I start off my day, six mornings a week, in my study with – quite literally – an open door. For half an hour, any boy can come and see me without an appointment. It’s an opportunity for the students to have direct access without any hindrance.
The school has a mid-morning break, known as Chambers, and this is when the 160 members of the teaching staff meet me formally. It’s our business meeting of the day – everybody is there. We are a people business and it is very important that we keep those personal connections strong. This isn’t the kind of structure where, as a manager, you pull a lever and something happens. It’s much more complicated; it’s about relationships and how people feel they are being treated.
At this time I see any boy who has a problem or is being a problem. We are dealing with teenagers, for whom the experiences they are having are new. When a boy makes the same mistake that you’ve seen a hundred times before, you have to remember that it’s his first one. You need a kind of resilience to treat each situation as though it is fresh to you – and that can be a challenge.
My wife and I have each of the 260 senior boys to lunch in our house at some time during the year, or we go out and eat in boys’ houses and talk to them. If it’s not a day when I’m out to lunch with students, then it’s a quick sandwich and on the move, like most people.
Afternoons can include formal committee meetings on a wide variety of topics. I have a bursar who runs a good team of managers, so it’s not a solo operation. We also try to involve as much of the teaching staff as possible in decisions. In the main, I spend a great deal of time talking with people. What is difficult is to carve out quiet time and thinking time.
I may be attending a concert or play to support the boys, at an evening meeting or listening to one of the 200 speakers who come to address the students every year. I was once asked how many evenings during the long Michaelmas term, including the weekends, I had at home with no commitment, and the answer was four. You are on the go the whole time.
This is when my day tends to end. However, I often come back home to a line of emails as long as my arm.