Family, Observations

Am I becoming a Lost Leader?

If I think of the people I know who are teachers, most are women.  Some are in

Image taken from Pixabay and edited using Word Dream
Image taken from Pixabay and edited using Word Dream

leadership roles, but most are not.  And in fact, most of those who I speak to don’t want to be in leadership.  I do.  It took me a fair while to realise this, but know I know it.  I want to be a Deputy Head.  I have no doubt that I will get there one day, but at the moment, I’m not sure how.

I started teaching 15 years ago and for a very long time, I was happy to be “just” a teacher. Please forgive the “just”, it is in no way meant as a derogatory term, but you know what I mean. I’ve been in the same school for all of my 15 years, having had a series of roles there, with increasing responsibility.  I love my school , and it will be a real wrench to leave one day, but I know that one day reasonably soon, I must.  The trouble is, I don’t know when the right time would be for me.

Jill Berry wrote recently about the Lost Leaders: the women in education who could be fantastic leaders, but choose not to be.  I don’t want to be one of those women.  But I easily could be.  The problem is (and again, I use the word “problem” in the very loosest sense of the word) that I have a young family.  I have not yet found the right time to make the move.  Before T, my 6 year old son, was born, I didn’t feel I was ready for senior leadership.  After he came along, I did make one very half-hearted attempt at an application for Deputy Headship, but I knew again that the time wasn’t right as my family was not yet complete.  Since returning to work last year after the birth of my daughter, I have been more and more convinced that senior leadership was for me, especially since being given more responsibility at my current school.  I’ve got the power shoes, I’ve got the posh leather satchel, now I just need the job to go with them!

I know that moving into Deputy Headship would clearly mean more work, but I am sure that I would be able to balance this with my family: I have always had very clear rules about working which I have managed to stick to, but my problem now is working part time.  When T was born, I returned to work full time, which I found to be a real wrench. Now, I work 4 days, which is fantastic.  I get to have a day at home each week with G and do the school runs for T.  I’m not prepared to give that up yet, which means the chances of me getting a new job are nigh on impossible.  Deputy Headships seem to be very few and far between, and part time roles are completely non-existent.  Of course, accepting a full time role and then dropping a day after a few years is a possibility, but then I would have to deal with the guilt of not spending time with my children.   I don’t want to miss out on having “Mummy Days” with them – I love those days of playing in the garden and having mid-morning pain au chocolat together. I have to say, no-one has ever put the guilt on me: my family have always been very supportive of my desire (and need) to work.  The guilt is all my own.  But now, on top of the guilt, I have frustration to deal with.

Only the other day, MNQTH (that’s the first time I’ve properly called him that!) talked about moving into Middle Leadership – on the day that he became an NQT! I scoffed at the time, telling him to give himself time in the role before even thinking about the next step, but I know he has the drive and ambition to climb the ladder quickly if he chooses.  It’s frustrating to think that he may even overtake me, but then that’s the choice I have made.  I am determined that I will not be a Lost Leader, working out my days regretting and bemoaning the fact that I never moved on.  For now, I shall continue scouring the vacancies board and wondering.  But I will, sometime soon, make that move.

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12 thoughts on “Am I becoming a Lost Leader?

  1. I know exactly what you mean, Hayley. It is a very difficult thing, to find a way to give your experience and dedication to a school in terms of leadership and do it in a part time manner.

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  2. It does seem incredibly unfair that women are so negatively affected by being the more likely to desire part-time hours.
    I do think there is an increasing number of school leaders (and governors) who recognise this and would consider an applicant willing to work 4 days. You just need the right one to come along – here’s hoping it comes along at just the right time.

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    1. There is now a minority of teachers in my school working full time, with many opting for 4 days. It seems that Deputy Heads are staying put around here, so even full time roles don’t appear very often. I shall keep looking…

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  3. Sorry I’m only just catching up with this, Hayley – it’s been a full-on week and I’m a little behind with my blog reading!

    Is it helpful to think about working backwards? In my early years of teaching I assumed I’d probably work until I was 60. In the event, I managed to finish full-time work at 52 (and have never regretted that). I was able to plan for and budget for it, so that in the last stretch of my professionally useful life I could do different things – study, consultancy work and a fair amount of unpaid but interesting stuff.

    These days it’s probably more common to assume you might be working until you’re 65 – or even later. If you did decide to go on to headship in due course (and although you might not think you want that now, if you were a deputy for 5-10 years you might well decide you wanted to take the next step after that). So if you were to become a head by 55, does that mean that you might want to be a deputy by 45? An Assistant Head by 40? I’m not sure how old you are now – mid to late 30s I assume if you’ve been teaching for 15 years? (Sorry if this sounds rude!)

    The reason I’m saying this is that exactly when you make the move from one role to another (if you decide you want that fresh challenge) depends on a number of factors. I became a head at 41, but I wasn’t fortunate enough to have children. I think if I HAD been, I might still have wanted to be a head but it would have taken me longer. At different stages we can want different things in our lives and have different priorities. Whether we can balance our different commitments depends on our own motivation/discipline/resilience but also on what support networks we have. You have to choose a time-frame that works for you. I think this is true of men as much as of women.

    I know it does depend on what comes up, whether you find a job you’re suited to, how geographically flexible you are, etc. But think about what might be workable for you and don’t panic that if you don’t move to deputy headship within the next few years you’ll be a Lost Leader. If you want it sufficiently, and you’re determined you will get there, I’m sure.

    Hope this is to some extent helpful!

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    1. Jill, thank you for this. I think the point you make about working backwards is a very good one. I’m 36, so have a lot of teaching years left (probably far more than I would hope for!!), so I know there is still plenty of opportunity to move on ahead of me. I think for me, and for many others, the frustration lies in the fact that professionally, I’m ready now (or very soon) to move on, but personally, it will be a good few years before the time is right. An ALMOST full time assistant/deputy headship would be ideal for so many, but understandably, schools don’t want that. I’ve always been one to go out and do/get things when I want them, but this is one time when I can’t do that. I know the time will come, I just need to challenge myself in other ways until then.

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  4. And I’m sure you will. Look for challenges in your current role. It will keep you stretched and interested and help to prepare you for the future too.

    It doesn’t have to be a problem that you’ve spent a long time in one school providing you have achieved different things while you’ve been there.

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