I went to the funeral of a colleague and was given the chance to reflect on the nature of our weird existence. The coffin was wheeled in, fashionably late, accompanied by Alan Jackson’s beautiful Country & Western ballad ‘I’ll Go on Loving You’, though I did wonder where we were going as the opening lyrics…
‘When I see your delicate body revealed to me when you slip off your dress’
…seemed slightly at odds with the obvious grief of the majority of the congregation. However, the death of a colleague has shaken me, probably because it was so sudden and so unfair. Retirement and beloved grand parenting beckoned next year.
The funeral is something headteachers are expected to and need to attend. This was my eighth funeral as Head; four colleagues and four children. My admiration for Kenny Daglish, the ex-Liverpool FC manager, knows no bounds. He attended four funerals in one day and all of the 96 who tragically died at Hillsborough. He led the mourning of the city of Liverpool and described the experience of the Hillsborough disaster as ‘soul destroying’ and something that ‘haunts him daily’. The unexpected death of Hannah, a year 10 girl, was certainly wretched and fitted these emotions; to go through 96 such experiences would be life changing. Those who know Daglish describe him as a ‘real leader’, a true family man whose team would follow him anywhere, mainly due to his humane values and characteristics, which sadly he has not allowed to come through in his public persona. Outside the city of Liverpool, I am not sure his true value has been properly recognised. Leading when successful is easy. Leading or being there when people are suffering, unsure and full of grief is not easy.
On returning from the funeral, I was revived by visiting the classrooms of our three NQT staff whose energy, enthusiasm, talent and love of the job they are doing is simply infectious. They are making an impact, an indelible imprint on young people’s lives, are soaking up the teaching and have a love of life that invigorates you. School can be and should be a joyful experience if you know where to look and you can keep government meddling at the door. There will always be a time for remembrance but when you are surrounded by hopeful, youthful laughter and people who come to school to be led it still makes this a job I love.