'We must remember to take time to stop and stare, to notice the beauty and privilege of our job'

18th July 2017 at 11:11
My new school year resolution is to take more time to savour the many pleasures that keep me coming to work each day and to make sure that my colleagues are able to do so as well

The finishing line is within touching distance, the end of another school year is upon us.

Social media is awash with tired and dispirited messages, reflecting the frustrations of an underpaid, under-resourced, over-regulated and overscrutinised profession.

I will start my summer break exhausted and broken, feeling ill and unable to enjoy my new found freedoms. But after 29 years in the job – 19 of which have been as a headteacher – I know that this feeling will pass and I will restart another school year in September, invigorated and full of optimism for the job that I love.

Because I do love my job, it makes me proud; causes me to laugh out loud each day; fills my days with warmth and friendship; and inspires me to believe in the future of our world, created by the glorious young people that pass through our school gates.

I have been very vocal about all that is wrong in the system, our curriculum, high-stakes accountability, flawed tests and lack of resource, etc, but I do this because I love my job and the people with whom I work.

I work with a dream team of expert professionals: a team which I take great pride in moulding and shaping into the next generation of school leaders and practitioners.

I have between four and nine years left in this career and many of my team are within four and nine years of having started theirs. I want to ensure that my legacy for them will be a job that allows them to work to their full amazing potential and does not burn them out, chew them up and spit them aside.

Part of the responsibility for taking care of and nurturing our next generation of teachers and school leaders lies with ourselves, we must remember to take the time to stop and stare, to notice the beauty and privilege of our job, while working to address the threats and frustrations that surround us.

Last week I was encouraged to do this when visited by a reporter from Tes who was writing about the reasons why our school had won a Tes Schools Award for being a creative school.

He arrived at the culmination of our two week World of Work theme, in which children had learned about a range of careers; applied for jobs; attended interviews; worked in mixed year group places of work and created products and services to be sold at a World of Work day, to their families and members of the community.

The children gave us a hand massage, painted my nails, sold me bread and pizza and served us afternoon tea.

They demonstrated architectural plans for sustainable local developments and the bankers invited us to participate in a quiz on sound financial management.

The older mentors in each business told me how proud they were of the younger staff members in their teams and the younger ones bounced up to me giving me cuddles and gushing with excitement over their achievements.

While we toured the event, parents told me how proud they were of their children, one thanked me for allowing her child to grow and shine, despite the many challenges we had faced en-route and hugged me warmly. The reporter smiled, saying it could almost have been set up, and then it struck me how lucky I am to do this job because this was no setup, this is my daily reality.

This week I will watch with a tear in my eye as our Year 6 group present their leavers' play and assembly, as one pupil fairly new to us who arrived as a non-attender and with chronic self-esteem issues reads a beautiful poem about their aspirations and self-belief – an example of why this pupil deserves their writing assessment of working at greater depth.

I will watch children who have lived with the spectre of domestic violence, who have acted as young carers and who have struggled with exhaustion and depression, recount the many ways that they have grown and achieved at our school and as they look with youthful optimism to the future at their new schools, I will laugh and I will cry.

I live in a house that enjoys beautiful views of the Lune Valley and my school is minutes away from exquisite views over Morecambe Bay and the Cumbrian hills, but I very rarely take the time to stop and drink in these views.

In an attempt to prevent such careless disregard of this beauty I have  a copy of the poem by William Henry Davies on my kitchen wall that starts and finishes with the lines:

“A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.”

When I start back at school in September, I am going to put another copy on my office wall, because my new school year resolution will be to take more time to stop and stare. To take more time to savour the many pleasures that keep me coming to work each day and to make sure that my colleagues are able to do so as well.

Siobhan Collingwood is the headteacher of Morecambe Bay Community Primary School, winner of the Creative School of the Year category at the 2017 Tes Schools Awards. 

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