Getting ready – the ritual of preparation

I was listening to a programme on Radio 4 this morning in which various actors and sports stars talked about their rituals and rites for preparing to perform. The programme highlighted their increased focus as the music to settle the audience starts, their mental rehearsal of their opening line, their deep breathing in preparation for the first play of the match.

The programme also interviewed a surgeon has her prepared to perform (a complex operation) and it set me wondering what steps do we take as we begin our role each day? What are the things that we do to get ready to do our job, to perform at our best?

I feel the weight of the responsibility of the job bearing down on me with every step I take towards the building.

I get that preparing to teach the first class of the day can be likened to the steps the surgeon takes, or the preparation to lead assembly is akin to quietening the mind before curtain up on first night. Is there a parallel for school business management?

Yes there is. For me, it starts as I arrive at the school site; my eyes sweep across the front of the building and a mental checklist runs through my mind; roofs, gutters, boundary fence, promotional materials all in place. Windows intact and reception unlocked with the lights on? Good. I look left and I look right – how much litter from neighbouring houses has blown onto our site overnight?

This primary survey continues as I pull onto the car park; I glance up at the sky to judge today’s weather, assess the likelihood of wind and rain requiring revised rotas at break and lunchtime. I look around; have any pupils arrived earlier than expected? If so, why? What is bothering them?

I feel the weight of the responsibility of the job bearing down on me with every step I take towards the building. Today, as with every other day, over a thousand pupils and teachers will depend on my team for food, water, furniture, accommodation and the services that will keep the school running safely. Smile fixed in place, cheerful greeting for all staff and pupils I meet along the way, I assume my work persona. Personal worries, concerns and fears get set aside.

I move through the building; touching base with the cover manager; who is out today and what are the implications? Into the staffroom to say good morning to the early starters, down the corridors to ICT, reprographics and the cashier’s desk to receive updates.

A quick touch-base exchange with the site manager and then on goes my computer. Up come the dashboards for premises management, attendance and the online bank balances. I am data-hungry; gathering the information I need to confirm or amend the actions planned for the day. Diary checked, inbox reviewed for overnight messages.

I am plugged into the data streams; the MIS, the VLE, the asset management databases. I am the Business Manager. All is well here. Today we will teach our pupils and help them overcome barriers to their learning and development.

….and then the fire alarm goes off and everyone panics.

Hey ho, I guess the first cuppa of the day will have to wait.