I have been miserable this week. I blame the come down after Ofsted. There is such a great anticipation for their arrival and it hangs over you like a black cloud that when they eventually turn up and go again, with relatively little impact, it feels like an anti-climax. And whilst we know what we need to do, until it is visualised in a written report, it doesn’t feel concrete so you can end up feeling a little lost. As well as exhausted.
In addition, as blogged last week, the impact that they do have can make you react in a variety of different ways. We had, without doubt, a lovely inspector but I felt deeply frustrated by the ever-growing tick list that has become the observation process.
On top of this, I slipped and fell on ice this week. It happened quickly, with no time to save myself and I fell hard resulting in three days of headaches and fuzziness. A quick trip to the doctor confirmed I had whiplash and he had a good laugh at how the falling had started quite young. Feeling ill though and teaching 6 period days are never good combinations.
So what have I learnt from this week?
1) Look after your staff – staff needed recovery time this week. After a week of the DFE and Ofsted, it was clear that everyone was shattered and needed a little time to gather themselves and put themselves back together. They had found the process overwhelmingly supportive, but it didn’t mean that it hadn’t been exhausting for everyone and you could see this in their heads, in their bodies and in their thoughts – everyone was shattered.
As a HOF it is important to recognise this in your staff and react. When the going gets tough, sometimes as HOF you need to get going. With two members of staff in tears as an outlay of the pressure they had felt, it was important that I supported and comforted but alleviated some of the pressure they were feeling. I needed to let them have their recovery time, to plan lessons without an observer in mind and recognise that OK is good enough the week after such a gruelling week.
2) Look after your self – you can spend so much time looking after others, that often you can forget yourself. The process of Ofsted had been exhausting for me. I was teaching all day on the Wednesday and all the possible times on the Thursday when they could drop by for a visit. In addition, I was called to two meetings which I was determined to enter into with a certain spirit which also required an awful lot of energy from me. I had stayed until 10.15pm both nights and worked until midnight at home, getting up at 5am to finish off the odd bits and bobs.
It had been a great process and there were lots of positive things to take away but also some helpful developmental points for me and the faculty. Absorbing this, the faculty’s reactions pre-, during and after and awaiting our result had been quite draining. Although I felt I had given myself recovery time over the weekend, I didn’t feel as though I had recovered by Monday morning and so a spiral of exhaustion, pain (from falling over) and despondency started to seep in.
As a generally positive person and someone who attempts to keep spirits up, this can be quite difficult not only for myself to deal with but for others around me as well. However, it is real and you do need to afford yourself that time. Often, I work best, thinking things through by myself. Why do I feel the way that I do? What can be done about it? How do I go about it? And after 2-3 days of mulling this over, and being reminded of the good that is around me, I am back on form.
3) Time – People are in such a hurry nowadays in all aspects of their lives. Sometimes, we can be in too much of a rush to sit down and think things through properly. I am a thinker. I believe in this more than anything else. And I believe in this more than anything else at this present point, in my current job, in my current school, in our current situation. Reactions are only good when thought about properly. Initiatives are only good when thought about properly. Ideas are good but putting them into place needs to be thought out properly.
Now Ofsted have been and gone, we have some clear directives. I love clarity. But I am not going to rush this. I am going to sit AND think AND read AND seek advice AND discuss AND try AND revise AND THEN launch to my faculty and take action.
I have seen so many times in my career, not necessarily in my current school, people rush in with new initiatives because we need to tackle X or need to tackle y and they have had an amazing idea or two or three or four and I have watched as they drain the souls from the people they work with as new initiative upon new initiative upon new initiative is thrust towards them because all of these initiatives without doubt will be the answer to school improvement.
In fact, improvement takes times; it takes thought and it has to be done in small steps so that people buy into the vision and the direction you want to go in. The time between one Ofsted visit and another is a beautiful thing because it is the time you can afford yourself to get things right. I am going to give myself, my faculty the time to do this. We will get better – not because we will rush to get better but because we will have thought carefully about how we get better.
And with that I have ordered myself four new educational books, ‘Independent Thinking’ by Ian Gilbert (my educational hero), ‘Change’ by Richard Gerver, ‘An Ethic of Excellence’ by Ron Berger and ‘Trivium’ by Martin Robinson. It is time to think.