Sometimes it is only with distance that the true picture merges into focus. So it is when I look back at the last school. Now that's not to say that the old school didn't give me lots of opportunities to develop (i.e. courses (snooze) and trips (yay)), or space to actually teach (i.e. we had half-arsed schemes of work and nobody actually checked what I was doing for the first term I was there so I could just make it up as I went along). But when I compare certain aspects with my current place, then I can see just what was going on with greater clarity than before.
It is true that the Head Teacher sets the tone for the whole school. Now these beings are cut from a different cloth to me, because I can't understand why anybody would want to set themselves up for constant public criticism, whether they are right or wrong. But let me show you the difference between my past and present Head Teachers. My present Head Teacher is very similar in ideology and practice to my Head Teacher before last, whilst my last Head Teacher must have been from the same mould as my first Deputy Head who went on to become Head Teacher after I'd left. Keeping up? I can reduce it to two attributes: power crazy, and philanthropic.
The Power Crazy Head Teacher usually has conspicuous displays of his or her rule of iron. Firstly, there's the power dressing. Sarah Palin ain't got nothing on the Power Crazy Head Teacher, who dresses to impress and probably barks, "Breakfast is for wimps!" whilst squeezing a bulging waistline into designer threads. Philanthropic Head Teacher will assert their authority equally well in a comfy cardigan or well-worn suit. Therefore this school's staff also go to work in smart comfort rather than the rigid inflexibility of suits which don't allow for the clambering on tables to fix wall displays or the unforeseen P.E. cover lesson that are part of a teacher's daily life.
This is the same power crazy person who usually drives an inappropriately flashy sports car, probably with personalised number plates, and parks it in their own reserved section far away from flying footballs, and often behind a red roped section attended by a liveried sixth former. Philanthropic Head Teacher drives a middle of the road (not literally; that would be dangerous) car, one which is a few years old but probably top of Which? magazine's list of reliable motors.
And the conspicuous displays of wealth and power dominate the personality too: when Power Crazy Head Teacher patrols the school, it is to sneer at crooked displays and question decisions with derision. When Philanthropic Head Teacher wanders round, it's to see how you're doing, praise your efforts, and wish you a happy half term.
It is no surprise that Power Crazy Head Teacher leaves the staff somewhat unfulfilled in knowing their own worth and value. Their ambitions are laid clear, and it's not long before they have taken on some consultancy role that means they are moving onwards and upwards, until they are only a part-time attender at school they are paid to run.