It’s hard to believe that we are now selling poppies, Guy Fawkes has been and gone and the half-term break is a distant memory already.
I was reminded of the pace of our lives when my PA popped a copy of last year’s “Christmas thank you card” to staff in my tray so that we could finalise this year’s design and I could start the annual marathon of writing 250 individual messages to colleagues.
I’m of the breed who thinks that this is an important part of recognising the contribution of staff to our school and while standard greetings and electronic signatures are fine for some purposes, it seems to me that being able to give time to individuals is a very important part of being a headteacher.
There will be people who I see on a fairly regular basis for all sorts of reasons, but there are also those colleagues who get on with it day-in, day-out and don’t feel the need or take the time for a one-to-one.
Some of the messages this year will be harder to write than last as circumstances have changed, some have suffered bereavements, disappointments or faced other personal challenges. Some will be celebratory after marriages, partnerships, births or successes.
Whatever the message, I hope that it reflects the value we place on our staff and the recognition of the importance of taking time to observe the seasons and those precious times when we concentrate more fully on our families and friends – and when the only targets we face are those associated with getting the presents wrapped, the food ready on time, and avoiding the post-prandial heartache or headache!
I was reminded of this when I was sent an email recently with an article attached entitled How to avoid HR disasters at the Staff Christmas Party! It made me think about how different things are, seemingly, in the corporate world where, if we believe what we read, the fizz flows, inhibitions are lost and the photocopier is pressed into a rather different service than usual!
In schools, we do our bus duties, sit with those students who can’t go home yet, and then lug all of those “things to do over the holidays” to the car before sitting down with our faculty buddies to enjoy whatever fare is on offer and then dashing home to get on with the preparations we have left.
Perhaps this year we will recognise that holiday means holiday and maybe we will be able to return much more refreshed and ready for the rigour of a new term if we turn cellular data off on our phones, lock the laptop in a cupboard and sit down to engage in real communication, face-to-face, with those people who give up so much so that we can do what we do – our families.
We are not alone in having a vocation which demands a great deal of our time but, if colleagues who enter teaching from other professions are to be believed, we also have the benefit and the reward of being able to “make a difference” as a result of our work.
I intend to make a resolution next year to remember this when times are tough – if my work makes a difference to my senior team and supports them in their work with middle leaders and they in turn make a difference to the lives of those they lead then perhaps we can all remember the joys of our work.
After all, we are all in this together and while working in education is demanding in so many ways – when it is good, it is certainly very, very good!
Diary of a headteacher is written anonymously and in rotation by three practising headteachers from schools across the country.