On being indispensable

I’m thinking back a few years…

I was vice-chairman of governors at the village school, and there were a few problems. In the January, the headteacher went on leave and a temporary replacement was appointed. At Easter, the head resigned and an acting head took over. I can’t say more, except to make it clear that there is no blot on the record of the head, because I signed a confidentiality document and, effectively, accepted responsibility on behalf of the governors.

At this time, my mother was very unwell and very unhappy, and I was bearing the burden of that, which meant my family were too. And then, in early June, the chairman of governors died suddenly.

He was not only chairman of governors but chairman of the village hall committee, lay vice-chairman of the parish church committee, treasurer of same, and held a couple of other posts too (including another chairmanship). Apart from our shock at losing a dear friend, we were all up shit creek, as most of the village organisations were left without a chairman – and he was a damn good one. The only thing I can say is that he had been very efficient, so all the paperwork was up to date. And, as far as the school was concerned, I’d had as much (in some ways more) involvement as he.

At the time, and partly because of the difficulties, we were a little short of governors and most of them were quite new. It was essential for me to take over as chairman. I haven’t mentioned that, in addition, we were expecting an OFSTED inspection at any time and we didn’t have time for anyone who couldn’t, as they say, hit the ground running.

In the autumn, some changes were made which I pushed forward against some opposition (fuck me, that was traumatic), my mother was diagnosed with cancer [at last (for she’d had it for some time but tests had not found anything)], Ro went to university, Al took over the shop at a moment’s notice (I may have told this tale, does anyone remember?) and my daughter changed jobs and (no connection) met The Man.

By the end of that school year we’d had a good OFSTED report, the new Head was doing fine, the school roll was rising remarkably, my mother had died (in March) and I had done my job well. I worked hard the next year too. The year after, I set myself the task of bowing out. I had learned from Stuart’s death and, useful though I’d been, I didn’t matter. The position I held did, but its responsibilities should be shared as much as possible. I found someone ideal – indeed, better than I – to be the next chairman, stayed one more year and then resigned, knowing I’d not be missed.

It’s natural to want to be missed. Most of us would secretly love to be remembered by more than their nearest loved ones. But, having considered dispassionately whether that is just vanity or whether it would be for my fine achievements or qualities, I have had to admit that vanity ruled.

For a while too, I did too much, at a time when I was… oh blimey, probably halfway out of it most of the time. I don’t know how I came over, but I know people were quite anxious about me. I was all right really, but I was a bit intense.

Anyway, my point is, I learned that it’s best to spread the load, for the sake of other people as well as yourself.

11 comments on “On being indispensable

  1. mike

    Sometimes, part of it can be about accepting that, yes, maybe other people won’t do things quite as well as you could, but that, in the final analysis, maybe it doesn’t matter… they’ll still be good enough.

  2. Z

    That’s a good point, Mike. Irrelevant to me, as it is unlikely to arise…

    Though accepting myself as good enough has been useful too.

    Arabella, actually a lazy disposition really helps me to give that appearance šŸ˜‰

  3. Z

    Dear heart, I didn’t even mention you. And, although writing this post now was prompted by your present overburden, I could have written it at any time, as it is, genuinely, a lesson I’ve learned.

  4. The Boy

    As if I needed another confirmation of intellectual compatability. A job well done is a job so organised that you can leave. It is a matter of professional pride for me that anything I take on, will in time be transformed in to one that doesn’t require me. You’re spot on Z.

  5. Z

    I preach, of course, better than I practise. And the more stressed you feel, the more likely you are to need to hold tightly to the reins. And in some jobs, consultation and empowerment is seen as a weakness (silly fuckers in charge there), or being seen as vitally important is needed for career advancement. I always speak for myself (even if, as Dave rightly surmises, I had him partly, and entirely sympathetically, in mind) and I am fortunate in that I do not have an employer and I am financially independent.

    And doesn’t that sound smug? Not meant to be, honestly.

    And thank you, Boy. A compliment from you, businesswise, is well worth having.

  6. J.J

    Hi Z, funny to read this just now as I am chair of governors at my local school and it is coming up to re-election time. I am asolutely at a loss to know whether it is time to stand down – have done it for two years NOT I feel very effectively, but on the other hand I feel I am just starting to get the hang of it. But with three kids, a full time work, extra studying – something has to give. I don’t know!!!

  7. Z

    Hello, J.J – yes, I can see your dilemma. It does take a year or two to get into it (or it can, my situation was exceptional), and I think you might find yourself making a real impact at the school next year. On the other hand, it will eat up as much time as you can give it and it doesn’t sound as though you have much to spare. Who would take over, is the question, though.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.