‘Course he’s got no legs…

For a short time after school, I lived with my Grandmother in the local city. Looking back, I think this served two purposes for my Mother. It meant I could take the step into further education without a stupidly long, unreliable bus journey or extortionate living expenses and it meant I could be there to keep an eye on my increasingly frail Granny.

There were definite benefits for a rather sheltered country bumpkin teenager so I wasn’t complaining. Granny and I used to sit down every afternoon, with a cup of tea, shortbread fingers and ‘Neighbours’, and discuss our day. Granny’s day usually consisted of what her own neighbours were up to and there was one chap, living opposite, she particularly liked to keep her eye on. Bert had experienced the misfortune, probably through diabetes, of having had both his legs amputated recently. He had lots of home help but Granny liked to watch the comings and goings of Bert’s life through her kitchen window as well as pop over and see him occasionally, and every time she finished telling me about Bert she would add…

…” ‘course, he’s got no legs.”

In her eyes, everything that happened to Bert was because he had no legs; his wife had gone into hospital, they’d chopped down the tree in his garden, he’d gone to the doctors, his helper hadn’t arrived with his shopping, he’d run out of clean shirts… ‘course he’s got no legs… for her, that made it all understandable.

When I think of that time in my life, it reminds me how often we hear (or use) reasons to explain a problem at hand, or to justify an incomplete task.

  • ‘course I haven’t had proper training
  • ‘course we’re short-staffed
  • ‘course I wasn’t given enough time
  • ‘course that’s not in my job description
  • ‘course I’m under a lot of stress

But before taking on the task in question have they (or you) asked for training, support, time or extra recognition and have they (or you) been looking after their own well being? If not, then the reason can only be, ‘course I didn’t ask for the resources I needed.

I willingly accept that, even with my supposed experience, I can be horribly guilty of this. Following my recent cock-up (there is no other word) in a Governors meeting I considered all my excuses, most of which are bulleted above, then I thought about blaming the Governors (why did they wait for the meeting to point out my mistake?) but I have now come round to the acceptance that I have too much going on, I tried to complete the task too quickly, didn’t check my numbers thoroughly enough and, as a result, let myself down. It’s only now I’ve worked all that out, that I can lay the blame at my own feet, learn from the experience, rework the numbers (which was frustratingly simple) and move on.

I believe SBL’s need two very important skills in their repertoire to succeed in the role; an ability to reflect, and the ability to say ‘No’ or at least ‘Not until…’, not just for ourselves but for our teams too. I always hope I do enough to help protect my teams from some of the nonsense that goes around in the daily operations of a school, but I acknowledge it sometimes inevitably means I’m taking on small stuff that I really shouldn’t, which then impacts on time available for things that are actually on my job description (like reporting to Governors)! We’re all flat-out busy and support staff roles are the first to be lost in belt-tightening times so the SBL is bound to take on a ‘gatekeeping’ role to ensure that priorities are met, tasks are completed and everyone retains their sanity, but, and I must work harder to remember this, that gatekeeping must include ourselves.

So, the next time you (and I) are asked to take on yet another task, think of my Granny, think of Bert, think of real reasons for likely failure, secure the resources you’re going to need, or just say…No, not until…

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