Every teacher knows that in each academic year your week develops a distinct rhythm.
Perhaps your PPA is clustered on one day – a time of valued coffee breaks and essential catch-ups with colleagues over your marking – whilst on another you might find *that* troublesome Year 9 group follows your ‘interesting’ Year 11s. Add in a morning briefing, break duty, and lunchtime detentions and there are certain days you know you just have to get through.
After ten years, I’ve become used to the rise and fall of the teaching week. With five years as HoD under my belt, I’d also become relatively competent at managing my middle leadership duties on top of my own planning, preparation, and assessment.
However, this September I became an Associate Senior Leader and I’ve found that I’ve struggled to establish that familiar, reliable rhythm.
My day now starts (three days a week, at least) at 8am with SLT briefing. Gone are the twenty minutes that used to be spent getting ready for my day and liaising other English leaders in preparation for the day ahead. In the winter months, it was also the time spent prepping cover for flu-ridden colleagues.
On Mondays, my day now ends at 6pm after the SLT meeting. Added to this, as signalled by my mandatory neon jacket, walkie talkie, and master key, I’ve found my time taken by additional SLT duties. Officially, my duty days are Friday and Tuesday morning, but I feel obligated to be a line of support across the school at all times.
In short, my school days start earlier, end later, and are now even busier than as a middle leader.
All of these aspects of the role I was, of course, prepared for and I welcome the chance to be involved in decision making at a strategic level and to be a more visible presence across the school. What I’ve had to do is adapt my rhythm by finding new ways of working: smarter, faster, and with greater delegation.
As a side-note, if it wasn’t for our excellent new Head of English, I’m not sure managing my reduced time would be possible. My school has rightly invested in his development as a leader (DHoF, SLP, NPQSL) and as such they’ve given me rock-solid foundations on which to base my own progression.
I’ve also had to find my groove in a brand new team, one that’s close-knit from previous cycles of the school year. As a current leader of a core subject there have been times when I’ve felt my experiences have given me an opposing point of view to others but I’m keen that this becomes an asset and a strength of my involvement, rather than a staccato note in the concertos of our meetings.
What I’d not expected from my new role, is the harmony I’ve found with other subject areas. Leading 'Assessment without Levels' across the school has given me access to the hallowed turf of other Faculty work rooms. As I’ve traversed the corridors to seek people out to talk data, SIMs, and problem solving, I’ve discovered a greater sense of camaraderie and shared purpose than I ever had when confined within English. I’m also more keenly aware of the role of support staff, like our superb new Data Manager, in realising projects that will eventually impact on student achievement.
Similarly, leading events for parents and being regularly stood at the school gates has also given me a deeper sense of the school’s place within the community. I’ve never felt quite so proud of the children in our care or alert to the immense support families of all compositions give to them. My SLT work, whether it's related to the new Ofsted framework or the nuances of Attainment 8/Progress 8, don’t abstract me from this but make my focus on it even sharper as I begin to fully understand the significance of our school within the community that we serve.
In conclusion, perhaps it’s no longer about trying to find a rhythm: it’s about realising my own small part in a great symphony.