Name: Joanna Postlethwaite
Phase: Secondary (11-18)
Region: South West
Years Served in Education: 20 years
Years Served as a Headteacher: 5 months
Leadership Journey: University to graduate job in PR, back to Uni for PGCE, DT teacher (2 years), Head of KS3 DT (1 year), Assistant Head of Year (4 years), Head of KS3 PSHCE (2 years), Subject Leader (2 years), Assistant Head (6 years), Vice Principal (3 years), Associate Headteacher (now), 4 schools to Headship.
Leadership Coach/Mentor/Inspiration: Far too many to mention them all but the Deputy Head (Cressida Inglis) in my very first school was pretty fab and made me think ‘I want to be like her’.
Twitter Handle: @jopheadinheels
Why do you teach?
I didn’t start my professional life as a teacher and can honestly say it never appealed to me at all growing up. Which is strange as I come from a family of teachers. I had a moment of clarity after graduating whilst working in London experiencing a true ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ life. I packed in my job and moved home thinking that I wanted to be a primary school teacher. I couldn’t get onto a Primary PGCE course with my degree so applied for secondary thinking that I would convert after qualifying. However, the 1st week of secondary practice sparked something in me that I hadn’t felt before in my career. I realised that I genuinely cared about what I was doing and discovered a passion for being in the classroom and after 20 years it’s still there!
Why do you think it is important for Headteachers to still teach?
The clue is in the title, HeadTEACHER. I started my career loving being in the classroom with students working together to develop a passion for my subject and learning. I became a leader because I wanted to be able to have an impact wider than just my classroom. The two are so tightly connected I can’t imagine being in a school and not teaching. I love the fact that when I walk into that classroom I am just ‘Miss’ and I have to plan my lessons, mark my books, write reports and deal with behaviour in all the same ways as everyone else. I hope it gives me credibility with my staff and students but more important than that it reminds me why I am doing this.
How do you create a culture of wellbeing?
I try to shine a light on the positives whenever possible. We have a ‘Thank you very much’ box in the staffroom. Members of staff write on a card the little things that we do for each other that helps to make the days better. At the end of each term, we draw one out in briefing and that member of staff gets a bottle of Prosecco. All the other cards get put into pigeon holes. We also have a biscuit fairy that puts boxes of biscuits in the staffroom on a Friday. I think that it is important to acknowledge that fact that we all go over and beyond on a daily basis and need a bit of recognition.
How would you like to change the perception of Headteachers?
I hope to break down that ‘them and us’ culture that I have seen in other schools and that colleagues of mine have experienced. Headteachers are people too and we have families and children, and run out of petrol and forget to feed the rabbits and lose our car keys too. I try to ensure that I celebrate the successes and admit to my mistakes and hope that although my staff may not agree with every decision I make they do at least trust my reasons for making them.
What are the values that your shape you as a leader?
Honesty, passion, heart, integrity, joy oh…….. and sometimes the ability to roll my eyes out loud…
What makes you get out of bed every morning?
Talking to my friends and non-teachers they all comment that I am very lucky because I love my job. And I really do, that doesn’t mean that it’s not hard and sometimes I do want to just run away and live on an island and drink rum. However I can honestly say that in 20 years there has never been a day when I haven’t wanted to come to work. No day is ever the same, the lows can be very low but the highs are fantastic and they far outweigh the lows. A students saying ‘Hey Miss’ and showing my something fab in their books, watching the football team beat the other local school, watching concerts, sitting with students in the canteen at lunchtime. Chatting about whether Justin Bieber should be banned at break time with Year 8 all enrich my day, watching students overcome adversity and come out the other side and of course watching them grow into independent successful young people really is a privilege. Getting to be a part of that journey is wonderful. I love bumping into ex-students and hearing about how they are doing. Most conversations usually start with “didn’t you used to be Ms P?”…
“The right thing to do and the hard thing to do are usually the same thing, be brave”.
A fantastic head I worked for introduced me to @gapingvoid. This one really resonated with both of us and he modelled this amazingly. Knowing it’s the right thing to do, for the school, the member of staff or the student will always make a difficult decision easier. Being brave, dealing with hard issues head on and trusting my instincts for what’s right are what help me to sleep at night.
I tend to flit between different books. I still go back to ‘Start with Why’ by Simon Sinek when I feel I need a reboot on why I am doing something or advice on how to ensure others support my vision. It really helps me to find clarity and get back to what really matters.
I have just bought ‘SAS: Who Dares Wins: Leadership Secrets from the Special Forces’ as I was very interested in how leadership in the military works after reading about it in ‘Leaders Eat Last’ by Simon Sinek.
I don’t think I can say it any better than this: