Where Have All The Enchanted Headteachers Gone?

If we look at the news then being a Headteacher isn’t something you want to be doing.

It’s the job that has literally ended some people’s careers and they have left the profession hurt, damaged and bent out of shape.

The pipeline isn’t looking that good because so many people are being put off from becoming a headteacher. Social media is drenched in wellbeing woes and deep-seated disenchantment who in their right mind would want to apply?

I remind colleagues to read Enchanted Headteachers: Sustainability in Primary School Headship by Ronnie Woods. He says,

There are some studies that examine how a headteacher’s career develops. Many of them see an ineviatble decline; a descent into disenchantment and withdrawal. However there are suggestions that this is not necessarily so; there is a view that long-serving headteachers can be renewed and revitalised by new waves of energy; that there is a route to sustainability and enchantment.

Now seems like the perfect time to be looking at what Woods had to say because sustainable headship is vital to the health and wellbeing of schools and the education system more generally.

Woods cites research in his book by Day and Bakioglu (1996) that identified four phases: initation, development, autonomy and disenchantment.

Wood challenged the inevitability of this process by considering what the new waves of revitalising energy might look like and employed three criteria for enchantment: length of service, effectiveness, and sustained enthusiasm and commitment.

Based on interviews with those headteachers who satisfied the criteria, Woods identified 7 key characteristics of enchanted headteachers:

1. Pride

They had a pride in their people and their achievements. They had a selfless pride and generosity of spirit.

2. Closeness

They had a special closeness to their school population and were acutely aware of their children’s needs and where they come from. They held the belief that their school was making a big difference to children’s lives.

3. Passion

These headteachers displayed a passionate commitment to learning and teaching, to the quality of provision, to maintaining high standards, to the development of fully rounded individuals who were well prepared for the next stage of their lives.

4. Respect

They had respect for the needs of others, they were sensitive to the needs of others, they placed a high value upon relationships and the quality of those relationships across the school. These heads were builders of teams and developers of people.

5. Optimistic

They viewed change as a challenge and looked at things through an optimistic lens. They believed that the school had to be kept moving forward and that it could always improve more. Any imposed change was something that was taken, adapted and made to work for them.

6. Motivation

These heads were great listeners who encouraged the contribution of others and who accepted constructive criticism and admitted their own mistakes. They were highly self-reflective.

7. Ordinary

These heads didn’t see themselves as anything special but realised that much of what they did and how they did it was context sensitive.

What can we learn from these characteristics? Can we foster these in our staff and make these teacher traits? Can we have enchanted teachers too?

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