Next month, my four-year term as a School Governor comes to an end. I loved it. It’s been challenging, interesting, and a privilege to learn so much about the place where our children spend so much of their time. Looking back, I wanted to share with you all the amazing things about this unique role, and how I got so much more out of it than I put in.
For me, it was the lifeline I needed for finding my lost self, in the dense fog of maternity. From the start, Andy and I decided that when we had children, I would stay at home to look after them. It was right for us as a couple, and as a family, and I will never regret that decision. The last few years of carrying, giving birth and bringing up the boys have been the happiest, fullest, and most fundamentally rewarding of my life.
They have also been the hardest. Staying at home with your wonderful, precious children really is a gift, and one that is denied to many; but the daily grind and monotony of it can also suck away that person you once were – in my case team leader, decision maker, problem solver, writer, project manager – into a black hole of nappies, baby groups, health visitors, feeding dilemmas, teething, developmental milestones, anxiety, toddler groups, and Peppa bloody Pig.
No one can quite prepare you for how hard that adjustment is. Everything I did from my school years onwards – education, employment, experience was for the sole purpose of building career, and a reputation…and quite abruptly, all that is completely irrelevant, to you and anyone else that you come across. That mental capacity I once exercised on a daily basis – well enough to be paid nicely to do it, as well – was suddenly unused, inert, and languishing in a dormant part of my brain.
Until, that is, our older boy’s first year at school, when a campaign started to recruit new school governors. My interest was immediately sparked. Something that would require me to be that person again – a thinker, an analyst, a contributor – and shake the strategic part of my brain into activity, to rejoin the world of adult-only conversation; not forgetting the major benefit of being involved with the place in charge of my children’s edification and instruction.
The time commitment was manageable – mainly evenings, with a couple of daytime things that I could take my younger one along to – and when I met the Chair of Governors and the Clerk, they were lovely. They were very interested to hear my strategic planning and communications background (interest I hadn’t encountered for several years), and based on this experience, they were keen to co-opt me to the board on the spot.
That alone was an incredible boost to my self confidence, and was the beginning of a wonderful new outlet for me, one evening a month, where I could leave the house and contribute to my community as a valued adult. As a result, I’ve spent the last four years getting involved with school events; finding out about teaching and learning up and down the school; going on some fascinating training courses; meeting staff and pupils; and most importantly of all, getting to the heart of what makes our school so outstanding, and supporting our incredible school staff to keep it that way.
If your school – or any local school – needs governors, please consider doing it. So many schools are crying out for people to help shape strategy, monitor performance, and question things where they need to – and you don’t need to have years of management experience, or a background of scrutinising performance. You just need to be objective, analyticial, unafrad to ask challenging but appropriate questions, and to care. There are very few volunteering roles out there which carry so much collective responsibility, and it’s a golden opportunity to really make a difference.
What I really want you to know, though, is that it’s not all one-way. Of course you are giving your time to your school and your community, but you can get so much back from it. The experiences and mental exercise I got in return from this role was a big part of building my confidence to start my own business – and whatever your current situation in life, I guarantee you will get something wonderful out of being a governor.
Life changes you, and there’s no going back to being the person you were before. But there are ways of digging up the lost parts of your life that you valued, and resuing them for even greater things.
Here’s a link to MK Council’s information page about what’s involved – wherever you are, your local council will have this info too: Becoming a School Governor