“I wouldn’t want your job.” I frequently hear this not just from school staff but from parents, contractors in building meetings, policemen visiting the school, even the odd astronaut. It is a position shared by many it seems, except maybe West Ham’s departing manager Avram Grant.
The job description for Head Teacher’s should simply read:
1. 1) To be the fixer, the problem solver
2. 2) See number 1
There are certainly days when it seems the problems of 490 pupils and their families, plus those of 86 staff land squarely on my shoulders. It is not uncommon for someone to hit me with an issue before I have made it from the car park to my office door. All want a solution. Check that. All want their solution. Frequently the problem can be solved quite easily, under their own steam and initiative. But enforcing our own solutions can involve conflict. People in public service, it seems, do not like conflict. In fact they will avoid it to the point of causing themselves personal stress.
Sunday evenings are difficult. I have found it increasingly easy down the years to forget about work on a Friday night. The weekends are mine and I have become skilled at devoting them to my family. However about tea time Sunday, the feeling starts to rise from the pit of my stomach: Monday is coming. Monday means a full week of problems ahead. Problem that demand attention. Now. This is the time when Songs of Praise is on British telly. Self-doubt creeps and whispers near my ear. It calls me a charlatan, a fraud. ‘Who are you to lead these people, this community’?
Evidentially the feeling is not uncommon. A colleague once told me that the Sunday tea time lack of self-belief is shared by many. It is called Songs of Praise Syndrome. I tried googling the condition but I can’t validate the rumour. I would imagine Songs of Praise Syndrome would more likely be people who never set foot in church suddenly packing out St Greavsie ‘s and singing their hearts out because the BBC cameras are in town.
But I know the symptoms.
The condition is real.
So we all develop our coping mechanisms. We develop thick skins. Some drink. Some pound a treadmill in a gym.
When the problems flow I picture them as waves washing over me. The important ones will cling to me. The insignificant ones wash back into the sea; perhaps to form the next wave but more than likely to be drawn on the tide far off shore. Only then do I reach for the towel, or better still, at a natural pace let the wind and sun dry the droplets from my shoulders.
My long trusted coping mechanism is to stand at the door of our flat, just before putting the key in lock and taking the first footstep of being home. I say to myself sometimes silently, sometimes in a whisper, sometimes in demanding tones, “Put it down, put it down, put it down.”
I also like to load the car’s music system with my favourite tunes and sing aloud, at the top of my lungs, on the journey home. Granted it draws funny looks from other drivers on the A13 and Victoria Embankment. But that’s THEIR problem. I tend not to listen to spiritual music though. It reminds me of Sunday evenings.
Keep the Faith,