In Episode 2, Season 6 of Game of Thrones, my favourite character, Tyrion Lannister, utters his greatest line. The moment is thus:
Tyrion Lannister: Dragons do not do well in captivity.
Missandei: How do you know this?
Tyrion Lannister: That’s what I do. I drink and I know things.
A version of this quote occurs to me now every time I am asked “what exactly do headteachers do?”
What I want to reply is…
“I think and I know things.”
It takes a while to get used to the fact that you don’t do as much as a headteacher as you used to. So much time is spent on talking through with others what they plan to do. I don’t mean that headteachers aren’t occupied. There are things to do like meet parents, bus duty, write reports for governors, pick up litter… an endless list of activities. But the big projects, the change-management, the stuff that has a beginning and an end, is far less a feature of your working life.
I rely much less as a consequence on ‘to-do lists” than I used to. Instead my note pad is full of thoughts, haphazardly captured to be discarded or returned to at a later date.
Strangely, I find being less frenetic (less ‘busy’) more stressful, and in some ways less rewarding. Change is achieved indirectly, through those you lead, meaning less control over the outcome. Time to think means time to dwell. Everything takes SO LONG! Your impact is measured in years, not in the ticking off of the jobs completed.
I’m not sure where I’m going with this other than to say that if you catch your headteacher deep in thought, reading something or apparently wandering aimlessly around the school, don’t talk them down. They may not look as busy as you feel, but they probably feel as frustrated as you look.
After all, would you prefer a headteacher who looks frantic and out of control, or one who thinks and knows things?