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5 Ways To Survive Your First Deputy Headship

If that much-coveted promotion to the position of deputy head has left you feeling lost at sea, Steph Caswell has some words of advice...

  • 5 Ways To Survive Your First Deputy Headship

Go on, admit it. You knew it had to happen, but promotion was the kick up the backside you needed.

Your new Deputy Head job finally meant a new, updated wardrobe – you definitely had to look the part with the right tie or the right pair of kitten heels. While you were at it, you purchased some new stationary in the form of a serious-looking pen and notebook for taking notes at those serious-looking meetings. Maybe you also picked up a new briefcase or bag to carry around your ‘deputy head stuff’, whatever that might include.

You looked in the mirror and smiled. After a quick check to ensure there was nothing stuck in your teeth, you were good to go, practically skipping out the door.

But that was weeks ago.

Now you don’t care if your dress matches your shoes, or if you’ve worn the same tie for three days in a row. You’re just happy if you make it home in time for dinner and can leave without waking the children. Spinach in your teeth is a welcome reminder of when you last ate.

The reality of deputy headship has kicked in and you need some advice. So what can make your life easier? What can make this new role more manageable?

1. Be organised

Map out your month in advance on a grid, noting upcoming deadlines, meetings and teaching commitments. From this grid create weekly to-do lists and use those as the basis of your daily to- do lists.

Cross things off as you complete them – it will give you a great sense of achievement. You can even cross off things you’ve already done before making the list. (I won’t tell, promise…)

As you come to each task on your list, break it down into manageable chunks and cross off each of those chunks until the task is complete.

2. Build relationships

Be visible in the school. Don’t be tempted to hide in your office, under your desk – get out there and meet parents, pupils and visitors.

Smile at the children when you see them and ask how they are. Set yourself a personal challenge to learn all of their names by the end of the autumn term. When your timetable permits, stand at the door in the mornings to greet them. Remember that all relationships are built on trust and mutual respect. This will help you to develop good professional relationships with the staff and pupils in the school.

3. Display your teaching ‘badges’

The best way to prove you’re ‘worthy’ of deputy headship? Get in to classes and teach. Show off your skills and you’ll earn the respect of the staff very quickly. They will be more inclined to listen to your advice and put your suggestions into place if they know you can walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

It will also help you with learning all of those names…

4. Continue to learn

The journey from teacher to senior leader is hard. You’ll no longer be part of staffroom banter, and conversations may stop when you enter a room. It can be a tough pill to swallow, but swallow it you must.

To manage the transition, get on some leadership courses and improve your skills. Leading a team of people is tricky at times, so the more training you have, the better equipped you’ll be to manage any difficult situations.

5. Maintain a healthy work-life balance

I know – I can hear you laughing from here. This isn’t the easiest of things to achieve, but it’s crucial. You’ll struggle in both your job and your home life if you don’t start as you mean to go on.

Learning to say ‘no’ is vitally important and can save your sanity. When asked to take on additional tasks, consult your monthly planner. Can you really take on anything else? Can you move other things around to accommodate the new request? If not, then you’ll need to be strong about saying ‘no’ and explain why. You deserve a life outside of school – you are not all things to all people.

Talk through your regular tasks with the headteacher. Is there anything you can delegate to free up more time?

Moving Forwards

Becoming a deputy head is a learning curve, and one you should embrace. You’ll have good days and you’ll have bad days. Celebrate the good and learn from the bad – it’s the only way you’ll improve. But most of all. enjoy it. You are now a leader who can inspire adults and children alike.

That’s why you came into the job, isn’t it?

Steph Caswell is a former deputy headteacher and currently a freelance consultant, author and NQT mentor; she also hosts the NQTLife podcast

For more information, visit www.thenqtmentor.com or follow @NQTLife_

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