My job as a headteacher was my life. It took up most of my waking time and had been adopted by my husband who recognised I couldn’t ‘put it down’. He understood that when we went on holiday I would be checking emails and available for calls. He knew that weekends would always involve some time at the computer.
I liked my job. My move into senior leadership had been quite swift and I discovered I had a talent for organising and supporting people. My aim as a head was always about seeing potential and getting it reached whether it was a big or little person in my care. When I amalgamated my junior school with our partner infant school and achieved my aspiration of being the head of a primary school, life was good. I had a great team and although the school was a challenge, we were on the up.
My leadership style has always to be spot the positive wizards and give them the tools to do their ‘thang’ and when they fly, be happy that you were part of their story. Unfortunately, when 3 of your 5 man leadership team get promotion and leave at the same time, it causes a few ripples. Those ripples became gentle waves when absences in the office caused difficulties with the business side of things.
I was faced with a decision. The new school had been up and running for two years. Things were established and whilst not fully embedded they were fine. I needed a new SLT. I need to plan the next stage of the learning journey for the school. However, it felt very much like a one-man band. In a way I suppose it was a back handed compliment that the various authorities felt I could do it but that does not help when there are just not enough hours in the day to cover all the additional things needing to be done.
I wanted to enjoy my retirement. I wanted to be healthy enough to do all the things that I was sure I would be putting on my ‘to do’ list which started blank. Would I be able to if I continued in this vein? Could I rely on some help rather than the compliment? I decided that the answer to those questions was no. My wonderful husband had done all the calculations on the finances and we decided that we could afford to live if I retired.
I told my governors during the Christmas holidays. I told SLT on the first week back in January and we arranged for them to hold an assembly so that I could tell ALL staff of my decision. It was important to me that they heard the news from that and me the school had time to sort out the best possible replacement.
I retired at the end of the academic year in 2008.
The first 6 months were hell. I cried most days and felt that I had no purpose in life. I made no contact with school as I regarded it much the same as when I had given up smoking and dared not go back. Thankfully, twitter then blogging filled my time. I now run the very successful 100 Word Challenge (100wc.net) and am heavily involved in governance. My life is possibly even busier now especially when add the occasional lunch! I certainly have a second career that I knew absolutely nothing about before retiring.
Am I pleased I retired?
Most days yes. I was ready to leave the daily actions of headship but not education. That is still a passion that maybe will never leave me.
You can find Julia on twitter @theheadsoffice and at Julia’s Place http:jfb57.wordpress.com