I had planned to write a blog about asbestos… what better topic to whet the pedagogical appetites of a community of inspirational educationalists.
Sadly, despite what can only be described as fervent anticipation of this my much anticipated first contribution to the Wellspring blogosphere, requests having literally not been flooding in for a detailed account of the risks of this silent threat. Absolutely no-one wanted to know the difference between Chrysotile, Amosite and Crocidolite. Fewer still wanted to hear why asbestos minerals are chemically inert and what this meant for their facilities.
So, excitement quashed, I found myself pondering what killer topic to discuss with the Wellspring and wider education community, brimming as it is with expertise and enthusiasm.
Then, in a moment of realisation comparable only to the discovery of WD40, it came to me. Why had I not thought of this before?
Batman v. Superman… what better frame of reference to explore the interplay between Principals and Support Service Leaders in the 21st century education system.
He’s finally lost it, I hear you sigh… but, before you stop reading, bear with me.
In the bright eyes of children and the state (and sometimes in their expectations of themselves) school Leaders must possess the powers of flight – covering multiple sites in a flash, superhuman strength – shouldering the burdens of the many, x-ray vision – identifying hidden nasties before they materialise, and nigh-invulnerability – infallible to the myriad challenges thrown their way.
Like Superman, they are self-sacrificing, ready to lay it on the line for the good of the Universe.
Superman had his foes, enemies of reason and public order like Lex Luthor and the Kryptonite Man. Today’s leaders have austerity, high-stakes accountability regimes and a recruitment cliff-edge to wrestle.
School Leaders… the Women and Men of Steel, holding back the tide…
Except these forces of evil are too great for any one meta-human, and even Superman needed a little help every now and again.
Batman doesn’t fit the classic superhero stereotype. He’s imbued with no mystic super-powers, instead exercising super-enhanced human traits… a technological mastermind – deploying skillfully designed solutions to seemingly insurmountable obstacles, a poly mathematician – with healthy cash reserves to match, and a master tactician – devising cunning strategies to negotiate challenges. He’s not expected to and actively avoids the headlines, operating in the background.
This is the role of Support Service Leaders in education. Like Senior Leaders, these roles face arch-enemies such as the Penguin – snow day management, anyone… and The Joker – the architect telling you your new Academy can cope without any outdoor play space because you’ve only got 63 students and they have all been excluded from elsewhere anyway, so…
Like Superman, Batman isn’t in this for himself. He’s busting a gut for the people of Gotham City, for stability and the common good.
In the Justice League when Batman, Superman and other lycra-clad crusaders come together, it is their common vision, mission and ethos which binds them.
However, crime-fighting ain’t always easy and both communications and relationships can at times become frayed.
I’m not talking about fraying in the Batman v. Superman sense where the steroidal conflict sees the latter kryptonite-gassed to death… but, when working in hugely disadvantaged contexts, reeling from a decade of austerity and staring down the barrel of an eBacc, the inevitable tension between the pursuit of what’s best for kids and the somewhat colder workforce, budgeting, facilities and administration dilemmas can strain even the best and most culturally aligned of working relationships.
It is the same common purpose shared by Batman and Superman, forged through relationships, trust, resilience, graft, expertise and an overriding sense of ‘what is right’, that binds Senior Leaders and Support Service Leaders together through the challenges, the mistakes and the impossible conundrums. Superman had an impossible task, to be all things to all people… but so too did Batman, working in the background… quietly… diligently.
Together they were stronger.
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