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40 days into the senior leadership adventure

‘But I'll be free for what I believe and I won't sell my soul just to
Achieve my goal.’
Amy McDonald

I spotted the video above on Ollie Bray’s twitter feed a little while ago.  It sums up how I’m feeling at the end of the first half term of being a new Assistant Headteacher in a new school.  I know how to ride a bike, and have even hammered down a few scary descents, but I’m a novice compared to this.  However, I’m getting up to speed.  It reminds me of becoming a trainee teacher, then an NQT, then a Head of Department.  At the beginning, I thought I knew everything about education because I went to school.  Then I knew everything about school because I worked in one a while.  It’s a different perspective at each level and I wonder if It’s ever possible to see the full picture.

This is a continuation of this post written 28 days into the new role.  I’m still a novice, but I’m getting there.  A few more things to share, it’s mainly for me to look back on but may be of use to those who are thinking about the step to SLT or those in the same position as myself, I know I find it useful knowing that there are others in the same position:

1. Assumed competence

The list of things I’ve done for the first time in the past 40 days is mental, but also exciting.  The main point I’ll make is that you need to ask if you’re not sure, as everyone (and especially those who you line manage) will assume that you know what you’re doing.  Whether that’s leading an assembly, learning walks, reading in assembly, doing lunch duties, open evening, open mornings, organising a Governors Day, interviewing, coaching, line managing or reporting to governors.  There is a lot of extra stuff to do on top of the teaching and on top of the main focus.  Prioritisation is the key as it would be very easy to become derailed from what it is you’re actually supposed to be doing.  Ask questions, lots of them.

2. Develop the persona of SLT

I have an idea of what SLT should be. Sadly, I’ve got experience of SLT types that I don’t want to be. It’s hard.  Walking down the corridor and acknowledging every member of staff.  Making sure that I challenge any behaviour that needs to be redirected. Smiling.  Doing all of this when there are hundreds of names to remember. And faces. And jobs. And connections. The time for being anonymous is over.  Being out of the office during transitions and visible.

3. Don’t worry about being a net learner for a bit

Nick Dennis helped me out, probably more than he knows, with a bit of advice given to me at the recent #TLT13.  Accept that, for at least a little while, you’ll be a net-learner rather than a net-contributor to the organisation.  This may be frustrating, especially if you’ve been a contributor at your last place, but it’s important.  I don’t want to be compared to a u-turning politician nor start introducing more new initiatives than a New Labour politician (or Nick Clegg coming up to an election). I want to get it right (although I accept that making a few mistakes along the way is inevitable if I am to learn).  I also don’t want to make promises that I can’t keep and I’ve been reminded of the need for planning impact.

4. Buy extra shoes

I’m no stranger to being on my feet.  But I walk a lot.  I bought a couple of extra pairs of shoes because 1. you can tell a lot about someone’s shoes and how they look after them and 2. I walk a lot!

Part of being a Master is learning how to sing in nobody else's voice but your own.” ― Hugh MacLeod

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