Are we only as good as our titles?
What brings us worth at work? Is it all about titles? What can we do when we know we need a change? 766 words
At the start of this academic year I’d pretty much decided that I wanted to leave teaching. There were things I liked about my job but I was also frustrated. Each job I’d done was to have more impact. I was now an Assistant Head and facing the fact that maybe education couldn’t do what I’d idealistically thought when I started as a bright eyed and bushy tailed as a new recruit to the Teach First scheme in 2004.
Had I become part of the problem?
Was I really in the place where I could make the biggest difference possible for the bits of society I wanted to?
The past academic year has seen many ups and downs. I’ve felt stuck personally and professionally. I’ve been confused and despondent. I’ve been self critical and asked people I respect to help me reflect and reassess things. I’ve also grown immensely and discovered that I have, do and can continue to make a difference. In ways that were unexpected in September 2015 but still as important.
I’ve finally seen the fruit of some of my behind the scenes work with middle managers and students in my own school. I’ve had leaders from other schools that I’ve worked with talk to me about the impact I’ve had on them and their teams and I’ve discovered that I’m a person whose writing and speaking can touch particular people, especially those in leadership positions and spur them to real and important action.
After being somewhat at sea and realising that a promotion and new school weren’t going to solve whatever my issues were- I started to think about what else could be done. Then I started to try and make things happen. This unexpectedly lead to a wonderful opportunity for me and I had really honest conversation with my boss. As a result we came to a solution that would have been unimaginable for me back in September. I’ll be working for 2 days at my current school in the maths department (maths teachers are always needed) and will be working for 3 days with LMKco helping other organisations to tackling social disadvantage in a different way. It seems like my mission is the same but the way I’m tackling it is different.
So the title thing? I’ve been in middle or senior leadership positions since my 4th year of teaching. I was clearing my office ready for my own move but also because the school’s into a brand new building. I’ve never really cared about titles but they matter to other people. You can see people reassessing you as a youngish woman when they ask what you do and you say you are a senior manager. I like the freedom and autonomy + potential impact on a much wider range of people that senior leadership in a school can bring even if I can do without some of the other bits.
I know I’m doing the right thing for me. I knew that as soon as I made the decision and it was all finalised a few months ago. I don’t think that I’ve mentioned to my Nan and Mum yet that I’ve decided to step down from SLT. Have a let them down? People always talk to me about what a good Head I’d make but I’ve decided to go in a completely different direction.
I’ll still be me, with the same knowledge and experience. I’ll still write about leadership here and in my book because I feel that effective leadership can impact such a wide range of people and people tell me that I have interesting things to say. It seems that I’ll still have the opportunity to work with leaders within and beyond education, which is exciting.
I’ll enjoy my new teaching role working at the same school with children I’ve built relationships with and it won’t do me any harm at all to experience leadership from the other side again for a while. I look forward to taking on a new challenge with my new team in my other job.
It doesn’t stop things being scary though. The unknown is often scary.
If you are reading this and thinking of making a big change or leap into the unknown- don’t discount things. My decision hasn’t been easy, it’s had real practical implications on my family life. We’ll have to change how we live but it will be worth it.
Consider what really matters to you, personally and professionally and remember that titles are just that. They don’t measure your worth.
Ben (@el_davooo)15th July 2016 at 12:50 pm
Title is such a funny thing. It’s a difficult because I’ve only just accepted my new title and feel confident to define myself as an Assistant Headteacher. It can go the other way the title can run ahead from you and you wander whether you can ever actually fill it. You’ll be great in 2 new roles because you care about change in whatever you decide to do.
ieshasmall26th March 2017 at 11:03 am
So kind Ben. I’m really enjoying life right now and hopefully can see you when I’m in Bristol this year.