“Developing a systematic way to help teachers get better is the most powerful idea in education today. The surest way to weaken it is to twist it into a capricious exercise in public shaming. Let’s focus on creating a personnel system that truly helps teachers to improve.”
Are we at a tipping point? Have we now reached a time where in our attempts to improve the education system, we can stop putting inspections and numbers first and say that people matter over and above everything else. Sadly, I don’t think we are quite there yet, but I’d like to think that change is in the air.
The continual reports on the teacher recruitment crises, increased rates of attrition will eventually cause politicians and policy advisors to hold their hands up and say, “We got it wrong!” I know, not many are prone to bouts of humility, but I remain forever an optimist!
There are many in the sector, myself included, who are saying, that politicians have indeed got it all wrong. My voice is one of many, but I have a voice and I intend to use it and make a case for that which I believes matters most in education.
In particular, I believe there are 3 key things that have been lost sight of in recent times have been and must be remembered and reclaimed by the profession for the benefit of our children’s futures.
1. We must remember our Humanity
How can it be that in this day and age, that the qualities that define our own humanity have been eroded by a succession of inhumane policy directives and initiatives? How can it be that we ignore the stories of teachers and school leaders, whose lives have been blighted through ill health and stress, by a job they once loved?
How can it be that my own secondary aged children have become increasingly disillusioned with a system that demands the recollection of facts over the fostering of a true passion and love for learning? I ask myself these questions and I know there are no easy answers.
The one thing I do know however, is that every single day there are courageous teachers and school leaders, who despite the inhumane treatment they face from the system, go over and above their ‘call of duty’ to provide a holistic and meaningful education for our young people.
It is these individuals we need to nurture, support and take care of, so that they find consistent ways to align their vision and values with what matters most to them.
2. We must remember that we need Personal Advocacy
In 1955, when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger, it is reported that in interviews afterwards she said, “I will no longer act on the outside in a way that contradicts the truth that I hold deeply on the inside. I will no longer act as if I were less than the whole person, I know myself inwardly to be.”
And this is what teachers and school leaders must strive to do. They must remember that we have a right to a voice, to be properly listened to, to be valued and respected. It simply isn’t acceptable that teachers, and especially head teachers, are treated as human collateral, particularly after unsuccessful OFSTED inspections. It is damaging to the profession and it is damaging to society.
It is time for teachers and school leaders to remember their personal authority and to show that they know best how to bring about sustained and humane improvements within the education system.
3. We must remember the importance of meaningful connections and relationships
There is a ‘divide and rule’ modus operandi at play within the current education system. The education landscape is now one which increasingly sets schools against one another. One by-product of this has been increased feelings of emotional isolation. In such environments people lose the ability to form trusting relationships and feelings of connectedness and shared self-worth are lost when schools find themselves pitted against each other for a position on government league tables.
The art of being in relationship, with self and others is essential to feelings of hope and wellbeing. It is what relatedness is all about. It opens the territory of the psyche and the soul, whether it be in relation to the personal, or in relation to a profession, school or group. The ‘practice of relatedness is hard work, a lifelong matter of human discipline and culture’ and it is a humanitarian endeavour to which we must all turn, for the sake of future generations.
Remember and Recapture the Soul of Education
As a former Headteacher and after having been working with School Leaders for the last decade, it’s become very apparent to me that the reality of School Leadership has to change.
In that time, I’ve seen the damaging impact of public scrutiny and personal accountability has on our great leaders. I’ve witnessed how school leaders are forced to sacrifice their well-being on a daily basis to simply survive in the profession.
I’ve coached Heads on a brink of a nervous breakdown and have witnessed the inhumane treatment of those who have been let down by the system. I believe Something Needs to change.
That’s why on the 19th October 2017, we hosted Headteachers & School Leaders from across the country for a new type of School Leadership conference; an “Education for the Soul” Conference designed to help leaders to explore and discuss what matters most to them (their values, hopes and passion) and locate ways of leading that are aligned to who they are, their goals, their vision and above all, don’t require them to sacrifice their own well-being.
It is fair to say, the day was a very special one indeed, and for me personally, it was deeply humbling to see so many school leaders and education professionals who were prepared to:
– Take a risk
– Ask of themselves challenging questions
– Think about school leadership differently
– Go on a deeper learning journey with themselves and others
It was so wonderful to watch these individuals drop their leadership masks and come together, in service of one another and in service of shared hopes, dreams and ambitions for our children and our schools.
As a result, the conference became a place where discussions about the relationship between well-being and school leadership could be discussed openly and candidly, and real solutions could be found.
Above all, the day confirmed to me three vital key lessons that I’ve learnt from my time working with School Leaders….