The Headteacher of a high-performing school was once telling me about expectations he had of his staff and he mentioned how he wasn’t there for the staff, but of course he was there for the kids, as if this was the most obvious thing in the world.
I paused at the time in my head, thinking, whuuuaaat? But nodded politely, wondering… is it just me?
Turns out it is just me. I’m the weirdo. Because no one really agrees with me on this one. Everyone should always be there for the kids – apparently.
Except that when you’re a Head, you shouldn’t be, at least not in the first instance. You should be there for your staff. If your overarching motivation is the kids, then that’s fine. In fact, it would probably be a little weird it that wasn’t the case.
But you can’t be there for hundreds or in some schools, thousands of kids. You aren’t Superman. Or maybe you are, but I know I’m not. I depend on my staff to bond with the kids, to look after them, to make them smile, to be called ‘Mum’ by mistake instead of ‘Miss’, to help them with their homework, to give them thousands of motivational talks, to connect with them in lessons and to never relent, even when it would be so much easier to do so. And for my staff to do that with joy, as the Head, I need to put my staff first.
The answer is never, well you can look after everyone – everyone is the same. It can’t be. You are not Superman. The point of leadership is to prioritise, to make hard decisions, to figure out the most efficient and most effective ways of fulfilling your vision for the school, which presumably has something to do with the kids.
Focus on your staff and your kids will fly. I guarantee it.
Saying you put staff first doesn’t mean you don’t like the kids or you don’t care about them. It means you know that the best way of doing what is right by the kids is by looking after your staff.
It is the job of the teachers to be there for the kids. It is the job of the Head to provide an environment where the teachers can do their jobs. And that means as a Head, it is wrong to focus on the kids, unless of course you are Superman, which means you can focus on everything.
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