Are you falling out of love with Headship?

 
Do you feel you still have the same zest for being a Headteacher as your very first day? Do you wake up in the morning looking forward to what the day at school brings and leave work enthused by what you’ve accomplished? Does your future as a Headteacher excite you?
 
Answering no to any of these questions is very normal, particularly after a tough week or a mound of paperwork or a difficult encounter with a parent or pupil. However, many can find they struggle to find the same joy that the role originally offered them for months and even years.
 

Losing the joy of School Leadership can be caused by a number of things. However, I believe School Leaders losing their joy for the role says less about the individuals in question who struggle with this phenomenon and more about the intense pressures and baggage which comes with being a head teacher.

In particular, I believe there are 4 key pressures that can serve to diminish a Headteacher’s love of their role…

 

1.  High Expectation and Accountability

 
Headteachers are acutely aware of the enormous responsibility placed on their shoulders namely, the proper education and happiness of all the school’s pupils. However, if this was not enough, Headteachers often also have to constantly meet (if not exceed) the considerable and often, diverse needs, hopes and expectations of school Governors, politicians and thousands of parents and pupils. Keeping all these stakeholders happy is often not merely a tough balancing act but can be a minefield.
 

2. Job Insecurity

 
Growing accountability culture in schools means that Headteachers’ hard work, reputations and careers can be destroyed by one or two bad results, complaints or outcome of an Ofsted report. As such head teachers are in the impossible environment of trying to establish a great place to children to grow and learn, whilst fighting to keep their job and the anxiety which comes with this.
 

3. Maintaining a Perpetual Appearance of Strength

 
Headteachers, more than most, are expected to act and remain an appearance of strength and control. Heads feel they must appear unmoved by the intense scrutiny, expectation and pressure of the role and to be able to stomach any criticism and complaints which come their way.
 
In particular, dealing with indirect and direct abuse from challenging behaviour from vulnerable children, parents and even staff on a daily basis and coming through these experiences and being unshaken can be incredibly tough.
 
Moreover, in the environment of a school, there is little support structure and ability to get real help when you are struggling, as to do so can be seen as weakness or admitting you’re not up to the job.
 

4. Struggling to maintain a healthy work-life balance

 
All of this is made exponentially harder when you consider having to balance all this alongside maintaining marriages, bringing up children and enjoying something of a life outside of work.
 
Headteachers often find themselves working considerably beyond the 50-hour mark on a regular basis.  Headship can become all-consuming and mean some individuals feel that they simply aren’t able to give proper time and care to their personal and social lives if they are to ensure that their school’s expectations and aims are met.
 

Signs

 
Whilst these can all serve to dishearten School Leaders, these challenges can be carefully managed in such a way as not to damage one’s joy and enthusiasm for the role.
 
However, for many in the face of the constant pressures over months, if not years, these can begin to take a toll on the individual.
 
The joy can dwindle at different rates, depending on the opportunities Heads have for renewal, the support structure they have available and numerous other factors.
 
The signs that your love for the role might be fading can also vary depending on the individual. If spotted at a lesser stage, one can recapture the joy they had far more easily. Some of the early signs include:
 
– Feeling frequently physically & mentally exhausted.
– Going through the motions.
– Seeing less excitement in projects
– Focusing on negative voices in your head and from those around you and letting those inform how you think and your own self-esteem.
– Going home worried or upset about the school and/or the day’s events
– Beginning to doubt oneself
– Becoming withdrawn and becoming easily irritable
– Worrying about and/or anticipating about the worst possible outcome
 
Left unexamined or ignored these feelings can have serious consequences for your mental wellbeing, your personal relationships and even your leadership of the school.  If not tackled, then these symptoms can turn into:
 
– Loss of hope about your job or even career.
– Heavy loss of confidence about skills and qualities
– Self-blame – Feelings that you are letting stakeholders down.
– Burn-out – complete emotional exhaustion in which we derive less satisfaction from our lives.
– School Performance Suffering
– Turning to self-medication, such as alcohol, food or smoking to supress feelings of stress and/or anxiety.
– In extreme cases, depression
 


Without a doubt the pandemic brought many unexpected challenges for us all. However, one of the silver linings of the past two years has been a heightened awareness of what matters most for all of us. We learnt:

– The value of community

– The need to stay connected

– The importance of being supported

We also learnt that deeper connections matter, none of us can survive alone and to thrive and overcome the challenges of leadership life we need real, deep, and meaningful connections with others.

That’s why we have launched our new “Heads Together”, a new School Leadership community, designed to connect like-minded school-leaders and to provide a watering hole for inspiration, encouragement and support.

Our “Heads Together” Community is designed to provide School Leaders with:

– A vital network of support to help individuals manage the emotional strains and stresses of the role

– Collaborative forums for thoughtful exploration around timely and important leadership themes

– Inspiration and encouragement throughout the year to help keep leaders’ passion and purpose alive

If you’d like to find out more about the community, and how it could help support you in your role, simply follow the link below…

Learn more

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