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New headteacher and hating it

Discussion in 'Headteachers' started by freddiecider, Oct 3, 2016.

  1. freddiecider

    freddiecider New commenter

    I've been the Acting Head of a school since Sept and I am now the head. Prior to this I was a deputy in the same school for 10 years- a job that was sometimes frustrating but ultimately I loved.

    However I now absolutely hate my new role. Early days I know, but I have a constant sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I'm hardly sleeping either. There is an awful lot to sort out as things hAve not been how they should be for some time. I have no deputy and it has already been agreed that I won't have one until next Sept. Even that will be hugely complicated anyway due to possible internal candidates.

    Yes , I should have thought about all of this before. I thought I had and thought I could do it. However I hadn't anticipated the enormity of it all. I'm desperate to go back to being deputy- I think I'm much better at that and will work with anyone.

  2. Hi Freddie,

    I am so sorry to hear this - that sounds like a really difficult situation you have been placed in. As a New HT, particularly during such a difficult transition period, you really need firm support from a DHT & SLT. We often forget that whilst we can do so many great things - we can't do everything alone. It's so important that you don't let this inform your value as a HT when you've been put in an impossible situation. They wouldn't have given you the role, if you weren't HT material :)

    Also, you'd be amazed how common the feelings and sleep problems you're experiencing are with HTs I've come across. I know personally, when I was a Head, even though people were very positive about my Headship, at the end of every school week - I'd leave school feel isolated, afraid and full of self-doubt.

    I'll always remember what I wrote in my diary one week:

    “The job is all consuming and I feel so alone. There seems to be no one I can go to when things go wrong, to talk through difficult situations. I love this school, I love my staff, and I love the children, but does leading have to be at such a great personal cost?”

    Heads in my experience are forced to wear a mask to give the impression that they are coping but we can't pretend forever.

    The problem is that the system can make Heads feel they can't be honest about the pressure they are under, let alone find ways for dealing with it. However, that doesn't mean Heads shouldn't be honest and ask for the support they need.

    I actually shared a story of a Head teacher (who'd been a Head for years) but who also felt like she was on the brink. She barely slept, she found herself working 85 hours a week, her relationship with her husband had suffered She was so wrapped up worrying about her pupils and her school that she had forgotten to think about what all this was doing to her. She'd sacrificed herself for so long that all she wanted to do was leave.

    She even said that "coming in and putting a smile on my face was becoming such a burden that I had genuinely made plans to sit on a till in Sainsbury’s, just so I could do anything other than carrying on in this role."

    But the truth is if she'd have left, the school would've lost an amazing HT - a HT who would go onto transform their school and its OFSTED rating. But thankfully, instead of handing in her resignation, she gave her governing body an ultimatum "Give me the support I need or I'm off".

    By finding the courage to ask for the support she needed, she was able to transform her life, her experience of the role, and gain fresh hope, confidence & excitement for her role. She realised that we can meet other's needs & perform at our best, when we are properly supported and have been able to meet our own needs. Even though I knew her so well, I found it so inspiring to hear her put it into words -

    [This comment/section/image has been removed for breaching our Community Guidelines/Terms and conditions]

    Perhaps it'll give you a bit of hope.

    [This comment/section/image has been removed for breaching our Community Guidelines/Terms and conditions]

    I really hope things get better for you - no-one should have to struggle through a job like Headship alone!
  3. enjoyteach

    enjoyteach New commenter

    Oh dear, I'm sorry you're feeling like this. One things for certain, you must look after yourself, you are the priority and you can't carry on like this.

    Did you apply for the substantive post or was it just assumed you would carry on permanently? Is it a primary school? Can you talk to anyone, any HT colleagues in local schools?

    Sorry for all the questions, just wanted to establish some facts first before suggesting anything further.
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  4. Marshall

    Marshall Star commenter

    STOP - we all feel like this at first as it's so overwhelming. Don't try to do everything - prioritise and get help from the governors. PM me if you want more help - everyone needs help!
    Laughing Gravy and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  5. Jesmond12

    Jesmond12 Star commenter

    Like others have said we all feel this way. I would speak to the governors and try and get the DHT sorted out first. I too am without a DHT at the moment and so I know how difficult it is.

