I tweeted a few weeks ago that walking with dogs reminds me that it is the journey that is important, not the destination. Of course, the dogs I walk with don’t want to get home, they would stay out all day, running through the fields, jumping in the puddles, swimming in the river and generally investigating anything of interest…sort of what I used to get up to as a child in my wellies.
More walking and mind-wandering has led me to extend the analogy and I’ve decided that walking with dogs is a lot like being a School Business Manager.
Let me tell you why…
First of all you are dragged out of the house every day, whether you like it or not, by (in my case) two energetic and exuberant dogs, Dash and Violet, excited to find out where the journey will take them today. They always think I’ll turn right, as I often do into the fields but sometimes I surprise them by turning left, down to the river. Similarly, in all my years as an SBM, I’ve never been able to fully anticipate what the day might hold. There are so many variables, waiting to throw in a curve ball and test my adaptability reflexes, that I now just expect the unexpected. The banana stuffed round the u-bend, the student who comes to your office to apologise for putting his foot through the wall, the request to convert an old shed into a workshop by half term, the very last minute trip proposal… no two days are ever the same. Isn’t that what we love about it?
I often think, as I’m chasing around the site that my whirlwind role is much like Violet who, after startling a pheasant out of the hedgerow, gives chase across the field. I know she won’t catch it, Violet knows she won’t catch it and I’m willing to bet the pheasant itself knows she won’t catch it. The joy for everyone is in the chase itself.
There are no precious stones, but there is definitely SBM treasure to be found along this way if you take the time look around you. Students of any age are an obvious source of sheer joy but there is also treasure to be found in the spreadsheet that finally comes together, the finishing of a much needed building refurbishment, infectious laughter in the downstairs office and someone unexpectedly saying ‘thank you’.
Like the farmer who blocks off a well used gateway, there are always obstacles in the way for an SBM. Just remember to keep calm…there is always another way round.
I’ve walked in driving rain, flood and heavy snow, in brilliant sunshine and a howling gale. The dogs don’t care about the weather, we all just hunker down and keep going. We chose the safest route (risk-assessing as we go) and enjoy our changing seasons cycle like we, as SBMs, enjoy the cycle of an academic year. Of course we like the fair weather days and we tend to walk further in those, but wouldn’t it be boring without the unpredictability of our environment? And we can often find shelter and support in amazing places.
I often have the intention of a quick ‘walk around the block’ but when I’m out there I enjoy the fresh air, the exercise, watching the dogs having fun and noticing my surroundings that it is so easy to walk a lot further. Sometimes the gradients get steep but the feeling of accomplishment when you get to the top is exhilarating.
Being an SBM is a journey of learning curves, challenges, joy and frustration. I’m never going to know everything, I’m never going to have experienced everything. I’ll always have something new to learn but that’s why I love it. I intend to appreciate the journey as I go, making sure I stop to take in the view occasionally and enjoy the ride.
The final destination will be when I hand my role over to someone else but, just like my dogs, I’m not ready to arrive home just yet. I’ve still got so much to discover.