Coaching & Leadership Development
Teaching and Leading from your Heart and Soul

Teaching and Leading from your Heart and Soul

  Now I am keenly aware that the term ‘soul’ has its connotations and I ought to clarify from the outset how it is being used in this piece. Soul is one way of referring to a sense of ‘core self’, which might be a more palatable and psychologically derived term. It refers to what’s at the heart of who we are. For the purposes of this piece, I am using the term as an elaborated sense of core self which has a spiritual and psychological character.   “Heart and soul” rhetoric can be regarded as passé, or worse, by some critics in our post-modernist world.  Far from being socially and politically regressive, “heart and soul” language, rightly understood, is one of the most radical rhetorics we have. Despite our cultural bias that all power resides in the outward, visible world, history offers ample evidence that the inward and invisible powers of the human spirit can have at least equal impact changing our individual and collective lives.¹   If you are interested in the theme of soul and educational leadership you inevitably have to encounter Parker Palmer and his Courage to Teach. I first came across a copy early in my career and its wisdom passed me by; I was preoccupied with the technicalities of getting kids to shut up and sit down to work. How I wish I had stayed with the book, forced myself to look beyond accomplishing glorified babysitting and engaged with the kind of professional vocation that can sustain an entire teaching career.   Palmer’s work is full of insights, questions and dilemmas which will...
Why Heads must NOT see fellow Leaders as Competitors

Why Heads must NOT see fellow Leaders as Competitors

    Over the last few years, it’s fair to say that many changes have taken place in our education system that have transformed relationships between Headteachers.    I remember back when I was a Headteacher in a local authority (LA), whilst it was by no means a perfect institution – they understood the importance of creating structures that fostered a strong sense of collegiality and camaraderie amongst its Head teachers.   Yet sadly over the last few years, now many (if not most) LA’s have been dismantled. The increased emphasis on results and league tables has meant that Heads are now encouraged at every stage to compare and compete with local schools, in much the same way as businesses would.   Unsurprisingly, this has led to decreased levels of trust between Heads. The continuing academisation of our schools and the battle for funding has only served to compound the situation. If our school leaders continue to see and treat each other as rivals, it is unlikely that there will be any real winners in this battle. As in reality, we all lose when ego and grandiose expressions of success are put ahead of the humanitarian needs of all who work in our schools.   Relationships Matter   The truth is, in the context of the ever-increasing challenges and the ever-decreasing support afforded to school leaders, relationships with fellow Heads are vital.   Headship is a lonely job and the role brings with it the type of power that often isolates: positional power. The higher up you are in an organisation, the more your positional power means that you not only...
3 Steps to Improving School Communication

3 Steps to Improving School Communication

This blog comes from Justin Robbins and Karen Dempster, co-authors of ‘How to Build Communication Success in Your School’ and workshop facilitators at  “Education for the Soul” Conference 2018.   According to research carried out by the Carnegie Institute of Technology “85% of our success is due to our ability to communicate”. This puts effective two-way communication at the heart of a successful school.   In our previous post, How to Develop your Own Personal Vision we talked about how important a personal vision is to a leader. Similarly, a school’s vision and how it is lived is what sets it apart.   A school leader can create or evolve a vision that inspires their teachers. This best happens through genuine two-way communication and listening.  When lived fully through all that a school does, the vision sets the tone for the right culture, supporting wellbeing, innovation, creativity and enabling teachers to collaborate.  Ultimately, improving the education experience for children.   But, what about when the communication doesn’t reflect your vision or values? For example, a school value is to be ‘considerate’ but parents are literally bombarded with school emails on a Friday afternoon. Or the school vision is to ‘excel’ and yet spelling mistakes are common in staff memos.   Here are three simple steps that your school can take now to ensure your vision and values are reflected in how you communicate…   Step 1 – Listen   Our school communication philosophy is based on starting with good listening habits. One-way messaging, whether to the school team or parents, is just passing on information, a bit like reading a newspaper. A...
5 Steps to Sustaining Your Leadership Confidence

5 Steps to Sustaining Your Leadership Confidence

This blog comes from ex-secondary Headteacher, trainee therapist and Integrity Coaching Associate, Tim Small. Do you ever suffer from self-doubt?  I hope so!  If I met a Head who told me they never doubted themselves, then… Put it this way: I wouldn’t want my children at their school!   Self-doubt is the proper cost, for a committed and conscientious professional, of allowing herself or himself to be human in the face of challenge.  Without self-doubt, we might never allow ourselves to reveal the amazing insights that can come from letting go of our most cherished assumptions!   That doesn’t mean there aren’t times when self-doubt gets in the way. It can be crippling. We have to make sure it’s healthy.   When I was a Head, there were four situations which could raise my self-doubt to unhealthy levels.   – When I’d made a mistake or misjudgement. This could be as simple as missing an appointment by checking my diary too late on a particularly stressful day.  I’d feel bad inside. – When it ‘never rained but it poured’ bad news: staff sickness; accidents; poor results; boiler break-downs… especially when everyone blamed the school! – When I was overtired. I used to think this was connected to the bad news by some malevolent law of chance: like always being kicked when I was already down!  Then I realised that it was actually my low state that made the news feel so overwhelming. – When I felt ‘on my own’ with a problem. With a good team, most problems could be shared and so ‘halved’.  Occasionally, high-stake issues, such as those involving...