    Do you want one of the internal candidates or would you rather have someone new to the school? It has to be someone that you can rely on, trust and someone who will support you yet be there for the staff.

    Keep going and don't let things get you down. Find another local HT to talk to and share your concerns.
    Lara mfl 05, install and jago123 like this.
  6. cornflake

    cornflake Senior commenter

    Completed with you in this and it's taken me about 5 years to say I'm close to enjoying it!
    BUT you need some access to high quality mentoring and a sounding off board. What's your Chair like?
    Why won't they try and recrui a Deputy?
    What other SLT have you got?
    LA Or academy?
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  7. freddiecider

    freddiecider New commenter

    Thank you so much for all the replies. It is a large primary school with fantastic children whose cheerful smiles and chats keep me going. Most of the teachers are great too but have many on odd part time contracts. There seems to be so much to do though which is totally overwhelming especially as we are in an Ofsted window. Three of the teachers could make amazing deputies each offering different strengths. However I know that if one was to become deputy the others would leave- they all want it!
    Maybe today was slightly better?
    Lara mfl 05 and Jesmond12 like this.
  8. jago123

    jago123 Established commenter

    Becoming a new headteacher is daunting. You have a lot of work to do to ensure that the school continues to operate under great leadership and fix the pitfalls that the previous HT may have left.
    The DHT situation would be something I would want prioritisation over. If you were ill, who would manage the school? Meet with the governors to discuss an action plan about this. You mention you have 3 potential candidates. Could you not promote all of them to Assistant Headteacher roles to focus on different aspects? This way, it makes those colleagues feel more valued and that they don't become disengaged and when you come to appoint a DHT, it makes your decision a bit easier, because after a few months, you'll realise who the right person for the role is.
    Recruiting a DHT is a personal choice for a HT. They both got to have shared values and a vision the same as yours. Don't let the governors 'bully' you into choosing who they want.. You will be the person working with them the most.
    Lara mfl 05 and install like this.
  9. titus4t

    titus4t New commenter

    Me too Freddie. I'm Acting Head but feel more like 'Pretending Head.' No Deputy and no SLT. Today I've been teaching and I thought 'Why aren't I dong this? This is what I'm good at' before going back to my office and trying to deal with the Admissions Policy, about which I don't have a clue. But then I phoned another local head and discovered that he didn't have a clue either! So maybe we just have to grit our teeth and get on with it; ask for help wherever we can and just do the best we can.

    However I am up at 4am typing this as I can't sleep with everything going round in my head!
  10. michael1977

    michael1977 New commenter

    I feel the same. I have been the HT for a year but last Friday I came so close to resigning even though I had no job to go to. i feel that the HT is a lonely job and so much now is paper work - at times I feel it is nothing to do with the children, which is why I entered teaching in the first place, but ticking boxes for governors, Ofsted and LA
    I also know Ofsted are coming any time (been three years) and just feel stressed thinking about it. I know they are human but feel so much better after midday on a Wednesday! I also am up most of the night - sleeping on and off - constantly clock watching until 4 when I just get up.
    I am hoping things will get better. I read articles of how being the HT is the best job and I want to feel this but at the moment, nothing could be further from the truth.
    welshwales likes this.
  11. Northhead

    Northhead Occasional commenter

    This is me at the minute. I've been doing the job for just over 2 years and am on the brink of resigning (again, with no job to go to). The paper work is horrendous and I truly believe that until you've done it you don't understand the demands of the role. I am so utterly miserable that I am sick every morning and dread going in. It's not the fear of Ofsted but just the sheer breadth of the role which means people think you're no good because you end up doing everything badly because of a complete lack of time.

    It SHOULD be the best job in the world but it's not.
  12. Jesmond12

    Jesmond12 Star commenter

    You have mirrored my feelings exactly. I got home tonight shouted at the dog and Mrs J. Too much work, no DHT and now the site officer is off ill.

    However, after a stiff drink Mrs J and J dog are now talking to me and so I will be in there again tomorrow smiling away.
    artbinki and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  13. digoryvenn

    digoryvenn Lead commenter

    Oh dear, me too!
    I have been a HT for nearly two years and on Monday I nearly walked out.
    I love the paperwork, analysis and planning and leading new ideas and I also love the teaching side.
    It is the lies and unfairness that wears me down, governor incompetence and unreasonable parents.
    Northhead is right, no one understands the demands until you do the job.
    Today has been better though, the staff have been really supportive.

