Time management and prioritising can often be a challenge for me (hence why I am only getting round to writing this blog on 30th December!) These are two themes that will keep recurring both through my reflections on 2014 and my hopes for 2015…
Reflections on 2014
1. My family.
My wife was diagnosed with an ovarian cyst back in January, which because they found some cancerous cells inside they removed quickly and successfully. Fortunately all tests since have come back clear and we obviously hope this continues into 2015 and beyond.
My youngest daughter completed her first year of school in July, having had a fabulous and exciting time in Year R and in September my eldest daughter started secondary school (which also appears to be going really well).
My sister married her husband during the summer to a fantastic guy. They are made for each other and make each other very happy. It was a great day and we also had some wonderful days meeting all the extended family from both sides both prior to and after the actual wedding.
2. Acting Head secondment
I was invited to take on a two term secondment from January to July, and really enjoyed the role and challenge from week one. I made many mistakes but learnt a huge amount from the experience. I did not achieve all I had hoped or planned to, and nor did I have as full or long-lasting an impact as I would have liked to have had (first reference to time management and prioritising). It was fascinating to ‘drop into’ a different school culture for a short period of time and inspiring to see the work and dedication of more colleagues working for the benefit of children. I made a number of good friends, and the experience undoubtedly helped give me the experiences and confidence to apply for my first Headship.
3. Starting my first Headship
I started at my new school in September, and boy is it new. It opened in September 2013, currently we have 3 classes, but the plan is to move to a purpose built 3 form entry primary in the next 3 years – which should take us up to 21 classes and 630 pupils by 2020.
The complexity and enormity of the role have at times threatened to overwhelm me. There is so much to do setting up a new school, even without the national context of a new National Curriculum and the removal of levels (which obviously the staff here last year spent very little time on as they were busy opening a new school with all that entails). Due to the small number of staff there are also very few opportunities to delegate. I have a vision of how I would like us to grow as a school, which I shared by governors and staff, but have been frustrated that I have not been able to achieve more in my first term (second reference to time management and prioritising, though with an additional helping over ambitious and unrealistic expectations). I also have a view of the type of leader I would like to be, but felt that at times I have let my principles and people down due to circumstances and external pressures.
I feel I have made a positive start, helping develop the teaching and learning and in building relationships with staff, pupils, parents and governors. In particular the links with parents are made through our Facebook page (just search for Cornerstone Primary) and our Twitter account (@cornerstonecofe) (wow, 2 shameless plugs in 1 sentence!)
4. Twitter networking.
A massive one for me in 2014. I first set up my account in November 2013, but didn’t start tweeting until the start of 2014. Since then I have read so much, connected with so many wonderful and generous colleagues and generally kept far more informed and been inspired than in any other year of teaching.
With a group of DHTs and AHTs from Eastleigh Borough primaries I have set up @HantsPrimSLT (3rd shameless plug) to share ideas and latest news between us. I have attended and spoken at my first TeachMeet (many thanks Nikki @gillersn) and been invited to a national conference of primary leaders (many thanks Nick @educationbear). I have also been asked to write a piece for Hampshire IT about the professional power of Twitter for school leaders (which I am also hoping to complete before term starts again).
The only issue for me (and indeed my family) with Twitter is time. I received a great present from my secondment school when I left which was the Twitter bird made out of the letters ‘addict’. I prefer obsessed but I see their point.
I celebrated my 40th birthday in the summer holidays. I had set myself the challenge to be fitter at 40 than I was at 30 (not that much of a challenge if you had seen me 10 years ago).
I have managed to keep reasonably fit, completing a 10K in March in a PB and running the Great South Run in my second fastest time on October (yes I have done it more than once!)
However the issue for me (as I’m sure it is with many others) is that once we get past the first couple of weeks of a term my energy levels and enthusiasm are severely depleted, and my workload increasing, with me working frankly ridiculous hours to try to keep up.
Thoughts for 2015
Ideally I would like to spend a lot more time with the people I love and doing the things I really want to. But I know there is no more time, and that I will need to achieve more at work in 2015. My aim therefore is not to focus on finding more time for these priorities but to increase the quality of the time spent and the impact it has on myself and others. Having said that I am also going to start saying “no” more often at work and not allow myself to be sidetracked or distracted from the main focuses of each day.
I am going to use the hashtags promoted by @MartynReah through his excellent #teacher5aday initiative to share my specific hopes.
1. #connect & #notice: the time I spend wife my wife and daughters will not be interspersed with me thinking about work and the jobs I have to do, or with checking my Twitter feed on my phone. I will give them my full and undivided attention and I am sure I will get more enjoyment and pleasure from that time.
2. #connect: I am going to continue to develop my professional network (both online and in person), sharing my thoughts and blogs / research I have read or seen. I am setting up an RQT with local schools and aim to organise a TeachMeet at my school. However I am going to ring-fence my time on Twitter. I will not take my phone up to my bedroom at night, and will not surf online at 3 am when my youngest has woken me, but follow her better example of going back to sleep.
3. #learn #grow #give: I am passionate and proud about my role as a HT and the pupils and staff at my school. I want to give the very best of myself to have the maximum impact possible for the benefit of all at Cornerstone. I will keep reminding myself that to be able to give my best I will need to look after myself and not just keeping adding hours and tasks. Also that to have maximum impact I need to invest my time at work wisely and strategically.
4. #learn: each week I am going to set aside one evening to read some research or write a blog. Each half-term I am going to attend a TeachMeet / course / conference for my own professional learning, but not feel guilty about not doing more. Again I want to focus on the quality of the experience and my learning from it.
5. #exercise: finally I am going to try to maintain a reasonable balance throughout each term. Exercising in the morning 3 times a week, exercise bike twice a week and run once a week. I have the 10K and Great South Run booked again, plus a charity 48.1 mile walk in June with 3 good friends. I aim to eat healthily throughout the term, and not give in to all the biscuits and cakes in the last few weeks!
I am sure I have said similar things in the past to myself at the start of New Year. Can I be more successful this year? Can I manage my time and priorities more effectively? Can I focus on the quality of each experience? I’m sure my #Nurture1516 will answer these questions.
All the best to everyone for 2015!