – that’s meant sitting in the same chair for quite a while! It might not be immediately apparent that I am achieving anything but I hope that they feel heard and supported, that it demonstrates how much I care about each of them and want to really know how they are. This is therefore time well spent.