“Mr Hunt, this isn’t mission difficult…

At this time of year it is hard to do anything else than put one foot in front of the other. There is so much going on that I always resolve, for my own sanity, to just go with the flow. I’ll try to avoid booking meetings in, I’ll try not to leave some major task until the end of term, and I’ll try not to let the challenges overwhelm me.

Of course it never works out that way. Deadlines move forward from their official time because the input of others are needed, and they are off on their holidays. There are demands that just HAVE to be met before the end of term, someone will inevitably book a meeting in (which always leaves me with at least one more job) and tasks often build up to hit you in the last week. It’s always the same and whatever I do, in all my years as an School Business Leader, the last two weeks of term have always been “difficult”.

Barry, who I’ve come to accept is not the most empathetic of husbands, doesn’t understand (when I inevitably take my stress out on him) and it’s hard to communicate the tension to someone who works outside education.

On Thursday, members of our School Leadership Team received an email from the Boss. It simply read…”Why has Mister X got a face like thunder?” Now, Mister X had literally just left my office with (I thought) a smile on his face, so either something happened in those few minutes between leaving me and passing the Head in the corridor…or I upset him somehow. I don’t know. I thought back over our encounter but I couldn’t think of anything I had said (or not said) that might have caused the “face”. I replied to the email…”He has just been to see me but I don’t think (on this occasion) that it is anything I’ve said.” I heard nothing more but I guess everyone could be comfortable thinking (incorrectly I still maintain) that it was due to something “Finance Office related”.

OK, so Barry isn’t the only one who struggles with empathy. Teachers can be a notoriously tetchy bunch but I’ve come to the conclusion that, as much as they enjoy (and need) the summer holiday break, the change in routine completely stresses them out. The more you say “not long now…” or “7 more get-ups…” the more anxious they become about what they are going to do with themselves for 6 weeks of enforced downtime, interaction with family, their home life and the loss of purpose.

I can understand that.

I think it all goes back to managing change (one of my favourite topics) and we all approach it, even if it’s just a temporary change to our routine, in different ways. Some embrace it, plan the whole time like a military operation, squeeze in as much distraction as possible and appreciate the time to do something new. Others (possibly a greater proportion?) have a 2 week holiday and then kick about for the next 4 weeks becoming increasing anxious about returning to the classroom. The former doesn’t sound much like “rest” but the latter lingers in the memory so that the following year all they can remember is that the summer holiday is a time fraught with anxiety.

So, at this difficult time for everyone else when they are tired, grumpy and unwilling to believe you when you tell them their orders will arrive, their classroom will be ready, the IT will be working (and their user area intact), they will be paid in August, their plants won’t be left to die, the new printers will be installed, the corridors will be painted, the Food Technology classrooms will be deep cleaned, the new computers will be installed, there will be enough chairs, the new telephone system will be working, the scaffolding will have come down, and everything will be sorted over the summer… keep smiling, because for the SBL…

…it’s mission impossible, “Difficult” should be a walk in the park.”

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