Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Why I Fired Myself

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Why I Fired Myself

Article excerpt

You don't need complaints from parents to know that something's wrong. A teacher is missing lessons week after week, preparation is sketchy, marking is patchy and the children are losing out. At such moments, a headteacher has to act.

Don't put off those tough conversations. Although there may be tears, you must act - kindly, to be sure, but firmly too. But what happens when the culprit is someone close to you? Actually, closer than close: what happens when it's you?

I found myself in that position 10 years ago. When I started out as a headteacher 10 years before that, I decided not to teach: it was an internal promotion and I had to remove myself from the staff body to a visible extent. I told myself that it was the price of leadership (I'm noble like that).

Then an RE teacher fell seriously ill mid-year. What could I do but step in? The next thing I knew, I was back on timetable.

But then came that moment, a decade ago, when I met a hugely experienced fellow headteacher on a station platform. We exchanged pleasantries, then he looked at me sharply and asked: "Are you still pretending to teach?"

I was. By then I'd moved on through Year 7 Latin and German to beginners' Italian in Year 9.

My inquisitor went on: "So I suppose you've had to set work while you miss another lesson? Then there'll be the marking to do when you get back. And then you'll find you've got to miss the next lesson anyway. You're doing it badly, the kids get a raw deal, and you feel lousy about it."

He was right on all counts. Don't you hate it when people do that? …

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