This is the last post reviewing the considered and encouraging “Making the leap. Moving from deputy to head.”
The early months in post
Before I offer my takeaway messages, I think I should start with my final reflection. In mocking fighting fantasy – I wonder whether the book should start with a message.
If you are about to begin your headship go straight to p115. If you’re planning wisely with plenty of time on your side turn to p1.
Jill seemed to appreciate the reality to that reflection,
From here on in, I’ll stick to a chronological review.
The tension between inheriting and inhabiting relates to the concept of reciprocal socialisation.
I am confident that this predicament is a common one for new heads. Jill goes on to warn incoming heads that they need to be “sensitive enough to the norms, perceptions and the insecurities of others.
Given the potential isolation of headship and the potential consequences of getting this too wrong in the early days, I would like to read more on this potential blindspot.
Despontin (2007) may state ‘There is only one way to be a Head, and that is your way.’ That is all well and good however, I recognise that my way is worthy of some refinement.
p118 provided the encouragement and insight I needed. Leadership, headship is, itself a unique, evolving process.
This perfectly leader may in fact, never emerge, and you may find that your perceptions of what this leaders is like changes over time. There is the leader you want to be. There is the leader this particular school requires you to be at this stage in its development – and, of course, the later stages, as time passes and your experience, confidence and competence grow alongside the school’s changing needs. And there is also the leader the school will allow you to be, and you may be acutely aware of this, especially in the early months.
There are useful reminders about getting to know the school; lesson visits, pupil pursuits for example, and the perennial favourite, “doing things right and doing right things.” Reminders to give all staff the opportunity to prove themselves, to exercise your own judgement, look outward (although I can attest that is not as straightforward as it reads), to visit other heads and avoid the urge to micromanage. To model positivity, receptivity and openness to feedback and confidence. p139 “the importance of being a head, not just doing the job.”
p143 One last point, heads may not arrive with the intention of changing things, heads may not even change anything. But remind yourself, “just your very nature” means school will be difference.
If I had read this page, you now, skipped fighting fantasy style to the final chapter, I may had proceeded at an even slower pace. And I thought I was attempting to slow down. New teaching staff, front office team combine with an under develop contextual awareness and school knowledge was harming and I had not yet spotted it in my rear view mirror.
On p144 Jill gently touches on the moment we realise we have missed the mark. Well, it is picked up by one of Jill’s PhD participants.
The key issue here is what the new head decides to do when they realise that their actions have been misunderstood or misinterpreted: they recognise they need to communicate their intentions and expectations more clearly.
I informed Jill that I thought this was worthy advice for all leaders, experienced or inexperienced. Should we be primed to expect our actions may be misinterpreted. The chances are – they will be somewhere in the school? After all, “the transition involves a process of transformation is for both the new school leader and the led.”
Established headship, beyond headship… that is a committed leap and a lot of bridge building and I plan to make the most of my 3-7 years worth of effectiveness – Mortimore (1998).
It is that this point, I would like to thank Jill for sharing her experience and expertise.