Over the past few weeks I have read many wonderful blogs in the #WhoIAmWhatIDo series. Headteachers, teachers and a school business manager have all contributed to this series of posts. These have inspired me and as I haven’t come across one from a governor, I thought I’d put pen to paper.
The “Who I am and what I do?” is a difficult question to answer. There are many facets to my personality and these jigsaw pieces fit together to make the whole me.
Education has played a very important part, one way or another, in my and my family’s life. My great grandfather sent his daughters to school, much to the astonishment of the village elders! My parents made sure I was surrounded by books and I’ve done the same with my daughters. I have been a student, a primary school teacher, a University lecturer and an adult literacy volunteer tutor at various stages of my life. I gave up work when I became a mother. When my girls were old enough not to need me 24/7, I wanted to do something for myself but for various reasons going back to work full time was not an option. That is when I started to volunteer at my local Adult Education College as a literacy tutor. Working with these adults made me realise how lucky I was. There was one student who had not heard of Beatrix Potter. There was someone else who had learning difficulties and had not been diagnosed at school and had been labelled “thick” by some teachers which meant he left school without any qualifications. I loved working with all my students and seeing them develop skills and gain confidence. Then, because of cuts, my class was cancelled. There were other classes but at days and times which were not convenient for me. So, with a heavy heart, I left.
One day my eldest, who was in secondary school, brought home a note advising parents of a vacancy for a parent governor. This interested me and I thought I could go back to education but as a governor. As I did not know what the role of a governor was, I did something which, in my experience, not many do before putting their name forward as a candidate for election as a parent/staff governor. I went and had a chat with Jo, the Chair of Governors. Jo explained the role to me and answered my questions. I went home and thought about it a bit more and did some research. What I found interested me and I decided to stand for election. The rest, as they say, is history!
I remember my first ever committee meeting. After introductions, I asked everyone to “be gentle with me while I learn the ropes”. Perhaps, because I had been away from education for a long time the thing I found hardest to understand were the acronyms. There are just so many of them! I asked for and was given a list of acronyms and what they stood for. (Note to new governors: Never hold back from asking for clarification; the “older” ones will thank you silently!).
The next thing I did was enrol for the induction course. I am passionate about training and CPD which is why I have volunteered to be the Governor responsible for training. If I had my way, training or at the very least induction courses would be made mandatory for every governor, including staff governors and heads.
So, have I enjoyed being a governor? Honestly? Yes and no. It hasn’t always been a bed of roses! There have been some hard times and some dark times. There were times I felt I was swimming upstream with weights tied to my legs. Work/life balance? What work/life balance?! My family has suffered at times when I have spent too many hours on governing body matters. On more than one occasion I have seriously considering walking away. That I didn’t is because I have some very good friends on my board, people who have helped and supported me.
On the flip side, I have gained valuable skills. I have learnt how to focus on the strategic stuff and leave the operational alone. I have learnt how to juggle the two hats I wear. I have learnt to leave my parent hat on the hat stand when going into the boardroom and leave the governor hat off when contacting the school as a parent. Serving as a governor has helped me develop leadership skills. I loved chairing a committee and that experience is helping me perform my new role of Vice Chair of the board. I have learnt how to analyse data, how to challenge without being confrontational, when to speak and when to listen and how to delegate. I was never lacking in confidence but I find myself doing things I wouldn’t have done a few years ago. Jo pointed this out to me the other day. She had seen my tweet to Mike Cladingbowl asking if he would consider inviting governors to the seminars being planned for next term (he said yes, by the way!). Jo said and I have to agree that couple of years ago I wouldn’t have thought of asking Ofsted for an invite! I have also made some very good friends since joining the board. Some of these serve on my governing body and others are people I have got to know through Twitter. I have played a small part in setting up and running @UKGovChat. These experiences, both the good and the bad ones, have made me what I am today. Would I do it again? Yes, I think I would. I do enjoy the role. Well, most of the time! What advice would I give to someone thinking of joining a governing board? I would say make sure you know what you are getting into. It is a job which demands time and commitment. Don’t treat this as just a badge of honour. Don’t do it just because it will look good on your CV. Don’t think of this as a means of looking out for your child. Be sure you have the strength to hold the head to account. It may be an idea to read the Governors’ Handbook to understand what’s expected of you before putting your name forward. Once you become a governor then make sure you keep your training up to date.
So, that is who I am. As to what I do, I try and do exactly what it says in the Handbook that I should do, which is
- Ensure clarity of vision and strategic direction
- Hold the Head to account for the educational performance of the school and students
- Oversee the financial performance of the school and make sure that the money is well spent.
At the end of the day what governors try and do is to make sure each and every child is given the opportunity to reach his or her own potential.
As I said before I’ve made some very good friends since becoming a governor. Some of them are in the photographs below. There are many more but I will have to wait till we are at the same conference to photograph them!
A post about my life as a governor would not be complete if I did not include the best present ever given to me as a governor. Thank you, Shena!