“To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”
One thing I have learnt very quickly about being a headteacher, is that there is no one there to tell you that you doing a good job. However, people are very quick to come and complain! It seems that parents and staff only really come knocking on the door when there is a problem, but don’t come to knock on the door to say thank you or to let you know what a terrific assembly you did, etc, etc. We only seem to hear about the things that are wrong. It can be very difficult at times because most of the time you don’t know how people feel about certain decisions you are making. You can only assume that people are somewhat happy with the decisions you are making based on the fact that people aren’t constantly knocking at your door!
I’m starting to realise why some of my previous headteachers made certain decisions as they did. When you are not in charge it can be very easy to think you know how to do it better – or to criticise ways that certain situations have been handled. I can now see why they may have taken certain measures or dealt with things the way they did.
You need to have broad shoulders as a headteacher. I have seen many heads, who very easily could have walked out the door – it would have been an easier decision than having to keep putting up with the stress they were under! I take my hat off to them, for sticking it out and persevering.
I learnt very early to take criticism. Sometimes criticism can be positive while other times it is meant to cut you down. You need to learn to brush off the latter, but to take the positive criticism and use it to make a change. Like I tell everyone I work with, if I don’t know what the problem is, I can’t do anything to fix it. Therefore, I try to foster a climate of honesty and openness, where people are able to tell each other about any issues they have, knowing that people will take heed to it without being offended or getting defensive. We need to listen to positive criticism and be able to acknowledge it in some way. Perhaps it is in regard to something you cannot or do not want to change, therefore you now have the opportunity to explain your reasons. Other times, people may come and suggest changes that are easy to implement and actually are things that you could be doing better. We all have our faults, we are not perfect and we cannot please everyone. There will always be complaints. Listen to them and respond accordingly. But know when to just let things roll away – or else they will weigh you down…..
Endurance, resilience, integrity and perseverance are all key traits that headteachers need among many in their bag of tricks!