The 10 commandments for heads of school

I think I can safely say that, in the years since taking on the role of head of school, I have made every mistake known to man. I can’t honestly say I am done with making mistakes either; there are probably plenty more waiting in the wings. At the same time, and maybe as a result of my trials and errors, I have reached a stage where I feel I can give a little bit of advice to new heads. So, here they are, in no particular order, my ten commandments for heads of school.   

  1. Thou shalt not claim to be something you are not. You might have noticed that you’re not equipped with a cape or a body-hugging costume; it’s a sign: you are not a superhero. You are also not on a heavensent mission to solve all problems single-handedly. Accept that you are human and do so quickly, otherwise you are in for a rude awakening.
  2. Thou shalt surround thyself with people who are more intelligent than you. If you’re the one doing the recruiting, why not choose the brightest people? It’s the best thing for the students. And, while you’re at it, don’t hog the limelight; give your staff time to shine too.  
  3. Thou shalt weigh thy words; they count, not only for you but for the entire school community, which will act and react according to what you say, according to your choice of adjective.
  4. Thou shalt leave your office from time to time because spending your days behind a computer screen is no good for anyone. You will go and have a look at what is happening around the school (and you will see beautiful things).
  5. Thou shalt bear in mind that you work in a school, not in a secret branch of the CIA. Of course there are things that must be kept confidential, but beyond that, it’s never a good idea to keep secrets – small or large. Share, communicate, invite, discuss.
  6. Thou shalt reserve some time to think and reflect. And not only at the end of the day when everyone else has gone home. Pencil it in on your schedule for the mornings when you’re thinking most clearly. I know you’re concerned that by doing so some might say you are doing nothing, but you are also paid for your ideas. It’s in the job description.
  7. Thou shalt tell the truth. Or rather thou shalt not talk nonsense. If you don’t have the answer, say so. Some people might be surprised (aren’t you supposed to be all-knowing?) but they’ll get over it. If you make a mistake, and let’s admit it, it happens to everyone, there is always a remedy (the quicker you look for it, the quicker it can be found).
  8. Thou shalt work on your speeches. There is nothing like the awkwardness you experience when you find yourself, microphone in hand, in front of 300 people mumbling banalities because you had told yourself you would find something to say. Except well, this time, you haven’t.   
  9. Thou shalt remember that school is a world unto itself. Everyone has memories of their school days – each of them very personal – which affect our perception of the institution. Consequently, everyone has a different opinion of what school is and you should always take the time to listen to the different opinions out there.
  10. And on the 7th day thou shalt rest (and if you’re lucky, a little bit on the 6th day too).

 

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