Mary-Jo Hill

21 Oct 2020
I know many have had hard times, really hard times but I celebrate and feel joyous for all the students and teachers and schools.

‘School leadership has changed considerably. School leadership has shifted on its axis and is unlikely return to ‘normal’ anytime soon, if ever at all’ *

I admit that my ‘soap’ of choice in the days of terrestrial TV was Casualty on BBC1. And I never knew an episode to pass without some tears falling down my cheeks. A perfect outlet to the many stresses of coping with young students and their complex lives. But as parents and friends moved more seriously towards the reality of the programme I found it too close to watch and too uncomfortably real.

And then I discovered the joy of Channel 5. Endless programmes on royals, past and present. slightly salacious and enough repetition of content to grab a cup of tea, do a bit of work and still not miss out and last night, witness to a completely joyous fest of an evening devoted to Queen. The band. It was almost too much to take in. I stayed awake far beyond normal. The enormity of what the band and Freddie Mercury conveyed is something that I remember as a young girl and teenager. I was in tears throughout most of the programme.

School leadership has changed

It resonated with the fact that school leadership has shifted on its axis and is unlikely to return to normal anytime soon, real front line stuff. It brought back to me all the hardest cases of children with HIV, and my work in the 90s in London and the rest. Those on edutwitter today will have heard about Lily. I remember vividly to this day when I was asked to take Byron outside for misbehaving at Lewisham Town Hall Chambers and the multi-school council meet (which was brilliant by the way or so I thought as a teacher). Byron had not had anything to eat for 24 hours. The last thing he had eaten was a cold boiled egg 24 hours before we were chatting in an incongruous setting. I took him for something to eat. Radical, these days.

The real issue is that it is not until you have borne witness to such realities that you can even begin to comprehend what it means. That is the real problem right now. How do you bear witness if you are not a leader in a school? Because, you know what, as a leader of a school you are privileged to witness the full breadth of how it really is. The society that lays around us. You bear witness to what is really on our doorsteps.

It has echoed with so many encounters via coaching and supervision in these last few weeks and how superhuman so many headteachers and teachers and all edustaff are and continue to be. Individuals with such conviction beyond the everyday. Headteachers and staff going above and beyond to meet the needs of their community. And also the mask and parade and showmanship that it takes. Real energy is drawn deep from a deep-rooted purpose, whilst those around us face so many different things. Schools bind us to normality, routine and an even playground of sorts for many, but not all.

Tears have been a recent focus on #edutwitter and it was not until last evening that I recalled the absolute necessity for allowing those tears to fall. Music does that for many. Freddie Mercury does it for me every time. How resounding and pertinent and therefore of humankind can his lyrics and melody really be? Insurmountable. Still. Years on. That live chanting at the Live Aid concert is for you right now.

The show must go on

This brings me to the celebration of a half term and some findings from Alma and Harris (2020)*. ‘School leadership has changed considerably. School leadership has shifted on its axis and is unlikely return to ‘normal’ anytime soon, if ever at all’. I know many have had hard times, really hard times but I celebrate and feel joyous for all the students and teachers and schools. Hypocrisy, inequality. You will continue to be the forefront of this. Education has been prioritised. This will be televised. The show must go on. If there was any video to share, virtually of course, as we think of the next half term ahead. This is it. The bingo game for CPD is to name a teacher to match the band member. And we know there are some Bryan Mays out there.

*Extracts from Alma Harris & Michelle Jones (2020) COVID 19 – School leadership in disruptive times, School Leadership & Management, 40:4, 243-247