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New term with nowhere to go, but still lots to do

Well, this is strange. The new school year has begun in Scotland, but for the first time in twenty five years I am not part of it. Having stepped down from my role as headteacher of two schools in April, I am having to reconsider my daily routines and activity, in a way I have not had to do throughout my career in schools. As a teacher or school leader, so much of your time allocation is determined by your role. Not only that, those roles are so demanding, that it can be difficult to create the time for yourself and your personal aspirations and interests. The way I managed to achieve this, to some extent, was to combine my professional role with my personal aspirations and interests. Easier to do, when you love your work.

My first term being out of school, had been filled with completing my forthcoming book, 'Practitioner Enquiry: Professional Development with Impact for Teachers, Schools and Systems', which as the title suggests looks at practitioner enquiry and professional development. That allowed, or rather forced, me to develop a new daily routine of dedicating my mornings to writing. Afternoons were dominated by walking my daughter's dog, playing a bit of golf and basically doing whatever I wished, till my wife got  back from her own work. There's a lot to be said for it!

Of course, I should add that I also did all the household chores, that I had never found time for before, and usually completed them before I started writing each morning, as I was, and am still, waking and getting up at the same time I did when I was in school. So, I now sorted dishes, hoovering, washing, ironing and gardening into my new routines and 'freedom'. I must confess I quite enjoy these, now that my time and mind is not under the pressure it was previously as a school leader. My wife wants me to develop my culinary skills, so that she has even less to do. But, I am resisting that at the moment.

Now the book is finished and off to the publishers. There are still some administrative and editorial tasks to do, associated with the book and its publication, but generally I am back to trying to find time for all the things I still want, and need, to do.

The holidays are over in Scotland, including mine. There is still lots for me to do, and to be involved in. I remain professionally curious, and I need to keep my mind and body active. I have to keep myself busy, and I am succeeding in that. Someone asked me about this and I replied, 'I am still busy, but now it is my busy, not someone else's.' There is a big difference.

I still need to write and think. That is a given, so I have to ensure I create the time I require each day to do that. Writing, like most things worth undertaking, only happens and develops by doing it. You have to spend time each day actually writing. If you wait to be inspired, or for when you're in the mood, it just won't happen. I need to write, even if a lot of what I come up with I then discard and throw away. You need the discipline, and time, to sit down most days and just get on with it. I love it, the whole process, so this is not a problem. I have created a new office at home that looks out over the Border hills and fields that surround our village. I can think of worse places to think and write.

This morning's view

My writing consists of this blog, articles for TESS as well as other bits and pieces related to my professional role and experience. I am preparing a few presentations related to the book and professional development, as I am still being asked to speak at various events, and to organisations about my experiences or my thoughts on education and our direction of travel. This is all positive because I still care passionately about schools and education. My formal day-to-day role in school may have ended, but I still want to be involved and contribute in any ways I can. I will be supporting some schools and their leadership with their own development journeys too. Get in touch if you think I can help.

I have always wanted to write fiction too, and now I have the opportunity to do that as well. I am currently working on a story for upper primary, and will have to see how that goes. Whether I produce something that young readers will want to read, time will tell, but what I now have is the opportunity to try something I have always wanted to do, but have never had the time or space to pursue when I was working full time. Watch this space on that one.

For me, maintaining some sort of routine is really important. This provides me with a structure to my days and helps keep me focused on what I am still trying to achieve. When you leave full-time employment, my view is, that this is just another stage in your personal journey. I view it as a positive development and one which finally frees me up to tackle some of the things I have hankered after for some time. I am actually excited by the opportunities that lie ahead over the next year or so.

There is no doubt that I miss the day-to-day working with learners, staff and parents. However, I don't miss the rubbish I had to deal with, both as a teacher and as a school leader, which deflected me from core business, the development of learning and teaching experiences and impacts for all learners. I don't miss the frustrations of working within systems, organisations and structures that at times felt that they were designed and built in a way that worked against everything so many of us were trying to achieve for all our learners. I still take criticism of teachers and schools very personally, as it is only when you have had the privilege to work in them that you understand the commitment and professionalism displayed every day by staff who truly understand the complexity of what they are trying to achieve, and for whom 'sound bites' by politicians, commentators and others just betray the true lack of understanding in those who trot them out.

I remain busy. I also remain committed to defending what should be defended in our schools and system and fighting the imposition of demands on to teachers and schools that will not help or support them nor, most importantly, their learners.

I know next year will start busy and get busier. My own book comes out in January, as does the one being produced for Flip The System UK for whom I have contributed a chapter on teacher agency and accountability. We are planning to get back to Australia again, and I hope I have the time and opportunity to catch up with teaching friends and collaborators whilst there. I have been asked to consider writing another professional book, and I have a few ideas percolating away in my head for what this may be about. I have the time to think about this carefully, before committing myself. I have no doubt I will continue to contribute articles to various publications and, you never know, my golf handicap might start to decrease again, rather than going in the opposite direction. Fore!

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