“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Atticus Finch - To Kill A Mockingbird
On Wednesday 21 March, Olivia Newton in Lower III found out just how true these words were when she switched places with Mrs D-C and became Head of the Junior School for the day. The chance came following some competitive parental bidding at our recent Auction Dinner, and we decided to catch up with Olivia at the end of the day to find out just how everything had gone:
How did you feel when you found out you were going to be Head for the day?
I was so excited when my parents told me! I didn’t believe it was true but I really couldn’t wait to be Head and was already picturing what I would say in my morning assembly.
Ahead of the day, what did you think the role of a Junior School Head involved?
I wasn’t entirely sure really. I thought it involved meetings, walking around the School and signing off paperwork. As I soon found out, the role of a Head involves much more than this!
So what did you get up to during your day as Head?
I began by meeting with Mrs Feaver, my PA, to go through the agenda for the day. The first thing I had to do was lead the staff briefing which was very nerve-wracking as I was outnumbered by the teachers and all eyes were on me. However, they all seemed pleased when I told them there would be Easter eggs in the staff room! Next I had to give a whole School assembly. I did my assembly on Sport Relief and Easter, including a dance done by some of my friends in Lower III and a multiple choice Easter quiz. Everyone joined in the dance so that was good. The rest of my day included a variety of activities including a meeting with the Junior School chef Mr Smith, a whole School health and safety check with Mr Millward, tours for prospective teachers and a session helping the office staff on the front desk. Oh, and I also got to have lunch on the teacher's table!
What did you find most surprising?
It’s hard to pick! There were parts of the School that I had never seen before, like the Maintenance shed and the kitchen. I also never realised how much the Maintenance team did around the School – before today I thought they were just lollipop men who helped us cross the road!
Another big surprise was finding out that all the teachers are actually friends with each other! At lunch, my violin teacher Miss Richards sat with Mrs Kaura and Miss Mockler – I didn’t even know they all knew each other!
What did you enjoy most?
At first it was the Easter Café, but then I spent time on the front desk with the Office staff and that was definitely the best part of the day. They are all so nice and they love stationery just like me! They also let me test out the walkie-talkies.
How did you find being in charge of the teachers?
It was definitely a different experience, as normally as a pupil the teacher has the upper-hand but as Head it was almost the other way around. However, I soon realised that as Head you don’t act on your own, but as a team with other members of staff so we all supported each other.
And how did you find your friends?
They were really excited when they found out I was going to be Head for the day! They all asked me to make lots of new School rules and let them wear their own clothes for the day but I didn’t want to take advantage of my position.
Did you make any new rules during your day as Head?
I made one rule in advance of Wednesday, asking all girls to use their own named backpack rather than their School backpacks. I also reinstated a rule allowing the Office staff to use the label maker for girls again as they had previously been banned. Other than that, the only thing I introduced was an Easter Egg hunt for all the girls!
Do you think there are perks to being Head?
Definitely. Although the role comes with a lot of responsibility, people who choose to be Head presumably like working with children so ultimately they are doing what they enjoy and making a difference. They also get a really nice office!
If you were actually Head, is there anything you would do differently or do more of?
During the day, Mrs D-C and I went on a ‘Learning Walk’ where you go around the School and observe different lessons. I found this a fascinating experience, especially the Upper II lesson we saw where the girls were using Minecraft, and I think if I was Head I would try and bring a pupil with me once a term on a ‘Learning Walk’ so they could experience this too. It really gave me a different perspective on lessons.
What key learnings have you taken away from the day?
I think the main thing I have gained is an insight into how as Head you have to always be thinking about the bigger picture. The role involved much more than I ever expected, and gave me a very different perspective on the School and how it works. Before today I wanted to be a doctor when I grew up, but now I think I will apply to be Head of the Junior School – once Mrs D-C leaves of course!
And finally, can you sum up the day in one sentence?
It was the best day of my life!
We also asked Mrs D-C how she found entrusting her role to Olivia for the day and she said the following:
“From my perspective, Olivia was a total delight to work with and I'm really not sure that we would have got through today without her. She was professional, emotionally intelligent, open-minded and confident, and I have no doubt that she will put this day of work experience to good use in the future. She would be an asset to any future employer. Importantly, she wanted to engage with, and learn from, the opportunity, making it worthwhile for both of us. I will miss having her input tomorrow.”