    Good luck Jesmond, WelshWales, Freddie, Michael and Titus.
  14. enjoyteach

    enjoyteach New commenter

    Please do take care of yourselves all those of you who are finding it difficult. I am in my 7th year of headship and it doesn't get any easier but you find you can cope better. Last year nearly finished me off and made me quite ill. My DHT never returned after the summer break, three SLT had babies and my business manager went off sick too, thrown in I was on red alert for Ofsted and they finally came in Summer. I was doing the job of many and going through academy conversion and all the other demands of the role including support staff involving govs in mischief making.

    Strategies that got me through, in no particular order, included...

    A good cry and chat with other HT in local schools who would listen to me. ( I have a few schools around me). Talking issues over and getting it off your chest is so helpful, just sharing what is troubling you is often reassuring.
    Focus on the issues you have power over and are most important. Remember you will never please everyone all of the time, follow the rules be consistent and fair and know you are making decisions for the good of the children.
    Work at home for half a day or one day if you can every so often, this kept me sane when I was at my lowest and stopped me breaking down in front of staff.
    A supportive GP who listened and was willing to offer assistance if necessary.
    Engage with some HT coaching/ support sessions. There are a few people out there offering this.
    Governing bodies have a duty of care for you, let the chair know how you are feeling and why. E mail this so that it is recorded and they know about it. I appreciate this can be difficult sometimes as you don't want it to be seen as a sign as weakness, however if it is making you ill they need to know or at least the chair does.

    If anyone wants a chat please send me a message, I am happy to listen anytime. A problem shared is a problem halved.
    Lara mfl 05 and welshwales like this.
  15. Jesmond12

    Jesmond12 Star commenter

    The one thing that you should never do is check your work emails at night as there is usually something that will cause you further stress.

    I have just been reading a parental complaint about issues in a class.

    Hey ho a good nights sleep ruined!
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  16. Jesmond12

    Jesmond12 Star commenter

    A good day, a new DHT appointed and SDP finished:)
  17. Sundaytrekker

    Sundaytrekker Star commenter

    Both of those in one day, Jesmond? Well done.

    I think beginning as a headteacher is really scary when you turn round and there's no one to pass things on to. It's all up to you. It's easy to feel it's out of control because there's so much to tackle.

    Personally, I always try to stay calm but I don't necessarily feel I must smile all the time. Staff know I find it hard sometimes, too.

    I absolutely agree with trying not to check work emails all the time at home. I don't advertise my email address to parents and have switched off automatic alerts. I know a head who doesn't check hers until she arrives at work on a Monday morning. I've never managed that but try to be sensible especially at weekends.

    Take it a day at a time. We are all fearful of Ofsted and are never fully prepared. The OP needs to decide what staffing structure they want then talk to the chair of governors to say what they want to present for agreement. Even if the DH role delay is due to finance they need to consider whether that makes your role unsustainable. Good luck.
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  18. digoryvenn

    digoryvenn Lead commenter

    Well done Jesmond.
    I now never check work emails at night.
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  19. freddiecider

    freddiecider New commenter

    Oh my goodness . It seems that many of us feel this way. It does kind of help that all of us are in it together. I seem to have good days and bad ones. However I never ever have enought time. Monday morning is the worst when I feel really sick in the pit of my stomach..........can't face this feeling each and every week
    I'm having to implement many changes to give us a hope of surviving Ofsted. I sit back and look at how the majority of staff have responded to the change and it is positive. Some amazing outcomes from children with great progress in May cases already.
    My biggest issue at the moment is the site manager who basically is incredibly grumpy. He's upsetting staff and blatantly rude. It has also been brought to my attention that he has been rude about me too. He's hugely resistant to change and simply has never been 'managed' so has really done his own thing for years. However he seems to be stirring and really not helping matters at all.
    So I guess it's time for a 'formal' chat and we will go from there.
    How I will ever catch up with things I will never know. I'm in meetings constantly due to my new post and in between those I'm training to catch up on the dreaded 'in tray, and emails.
    Haven't counted down the days until half term since I was at school myself!!!!
  20. freddiecider

    freddiecider New commenter


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