Should Heads teach? I suspect few of us do these days, and certainly our governors might argue that it’s not our core job. Sometimes pupils, especially younger ones, ask me what I actually DO do, and it’s a fair question. I usually answer by saying I meet people, try to think about the future and plan for it, try to ensure staff are supported and where appropriate advised, and try to meet students and parents. I hope it doesn’t sound too feeble. One boy asked me if I own the School, which I think was a genuine question (some prep school heads do, or used to). Now it can be revealed: I don’t.
Mind you, it wasn’t that long ago that Heads taught a good deal. In school stories of the 1940s or so, the Head(master – always male then) would be depicted as teaching the top set of U6 Latin or Greek. And Frank Fisher, the Master (ie Headmaster) of Wellington in the 1980s, taught a fairly full timetable, coached rugby and did all his correspondence by hand without a secretary: you could apparently see his study lights on in the early hours of the morning. Or so I was told by those who’d known him. It’s people like that who make us think we lead shallow lives, isn’t it!?
Anyway I have been having one of my periodic forays into teaching, and I do think it’s a good thing for Heads to do occasionally. My ‘parachute in’ three-lesson ‘course’ is an idea I took (OK, stole) from a former boss, and I think it works. It does help me see the constraints and challenges (how on earth does the SMART board work? Where actually is TC10? Have I remembered the online register? How much can a Third Former reasonably write in 10 minutes?) and that has to be a good thing.
But the main point has to be that – I hope – the boys see that it really matters. I usually do poetry, and I genuinely find out new things each time I do, partly because I try never to do the same old poems too often (the ones I think I know ‘work’). I even like it when – as last week – I happen to run into one of the parents of one of the classes, and can try to explain what we’ve done and why.
It is, after all, what we’re here for.