Decide that in spite of earlier advice to self about the need to develop Effective Working Habits for the term ahead, there must surely be some kind of technology that will do this for me. Keep being told, after all, that “there is an app for that”. Spend several hours online researching calendar apps, to-do apps, list apps and apps that proclaim the ability to do All This And More. Consider the amount of time needed to learn how to use any new apps and finally decide that what I really need to do is just plan my days, weeks, months and years in much more detail using the apps (and notebooks) I already have. Decide that J would very much approve of me reaching such a conclusion about detailed planning and immediately start to doubt myself as a result.
On further reflection it occurs to me that what I really mean about planning my days in more detail is to fill in all the gaps in my online calendar so that the rest of my leadership team colleagues do not think I am ‘free’ at any point during the week. Desired outcome of this would be that colleagues do not then fill said time with things they would like me to do in order to help them meet their own targets and complete their own to-do lists. Spend some time worrying that I am not an Effective Leader because I don’t like to trouble other people with things I consider to be my responsibility. Identify this (again) as Something To Work On and add it to the list. Worry that I don’t have the best app for managing lists, and start the whole sorry cycle afresh.
Home from a final holiday hoorah to an email from J about planning the PSHE programme for the year ahead. Instantly worry that I’ve got the acronym wrong and that it might be the PHSE programme but tell myself that in the big scheme of things the acronym is really not that important.
J appears desperate to plan the entire year’s programme before September 1st, no doubt supported by a fifty-two slide PowerPoint presentation outlining the programme which will be shared with us at our leadership meeting on the first Non Pupil Day. There is a request in the email to send him whatever planning we may have done already for this and I laugh heartily, for whilst I accept that PHSE (or PSHE) is An Important Part Of The Curriculum, it is not really An IMPORTANT Part Of The Curriculum and that in everyone else’s List Of Priorities it languishes perilously close to the bottom.
In a moment of sympathy for J I consider that for him and other colleagues my own Areas Of Responsibility nestle unseen in the depths of their Lists Of Priorities and think that perhaps I should send a covering message saying that I have added it to my to-do list and will get the information requested to him shortly. Needless to say the sympathy passes swiftly and the message is not sent.
Still no clearer on whether it is PHSE, PSHE or something else entirely.
Sunday morning and J sends an email to the leadership group with a link to an article in The Times about so-called ‘GROMP’ schools. Decline to give up my anonymity in order to subscribe to The Times and therefore read no more than the first two paragraphs. It must be admitted that these two paragraphs do not fill me with a great deal of eagerness to continue. J however anticipates this response and later in the morning emails out the entire report from the New Schools Network on which the article is based.
Unable to shake deeply ingrained scepticism about New Schools Network which is, it appears, a ‘charity’ organisation set up to advise Free Schools. Being only one coffee into Sunday morning I find myself muttering something vaguely incoherent to M about Free Schools being the Spawn Of The Devil (or at least the spawn of Mr Gove which M assures me is much the same thing) and any advice they are being given must surely be dictated by Market Forces and the desire to Give The Audience What It Thinks It Wants.
Grudgingly skim the report and inwardly curse both J’s insensitivity to those of us with Lives Outside Of School and my own inability to effectively execute a modicum of restraint vis a vis striking Work Life Balance. Concede it is just possible that J has simply lost track of time during the summer break and believed it to be Monday already.
Report appears to regurgitate much of the ethos of the Charter Schools movement from the United States and stakes a claim for the establishment of a ‘No Excuses’ culture and Firm Discipline. Can’t help feeling that all this desire for Firm Discipline is a poor excuse for establishing a vaguely militaristic culture and that it is, perhaps, most commonly supported by the kind of person who voted LEAVE and who thinks that children should be Seen And Not Heard. Or preferably neither seen nor heard, which perhaps is a mite harsh of me, but that is what one gets on a Sunday morning with only one coffee behind one. And yes, I am aware that there are far too many one’s in that last sentence. But what can one do?
Determined that readers should not take me for someone who thinks that the fundamental premise of Charter Schools is A Bad Thing, however, so wish to stress that idea of encouraging aspirational attitudes in young people is to be applauded. Nevertheless cannot help but be drawn back to the question of Aspiring to What? To leave poverty and raise one’s social standing? Admirable. Yet unless there is a fundamental shift in the way one’s societies are structured does this not also inevitably mean encouraging people to Succeed At All Cost? Does success for one not by implication mean failure for someone else, somewhere else? Is this notion of an aspirational culture not complicit in perpetuating a competition based market?
