“I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed…”
Over the Easter holidays I have been reading ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed. The real life story of the author’s 1,100 mile solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) from the Mojave Desert to Washing State. Term 6 and the rightly named Term 7 for those of us who work full year, are without doubt the most exhausting times of the year. It can feel like an enduring journey and our personal resilience and stamina can be tested to the extreme.
Multi-tasking is what we do well, and we will be working on papers for Governors meetings, sports days, fundraising events, trips and visits, examination preparation, recruitment, planning for summer building works… along with all the usual tasks and challenges that land on our desks.
The beginning of the Summer Term, can feel like you have a backpack, with everything you need, but is so heavy that you will never lift it on your own. You try to pick it up, but it won’t budge. You take another look, change your approach and slowly lift it. You can barely put one foot in front of the other, but you know that getting started is the only answer.
You have all the things you need for the journey. As you move along, plans change, you throw things out that you don’t need any more and add in new things. Your agility as a leader, means you can adapt to meet the revised needs, using all the tools at your disposal.
As you creep along the last few weeks and eventually days of the term, listening to colleagues who are counting the number of sleeps left to go. You will be thinking, that is the number of sleeps until you are all on holiday and I can finally get some work done.
Working in the holidays, when there is skeleton staff is amazing. Time to work undisturbed and focus on strategic plans, for example, writing or reviewing your marketing strategy. Focusing on action plans that will get the new academic year off to a good start, for example, putting together welcome packs and induction checklists for new starters.
After many years as a School Business Leader, here are my tips for surviving:
- Keep a long-term to do list
Not everything needs to be done straight away, put anything that can wait on to your list for the holiday, so that you don’t have to think about it. If you have a work experience student coming in over the summer, consider if they could do some research for you.
- Have a diary meeting
Planning well is a key skill. This idea is from @SouthGlosHead (Twitter). Have a diary meeting at the beginning of the Summer Term, put together a schedule of the main events that are happening, with as many details as possible. For example, the PE lead is likely to organise Sports Day(s), but decide which member of SLT will be booked in to present the awards.
- Access support
If you need help, ask for it. Either from within your own school or the SBL community, your local SBL group or my go to place is Twitter. There is a monthly Twitter discussion #EdFinChat which is a useful opportunity to collaborate with professionals from across the globe.
- Plan a team meeting
Once you have had your diary meeting and drafted the schedule. Meet with your team, include key people, i.e. your Receptionist, Catering Manager and Site Manager. Ensure they know details and changes to normal plans, for example, the dates of class trips, changes to timetables because of exams, dates where seating needs to be put out, etc.
- Review summer work plans
Have a separate meeting with your Headteacher and Site Manager to discuss the Summer Holiday building and refurbishment works, including timing of the ‘big deep clean’. Agree dates that staff can come in to school to prepare for the new term and let them know in advance.
- Welcome new starters
First impressions count and the experience that your new staff have, sets the tone for their employment. Ensure that they have all the information that they need in advance, include little details, for example, if the first day back is a training day, include the dress code and the refreshment arrangements. Have an induction checklist for managers to use and provide a welcome pack.
- Plan ahead
Use time in the holiday to plan for the year ahead. Having an annual planner of events which is issued to all staff for the year ahead, is a useful tool.
- Own your professional development
Most schools set their performance management targets in September/October. Take time to reflect on areas that you would like to focus on and resources that you could access, including events that you would like to go to and start a list of books that you would like to read. Go to that meeting prepared and take ownership of your career development, give it the time it deserves.
- Access coaching
The Women Leading in Education coaching initiative is available to female SBLs and it is free! I have accessed it and I would recommend giving it a try.
- Look after you
I know that it is really easy to work through lunch and think I will get something in a minute, but it is not healthy and something that we need to get better at. Make time for your #SBMlunch.
By Hayley Dunn - May 2018