A Day In The Life Of...

Issue 100

Gemma Strong Head Teacher, Newcastle Prep School

What’s your morning routine like, and how does it set the tone for the rest of your day?

My mornings follow a fairly regular routine. I usually arrive at NPS around 7.30am to ensure that preparations are in order for the day ahead. This time is initially spent saying good morning to our school guinea pigs and ensuring they have breakfast, before enjoying my own in the staff room. This social part of the day is very important to me in connecting with colleagues. It is then time to welcome our children into the building – the highlight of my day!

Can you describe a typical workday, including your responsibilities and tasks?

I think the first point to make is that in preparatory school life, there is never a ‘typical’ day, regardless of your role. My responsibilities and tasks can be wideranging and flexibility is definitely key.

On any given day, I could be taking an assembly, meeting with a parent, assessing financial information, planning new projects, networking with other professionals, meeting with staff members, taking a prospective family on a school tour, teaching, celebrating children’s successes, responding to safeguarding concerns, supervising a trip or communicating with our governing board. It is also safe to say that I am quite a ‘hands-on’ head teacher and appreciate spending time with the children most of all. Personally, I enjoy that no two days are the same; it is the nature of working with people, and specifically, children!

What role does technology play in your daily life, both personally and professionally?

Professionally, I spend a lot of time using technology and understanding the role it plays in young people’s lives. As a school, we are very lucky to have invested in excellent robotics and coding equipment which I take a keen interest in.

In my personal life, I actively try to spend less time around technology. Most of my hobbies involve a practical and creative element, perhaps to counter the considerable time spent with a screen within my working week. I enjoy gardening, baking and quilting in my spare time, all of which involve physical input but garner beautiful results.

How do you prioritize self-care and maintain a healthy work-life balance amidst a busy schedule?

In whatever I am doing, I like to be wholly focussed and give my full attention. When I am in school, it is where my mind and passion are. Equally, once I leave the building, I endeavour to leave school-related thoughts behind and dedicate my efforts to home life. Yes, this is sometimes easier said than done but I enjoy both of these aspects in my life so, while trying to strike a balance, I don’t see them as opposing or conflicting. Each are hugely important parts of who I am.

I do like to ‘switch off’, especially at weekends and during school holidays. This is my time to recharge and ensure that I am giving my best to everyone in my life. This could be doing a wholesome hobby or taking a rare few hours to do absolutely nothing.

People are also central to self-care in my world. The support I receive in all aspects of my life from family, friends and colleagues means so much.

What are some challenges you typically face during the day, and how do you overcome them?

My role certainly comes with challenges, whether that is a difficult conversation or a never-ending to do list. The ways in which these are overcome can be quite varied. When managing challenging dialogue, key to my approach is being professional, fair and kind. If I am becoming overwhelmed by tasks or stretched in many different directions, this is where a combination of colleague support and prioritisation allow everything to become more achievable.

It is always helpful to take a walk around school and just see the delight and care-free way children go about their day at NPS. It often realigns priorities in my mind.

Can you share a memorable moment or highlight from a recent day in your life that stands out to you?

Working with children aged 3-11, there aren’t many dull moments and I am forever proud of what our children achieve. A particular highlight springs to mind when our Year 6 children had a treat day recently to celebrate their success in 11+ exams. Joining in with their bouncy castle fun was so incredibly freeing, but not quite what they expected to see their head teacher doing!

Sign-up to our newsletter

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.