What keeps me awake at night - A good head is a rare beast indeed

22nd February 2013 at 00:00

Writing to a column dedicated to staffroom moaners and misanthropes to complain about my boss is unlikely to win me any prizes for originality, but the cause for my concern may just surprise you.

This isn't the all-too-familiar tale of a megalomaniacal head with the managerial ability of CBeebies' Mr Tumble and the interpersonal skills of a velociraptor. No, the source of my dismay is more unexpected: my boss is leaving and I'm gutted.

I'm usually the first person to play down the importance of heads. Although I've seen close up what a sorry mess a bad one can create, I'm always dubious when I hear tales of hotshot heads "turning around" struggling schools.

But I've realised in recent years that my former agnosticism about heads stemmed from the fact that I'd never encountered a really good one. I thought I'd worked (often grudgingly) under every subspecies of the genus: I'd crossed the path of several incarnations of the commonly spotted Red-Faced Bully, along with the equally prevalent Homo ineptus, a tragic creature that often comes to an ungracious and untimely end after attempting to soar far above its natural habitat.

More recently I'd wandered briefly into the path of the new super-species, the Executive Head, a creature so large and powerful that it can attract a six-figure salary for staging sporadic visits to a "cluster" of failing schools.

But around three years ago I finally came into close contact with that rarest of beasts: the Good Head. This hitherto mythical creature somehow managed to display all of the traits you would look for in the alpha member of the herd (leadership skills, vision, integrity, charisma) while still showing all the signs of being a member of the human race.

It's no coincidence that the past three years have been the most fulfilling of my career. It helps when you can have a relatively normal conversation with your boss by the coffee machine ("How was your holiday?"; "Did you see Corrie last night?"). It's also a bonus when the person in charge finds it easier to compliment your efforts or offer support than to criticise. More importantly, it makes such a difference to your working life when you feel that the captain is steering your ship in the right direction and that your input actually matters.

Now, though, I'm left with a sinking feeling as our skipper has announced that she is off to conquer new worlds, leaving the rest of us to wonder who or what will replace her. The only thing I'm sure of is that they won't be half as good.

The writer is an English teacher from the North West of England. To tell us what keeps you awake at night, email david.marley@tes.co.uk.

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