As a teaching Head of Year 7, my usual day would start at 7am and finish when the site manager jangled his keys and asked me whether I had a home to go to. Mrs W became my assistant at the beginning of Year 8 and I am not ashamed to say, she was the true hero behind the scenes. Her appointment was the best thing that could have happened to the year group and me.
Mrs W had a sixth sense about her, she could read the pupils like books, filtering the less serious incidents and mediating between girl squabbles and boy bust-ups. She could spot those who were telling fibs, spied forged notes, found lost trumpets. She answered the phone and calmed angry parents. She took the heat out of difficult situations and diffused with humour. After the pupils had long left the building, Mrs W would put on some tunes and there would be a sing-a-long in the office. She had a way of making you smile even after a long day.
The role of Head of Year is a combination of police officer, social worker, teacher, mum, dad, best friend, worst enemy. Mrs W was just herself. A pupil kept turning up to our office incredibly distressed but never letting on the reasons why, preferring to just sit and cry. Once the crying had stopped, we would be thanked profusely and off they would pop to lessons. These outbursts became more and more frequent but the pupil begged me not to call home. Mrs W did a round-robin, collecting information from every teacher but nothing was obvious. I became very nervous and began thinking about the very worst situations. Mrs W convinced me to hold off and I asked her why. She simply replied that she thought the student was about to reveal their sexual identity. I said no, can’t be. But she was right.
We were a tag-team, the best in uncovering the miscreants but also bringing out the very best in the shy and the self conscious student. Mrs W would spend the time when I couldn’t- if I was teaching or at a meeting. She provided the tissues, the biscuits and the behind the scenes extras that nobody ever knew about.
Mrs W would buy sanitary towels, tights and even knickers in several sizes because she couldn’t bear the thought of a teenage girl being embarrassed by Mother Nature’s relationship with Sod’s Law. She kept spare school skirts, jumpers, ties and trousers that she would wash and sometimes repair if a button broke or zipper malfunctioned. Mrs W cared deeply, for she understood the trauma that teens feel at walking into a busy room, she felt their fear and awkwardness and prevented humiliation. There was no fuss, she didn’t ask for reimbursement or acclaim. Mrs W shrugged off compliments and the pupils knew, as did I, that she could be relied on 100%. No matter what.
I could ask Mrs W for anything and she would do it- a new assembly certificate, a prize, an attendance update, a telephone call, a cup of tea and more often than not, it was there before I had thought of it. She was instinctive, decisive and calm in all weathers.
The Head of Year job is full of ups and downs, the days can be long and sometimes feel unrewarding. If you are a teaching Head of Year, there are added pressures of Ofsted visits, lesson preparations and observations, marking…. the teaching list is endless. I couldn’t have done my job without Mrs W, she was my rock. But more importantly, she was the year group’s rock.
Thank you Mrs W and I am so glad another set of young people have got you looking after them and another hardworking Head of Year has your loyalty and wisdom.