Seat Belts On: Strapping in for the Ride

I might be an adrenaline junk and thrive under pressure, but I don’t like roller coasters. I don’t mind speed nor heights, but think it is the lack of control that freaks me out. I like speed when I am in control or I know and trust who is in control. I don’t like danger and don’t put myself in dangerous situations. I also don’t like fair rides, I had a bad experience as a teen where I hurt my neck as it was unsupported as I am so tall, which put me off going on rides.

The last week has felt like I am on a roller coaster, one that is being driven by someone else, one that could become out of control if I don’t get in the driving seat, one that has made me look for my seat belt. I have ended the week in one piece, but the warning lights have made me stop, look, listen and think.

seat belt

I have pinged from one meeting to the next, I have bounced from supporting one issue or solving one problem to the next, I have rushed from one school to the other and back again. I have apologised a lot to everyone  as I have felt like I have not done anything 100% and I have not given anyone 100%. My brain hurts from all of the thinking and problem solving.

On reflection, Week 1 of being an Executive Headteacher across two sites was calm, positive and although it was hard work and I juggled lots, the week ended well and I felt like we had achieved a lot.

By contrast, Week 2 was busy, really busy, it was exhausting as I worked silly hours, I juggled lots but dropped lots, thankfully our DHTs and my PA caught them mid-air. The number of meeting requests nearly pushed me over the edge – there is simply not enough time in my diary! The week ended messily, compounded by me leaving my keys at work and being locked out first thing when I had gone in to attack the to do list. I left on Friday feeling like I had not scratched the surface of my workload, I felt physically and emotionally zapped.

I know this is exasperated by the need to get myself and others back into a new routine and that things will settle as we move into the new term, and the new year, as the team settles and routines are embedded.

I shared the change curve with my team at the start of term. Change is tiring and we have been through a lot of it in the  last year, and moving in to our next chapter we are going through as much again. We also talked through the imminent changes at the end of last year with our students and then again at the start of term to guide and support them through the changes affecting them. Their little bubble from year 1 has well and truly been popped with the arrival of lots more staff and students.

change curve

I have seen the emotional responses to the changes reflected on the faces of staff and students all week. The braver ones have voiced it to me as the week has progressed:

“We thought year 2 would be easier…”

“You told us working in a start up school was hard and we would need to be resilient but this is really intense…” 

“We need to clone you…”

“You must be spinning…”

Teaching is hard. Leadership is full on. Start up schools are intense. Headship is extreme. Executive Headship is highly-demanding.

pulled in different directions

Friday was dinner with a friend who is a fellow Headteacher, so she gets it, we had a good catch up, dinner and wine, lots of laughter but she understood when I exited at 10pm. Saturday was lunch with the #WomenEd team to plan our calendar for 2018-19. Both topped me up and made me smile.

On reflection do I (and other teachers) socialise with my friends in education during term time because they get my lifestyle and there is empathy and no guilt, nor judgement?  Similarly, do I (we) socialise with non-teachers during holidays because I am on better form and don’t want to talk about school?

I came home on Saturday after a lovely lunch and thought a quick power nap at 3.30pm would be a good idea.  I woke up confused and dazed at 1.30am. A quick nap was not going to fix my fatigue.  A deep sleep would catch me up on myself.

Why am I sharing this? Well mid-week I reached out on twitter to see if there are other Executive Headteachers who work cross-phase who can share workload and wellbeing tips with me. Following 3 days of working 6am-9pm and having dinner from the M&S garage in the car on the way home each time,  I was looking for some advice from those who had broken the back of it.  Part of the #WomenEd philosophy is to share ‘warts and all’ to not paint a rose tinted image of our profession. I am pragmatic and know things will settle and calm but think  it is important to share each bend and dip on our journeys as leaders.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Establishing a daily and weekly routine.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • Talking to the other cross-phase EHTs via a DM group on Twitter to learn from their experience.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Our team who rock.


3 thoughts on “Seat Belts On: Strapping in for the Ride

  1. Thank you, thank you. It isn’t always inspiring, uplifting – although when we emerge from the other side it is- having just conquered a million things. We need to hear the bumpy and the smooth


  2. That’s a brave post. I’m assuming you have done/tried all those standard workload management strategies you meet on most leadership courses?


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