I think one of the best things that anyone involved in school leadership can do is to get someone to support them. Whether that’s a coach, a mentor, or a counsellor; it’s crucial to have someone who’s got your back.
The problem is that since school leadership is a very particular type of job, it’s often hard to find support that really gets what you’re going through. While anything’s better than nothing, it can be really hard on everybody involved when when your source of support doesn’t really get that…
There’s a huge learning curve involved in being a school Head, especially when you first start out. If your source of support doesn’t realise that this is going on for you, they’re not going to really be able to be there for you through all the stress, fear, and uncertainty that comes along with growth.
Even though you’re surrounded by people all day, being a school leader can be very lonely. It’s hard to find people you can really share openly about the job with — even fellow Heads are often reluctant to open up about what’s going on beneath the surface.
And that’s not even considering the isolation that comes when you’re worried about the people above you looking for a reason to replace you at every OFSTED inspection. While your support may understand cognitively that you’re feeling isolated, it’s not the same as having someone who’s been through it.
You’re in a low trust/high accountability situation.
Even if you’re unfamiliar with the terminology, I bet you know this type of situation really well. You’re told what to do via top-down commands, and you have very little control over the outcomes, which makes you feel resentful and totally disempowered. When in you’re in this kind of “can’t win for losing” situation, it can be hard to explain to your support exactly how to help you, because it seems like there’s nothing you can really do about anything.
You’re dealing with the hidden expectations of Headship.
There are loads of requirements, criteria, and qualifications you have to have before you can become a school leader … and then there’s the whole world of hidden expectations that come with the job that no one ever tells you about. If your source of support isn’t clued in to these requirements, you’ll be left trying to explain them to him or her as you’re figuring them out yourself, which is no good. (More on this here.)
If this is sounding (perhaps uncomfortably) familiar, I’ve got three tips for you:
1. Don’t buy into the myths.
People will tell you things like “It’s lonely at the top”, and you’ll see those “Super-Heads” who seem to have it all together, but believe me when I say they’re all myths!
2. Reconnect with the things that make you feel human.
When things start to get overwhelming, think about why you got into education to begin with, and try to do something connected to that, even if it’s just going to watch the kids playing outside during break time for a few minutes.
3. Get a life outside school.
After a long day at school, the last thing on earth you want to do when you get home is find something else that takes up your energy. But it’s important to have some variety in your day, and to be able to really relax and enjoy yourself. So ask yourself, what’s something you really love doing? And how can you incorporate more of that into your life?
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