Even heidies have first days

THIS was it. The first day of my first headship. I thought back to all my other first days as I drove sedately across town in my brand new Peugeot 206. Not for me the ostentation of the personalised number plate. (Is there really a guy in Glasgow with HE1 DIE?) I dressed carefully. OK, I changed outfits twice. That smart black suit with the pads looked a little dated, although nobody criticised it at Joan's wedding. I was more relaxed in the Mamp;S grey. Powerfully business-like, but susceptible to the odd careless deposit of crayon or Plasticine. Make-up not too overwhelming.

My mind raced back to my first day as a pupil. The excitement, the fear, the apprehension. The smell of the classroom, and especially the smell of the toilets. My mother left me at the gates, told me not to worry, and that the nice lady would look after me. Strange to think that my own children will one day take me to another set of gates, tell me not to worry and that a nice lady will look after me.

I remembered the initiation ceremonies at the high school and the hour spent hiding from those awful girls in the fifth year who smelt of Consulate and Clearasil. One of them is now a university professor.

I remembered freshers' week at the university and of the endless parties, enrolments and the chinless wonders. This was different. I had to make a good impression.

My predecessor had been a living legend, church elder, Rotarian, and serial committee member. He had been awarded several fellowships and his portrait glowered down on all and sundry in the school entrance foyer. His contribution to society was unquestionable, unlike his contribution to the running of a successful school.

I rehearsed my opening remarks for the staff meeting, checking my face in the rear view mirror, and almost hit a slow-moving Ford.

Tone firm but friendly, I was told by an adviser once. Funny how she could give me advice on a primary headship when the pinnacle of her teaching career had been running a small department in an even smaller secondary.

I had been into school several times during the holiday, but had never seen any of the staff. Would they be friendly, would they be warm? Why does Doris Day keep coming into my mind? Will those builders be finished in time? The last time I was there, the playground was strewn with empty bottles of Irn-Bru, old copies of the Sun and discarded cigarette ends.

I must confess to a slight smirk of appreciation at the occasional wolf-whistle from the painters. The contract cleaners had promised to appear before today. They are based down south, and do the city schools through the night.

I never see them, but they must come from far away. I once saw a copy of the Lancashire Gazette in the staffroom.

I would meet the other teachers today, although I had wished there had been time to visit the school on the day of the interview. The whole thing was so rushed.

I was becoming more nervous as I approached the school. It was 7.30am and the first of the poor lost souls were drifting to the playground, eagerly munching on the packets of crisps which acted as a breakfast.

I was suddenly overcome with panic. I was responsible for the lives of these children. I was to become the key figure in that school. The style, tone and ethos would, to a large extent, depend on me.

Panic. I had read the books, been on the courses, got the certificates, charmed the pants off the interview panels, but this was for real.

All sorts of advice had been given to me. Do this, do that, remember this, not too much of that. Is there a helpline for panic-stricken novice heidies? I want a mentor - and I want one now!

The first of the sanctuary-seeking waifs and strays peered into my car as I drove into the car park. I tried to gather my rapidly vanishing composure.

Just then, the peace and tranquillity of the morning air was shattered by the arrival of a large, frenzied figure, dressed in navy blue but purple of face.

Waving his arms around in a style which was a cross between a religious blessing and directions to an approaching aircraft, he screamed: "Hey, ye cannae park yonder. That's the heidie's space!"

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