Forced to consider the possibility that perhaps I do not support the fundamental premise of Charter Schools after all. Forced to concede too that I may need to come out and propose that the notion of aspiration within a culture of competitive capitalism is not to be encouraged at all. Would this prove to be a deeply undesirable point of view within school leadership team? Most assuredly, yes. May also prove to be astoundingly unfashionable stance within the wider educational landscape of the times (not to mention The Times). Consider this not necessarily a bad thing and that perhaps this can be my defining trait, my Brand Identity as it were.
Decide all notions of Brand Identity would be ironic given vague stance of anti-competitive market capitalism and make second coffee of the morning.
Wake up to extended email conversation about the evils of extended email conversations. It appears that where once abuse of the whole staff email group address was A Major Cause For Concern, this has been replaced by the inexplicable and unfortunate habit of people using ‘reply all’ as a default action. Tempted to suggest this is merely a result of Summer Holiday Syndrome (also known as Being Relaxed) amongst some colleagues but resignedly know this not to be the case. Reminded again about yesterday’s inner voice screaming at others to edit their thoughts before opening mouths and am forced to admit that perhaps the concept of Thought Before Action is a thoroughly old-fashioned one and that I am a relict of a time that passed without me noticing.
Thoughts meander into avenues of communication in general and of Time Before Email. Consider that if we banned email then we could all go back to illegibly scribbled notes stuffed in pigeon-holes. Recall the frustration at passing through staff room during the week and seeing un-attended piles of missives crammed into colleagues’ allocated slots and therefore forced to conclude that the issue is not one of ‘technology’ but one of effective working habits.
Consider writing paper about Effective Working Habits for distribution at next leadership meeting. Decide it would be an inefficient use of my time, especially since it is still officially Summer Holiday, and instead spend rest of morning in the garden re-reading an old Austen. Beside me M sighs about How Autumnal It All Feels and I am forced to agree. The Scottish schools seem to have the right idea about having their Summer break when it still feels vaguely like Summertime, whilst we English persist in trudging on, working through the finest weather and then only finally decamping for a holiday once the days grow shorter and the nights cooler. Grudgingly accept that to most people who already think teachers live an easy life of Long Holidays and Extravagantly Rewarding Pensions this may seem like Sour Grapes. No intention, however, of changing my opinion.
Home at last to find that the BBC has produced a helpful guide to the new numbering system of GCSE grades. It has helped me enormously although I admit that I look forward with fevered anticipation to the time when a group of people at the cutting edge of the educational zeitgeist decree that we should not be using numbers to grade students at all and instead should be using a system of semaphore flags. League tables of performance will then be compiled according to the prettiness of the flags.
Concede that the idea of semaphore flags is Highly Unlikely and that advice will more likely be that We Should Not Be Grading Young People At All. Or that we ought to be using letters instead.
Further exploration shows the BBC demonstrating their typical unparalleled excellence with this exciting guide to the number 9.
Am reminded inexplicably of conflicting claims between Cadbury and the Arcari ice cream family of Portobello, Edinburgh, to have ‘invented’ the 99 cone. Consequently imagine I hear the theme tune to ‘Doctor Zhivago’ drifting in the evening air and come over all Terribly Nostalgic.
Day begins with the always pleasurable stream of year 11 leavers picking up GCSE certificates. Much squealing and thankfully fewer tears than in previous years. Either our students are doing better in their examinations or the Young People are becoming More Resilient. The numbers suggest the former, but alternatively they realise that regardless of how well or otherwise they have performed, their social standing will be the biggest obstacle to them making progress in future life. Willing to admit this is my scepticism at work and this is Something To Work On.
After this pleasure three hours are spent basically talking about ticking boxes and ‘what if…’, during which I frequently lose the will to continue in the world of education or indeed the world at all. Music and lyrics drip into my head with alarming regularity, allowing me to tune out extended dialogues itemising in detail each part of any given narrative. I successfully resist the temptation to scream ‘edit in your head before speaking!’. ‘Ask Dad’ is the most persistent earworm.
Lunchtime comes and goes. Extended descriptions about a variety of situations continue. Stomachs make various peculiar noises but our leadership team is clearly capable of Working Through It.
Data is examined in mystifying detail. Willing to admit this sense of mystery is due mostly to my lack of numeracy and identify this as Something To Work On.