WEEK 15 - Friday 7 January 2022
I have long been a fan of Bruce Springsteen. I love his recorded music but mostly I am a fan of his live performances and am fortunate to have seen him in concert, with the E-Street Band, many times over the past thirty-plus years. There are many reasons why I enjoy Bruce in concert but the main reason is the sheer consistency of what he does. ‘Consistency’ is a word that I use a lot and I chuckle to myself that I refer to it in the context of a live music concert but bear with me…
I have seen Bruce in a number of different venues and at different stages of his career. In recent years, you might hear people say ‘he’s not as good as he used to be’. Well, it would be staggering if he was. This is a man who is renowned for playing four-hour concerts; it would be nearly impossible to do that at his age (he is now 72, and I last saw him in 2016, when he still played for over three hours on a hot summer’s day in Glasgow). On that day, he gave everything. He left nothing on stage and walked off drenched in sweat, the crowd baying for more. He may not be at his peak but, in my opinion, there is still no one on the scene that can get anywhere near him as a live performer. Bruce never phones it in.
I first really appreciated this level of dedication and consistency in Coventry of all places. Earlier on the same tour, Bruce had played a high-profile festival at Hyde Park which had culminated in him bringing Paul McCartney on stage to play the encore. The crowd went wild - I was there, and it was a real Bruce highlight. I swear that he would have played all night if the event organisers hadn’t switched the power off for fear of a hefty fine from the local council.
On the back of the euphoria of that gig, myself and my mate (who shares my Bruce obsession) decided we would snap up any tickets we could for the remaining dates of the UK tour. No matter where or when they were. And so, a few weeks later, we set off to Coventry on a wet Tuesday night. We knew we wouldn't be home before two or three in the morning but we had committed ourselves to the cause. I went with modest expectations - nothing could be as good as Hyde Park. But, at the end of the night and another three hour show, Bruce fairly stumbled off stage, exhausted. And everyone in the crowd agreed that it was yet another incredible show. As we drove home, we discussed how he could summon up the energy and drive to perform to the same standard on a wet Tuesday in Coventry as he could when he was on stage with McCartney. Later, I read Bruce’s autobiography and he explained it; “When I play a show, I always tell myself that, for some guys in the audience, it may be the first, and only, time they see the E-Street Band in concert. And so I want every single show to be as good as my best, no matter whether it is in Madison Square Garden or Shitsville, Illinois. I want it to be great.”
I am inspired by much of Springsteen’s work but it was that sentiment, more than any other, that inspires me the most. For me, consistency is at the heart of what I try to do and what I want for our school and our students. Every day matters and every lesson matters and we need to bring our A-game to every encounter that we have with our young people. They deserve it and, after the last two years they have had, they need it.
Nowadays, I don’t teach very much. This year, I teach a group of Year 13 students on a Wednesday afternoon. I am happy to admit that I am not the best teacher in our school. I went into leadership too soon in my career to have really fully developed my craft; I am consistently good (I think), but not as great as some of my colleagues. Nowadays, I rely on two key elements - I have kept my subject knowledge fully up to date and can bring plenty of real life examples of the business and economic world into my lessons. And, secondly, I bring as much energy, drive and commitment to my lessons as I can possibly muster. I spend most of the two hours on my feet, at the front of the classroom, explaining, describing, questioning, challenging and debating. By 3pm, I’m exhausted. It may not quite be a Springsteen concert but it is my very best, every week, inspired by Bruce. And, I’m proud to say, I never cancel on them. Whoever wishes to meet with me can wait; my class comes first.
It is unrealistic of me to expect the same energy levels from every one of my staff; the majority of them teach for four or five hours per day and even Bruce can’t perform for that long every night. But we strive for consistency. Someone once said that the best thing about working in a school is that it really matters. And the hardest thing is that it matters every single day. That is so true and it is why my staff not only love their work but why they are also exhausted at the end of each half term.
As we reach the end of the first week of the new term, I am pleased to report that the return of students has gone very smoothly. Attendance has been high, we have taken account of the reported positive cases and those students are isolating themselves for the required time period. I want to thank those students, and their parents, for doing this. By testing and isolating, they have reduced the risk of other students, and their families, catching the virus. It is a really selfless act and one for which we should all be thankful. Please continue to use LFD tests to regularly check your child at home so that you too can play your part in keeping other students, staff and the community safe. If you wish your child to be given home test kits, please follow the link here.
Yesterday, I attended a briefing from the local authority’s public health team in which they summarised the cases in our area and also their expectations that the number will continue to rise as cases spread around the country. We are aware that the position we are currently in may change quite suddenly if we are faced with large numbers of staff absences.
In the event that this happens, we have a number of strategies. Firstly, lessons of absent colleagues will be covered by one of our cover supervisor staff or another of our existing staff, often Heads of Department or Senior Leaders who are not already teaching at that time. If that is insufficient to cover the absence, we will look to bring in external supply staff; however this may prove difficult as supply staff are in short supply due to the sheer demand from all schools for supply staff. Therefore it may be the case, in the coming weeks, that your child may be taught by someone who is not their normal teacher and that this may happen much more than is normal. We understand that this is not an ideal situation but hope you appreciate that we will be doing our best to ensure that learning continues as effectively as it possibly can.
Our final contingency plan may be to resort to some element of home learning with one year group working from home for a week on a rota basis. I can reassure you that we are a long way off needing to do this at the moment but that this situation could change very quickly. Of course, we will provide you with as much notice as possible.
I hope that you have enjoyed a positive start to 2022.
Have a lovely weekend and stay safe.