Balancing lives at Belvedere
Gerry Foley, headmaster, Belvedere College, Dublin
I wake early and email from 5am. It’s amazing how many colleagues respond at this hour. The smartphone has changed communications and not entirely for the better.
Meetings in school begin at 8am. There are several subcommittees of the board of management, or parent volunteer meetings. This week began with parent volunteer meetings reviewing the Family Festival Day and sponsored cycle, which raise funds for our social-diversity programme. Other groups are involved in raising funds for Guide Dogs for the Blind and Temple Street Hospital, and of course our Sleep Out in December. Parent volunteers are a key source of enrichment in the life of the school.
After the 8am meetings, I try to get around the college to meet students, check homework journals and visit classrooms. I am conscious of the need to be a visible presence and available to staff. I can’t say I always achieve that balance.
As practically all teaching staff are involved in after-school activities, many teachers meet before school and at lunchtime. On this particular Monday, we have a lunchtime meeting of the care team. We deal with the myriad issues that face families of all social backgrounds in Ireland. Families are under huge pressure and I think young males are particularly vulnerable. There are no simple answers or solutions, just determination to care for each of our students. We’re also focusing on the opportunities and challenges posed by the new Junior Certificate. One of the benefits of working with highly motivated teachers is that while they see the difficulties posed by the changes proposed, they focus on how we can develop as a learning organisation.
I arrive home shortly after 10pm and my kids are already in bed.
I usually arrive in the school at 7.30am. Many staff and several hundred students are already there. I listen to the musicians rehearsing – more than 300 students are involved with four major concerts – and drop by the gym, where staff and students are training. I used to go the “staff wellness” sessions organised in a bid to help staff maintain a healthy exercise routine, but there seems to be less time.
I meet sixth-year students on an individual basis and at this time of year, part of the meeting involves preparing references for overseas universities.
I meet the head of IT and discuss our plan for addressing digital intelligence and the evaluation skills students must learn to avoid replacing rote learning with rote technology. We also discuss the issue of appropriate use of the internet and multimedia and the need for the anti-bullying workshops to incorporate the issue of cyberbullying and internet safety. I make a note to follow this up with the parents’ association so there is a coordinated approach.