I’ve had conversations with two very different people in the past few days that both resulted in me commenting that I have no desire or aspiration to be a member of our senior leadership team – or any SLT, for that matter. Both people I was speaking to seemed a little taken aback by that.
After all, I’m young(ish), I work hard, I’m passionate – why wouldn’t I want to take that next step up the career ladder? And of course, I’m female! I must want to address the supposed statistical anomalies by seeking an SLT post, right?
No. Not at all. I really don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, and I say that as a 34 year old. I’ve never really sought to climb the leadership ladder. I’m part of our school’s extended leadership team, but that almost happened by accident, in a way. I was the eLearning coordinator for several years, a role that I loved. We had a restructure and completely changed our TLRs and middle management, and the role became part of the ELT. I didn’t want to give it up, so I applied for it, and found myself involved in things that actually I have little interest in, but which allow me to get on with flying my geek flag on a regular basis.
Natalie Scott, in her closing keynote at Lead, Learn, Lancs the other day, included this slide:
Whilst it was very relevant to Natalie and her journey, which she was describing to delegates, it resonated with me. Until about 18 months ago I’d never thought that I wouldn’t be teaching full time. It’s something that women do when they have children, and – wait for it – I don’t want children either. On a side note, I’ve been told for nearly 20 years that I’ll ‘change my mind’ on that, as if not wanting children is a failure on my part as a woman.
My career path has been relatively settled until last year. Sure, I’d changed schools (and countries) a bit, finding myself at four schools in four years, but I’ve been in my current school since 2009. I teach, and I get on with the job with usually little fuss. In September last year I took on the role of association secretary for my union, which means that I’m out of school for 1.8 days per week. It was a big adjustment and one that still leaves me feeling like I’m missing out on things, even when I’m on top of everything and working hard at both jobs.
I feel very much like taking on that role has meant that I’ve officially indicated that I’m not interested in being SLT. I can’t be an effective member of the leadership team when I’m effectively there only 60% of the time. I struggle enough with being ELT with that time frame, and whilst I’d be teaching less (another deterrent to rising up the ladder), I don’t feel I could be effective in both roles. I’m sure that there’d also be a conflict of interest. It’s one thing for SLT to be active union members, but I think being a lay officer and a member of SLT would simply be too hard to keep separate.
I’m not saying never. Like the thought of having children, if all of the magical pieces of the jigsaw puzzle fell into place, I’d consider it. In terms of SLT, it’d have to be the right job, in the right school, with the right people – and I’m not holding my breath on that. The fact that I’m not actively seeking it probably makes it even less likely, to be honest.
I’ve made my peace with my lack of ladder-climbing ambition in schools. Now I just need everyone else to accept it as well.