Thank God it's Friday

27th November 1998 at 00:00
Monday: My first day as a headteacher and my first executive decision. Do I walk, cycle, roller-blade or take the car? Decide to try my new walking boots to allow thinking time. Big blisters develop but thinking time is successful. I determine that the best thing about being a primary head is that you can throw away empty yoghurt pots without guilt.

I walk around reassuring people that no matter how early they start and how much they do, they will still not be ready when the children arrive. Staff keep asking me what I want to do about x, y and z. I ask what is normally done, and does it work? I consider making a sign saying "If it isn't broke we won't be fixing it".

I could get used to being a headteacher, I think, as I walk home with the boots in the backpack. It is like a coat that fits exactly: across the shoulders, in the sleeves and it's exactly the right length.

Tuesday: I invite staff and governors to hear my "vision" for the school. There are nods and grunts of approval but rather serious faces. One of the strengths of the school is the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff but I tell them you wouldn't know it to look at them.

Today I choose the bike and find that the best place to store it is in the gents' toilets. I ask both male members of staff if they mind. They don't. More mail. I manage to deal with today's but hardly make a dent in yesterday's.

Wednesday: This is the day I meet the important people, the children. I arrive in my car to bring my guitar and take away piles of paper to be recycled - the debris from mail and sorting files. Another enormous pile of letters, forms, circulars and handbooks arrives. I put it with the rest and attempt to balance a paperweight on top - a leaving present from the last lot of governors.

I introduce myself to parents who are as delighted at getting rid of the children as I am at receiving them. I neglect to organise the weather properly and have a wet dinner time. I ask what the usual procedure is and am told I entertain key stage 2 in the hall - 200 of them. The guitar gets an airing.

Thursday: The roller blades get their turn this morning. As I arrive and sink gratefully into a chair to remove the boots, the caretaker comes running in. The cleaner has told him there is a "kid on roller blades trying to get into the office". I am flattered.

Year 5 and 6 pupils write to tell me what they like about the school and what they would like to change - dinners and the length of the school day. Other children are writing stories about the new headteacher. I read that I get blown up, locked in the toilets, fall out of windows and burn to death.

Friday: The honeymoon couldn't last and I get to deal with my first behaviour problems. One child has put his Tamagotchi down his underpants rather than hand it over. By the time I get there, the teacher has managed to repossess it. Another child is refusing to hand over his pea shooter, a device he has made from the finger of a rubber glove. He gives up the offending article and later tells his teacher that the new headteacher is OK because she doesn't shout and she smiles a lot. I can live with that.

By 5pm I reach the bottom of the mail and I realise that I have never been this tired since I started teaching and used to come home and fall asleep immediately. Which I do.

Cathy Byrne has been headteacher of Danepark primary in Hull since September

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