Coaching & Leadership Development
I Can’t Breathe – Implications for Schools

I Can’t Breathe – Implications for Schools

  Like many in recent weeks, the death of George Floyd, has left me almost daily swamped by waves of emotion.    I heard someone say the other day that their “mind was full and their heart heavy” and that’s just how I have been feeling. It’s as though my whole nervous system has been experiencing some kind of historical trauma.   The flagrant disregard for the life of a Black person, has surfaced many painful memories from my past and times when I had been made to feel ‘less than’ simply because of the colour of my skin.   As a young Black woman growing up in the 70’s and 80’s incidents of racism were peppered throughout my life.  When I was 15, I was told by my career’s teacher, that my aspiration of becoming a Nursery Nurse was too high and instead, I should consider becoming a cashier in the local supermarket.   On another occasion, I was reprimanded for talking in class and told to “Go outside and swing on the trees, like my friends and relatives the monkeys do.” During those times, complaining or expressing my hurt was never an option so I simply learnt to swallow the pain, some of which is undoubtedly bubbling to the surface today.   When I eventually qualified as a teacher, the weight of carrying this fear only intensified.   Throughout all of my teaching career, I taught at schools in Brixton and Stockwell. One of the schools that I taught at  was on the borders of a road that had been a flash point for the Brixton riots in the late 80’s....
How to Overcome the Stress of School Re-Openings

How to Overcome the Stress of School Re-Openings

  This week, whilst it remains open to question as to whether the five tests for easing lockdown have been met, schools have begun to re-admit pupils for certain year groups.   Understandably, against this backdrop there is a high degree of stress and anxiety. Pupils, parents and teachers alike will carry their own set of fears and worries about what a return to school might look like.   Pupils might worry about who they can play with and why it is that they can no-longer proudly carry pieces of work home to show their parents; parents in turn might worry about how well their children will adjust to the changes and teachers may worry about the limitations of social distancing on the child/teacher relationship.   And… there will be many, many more worries that will surface over the coming weeks and months.   As these worries surface, the individual who will be expected to shoulder all of these anxieties and find solutions, will be you, the Headteacher. Prior to the Covid outbreak, you already knew the heaviness of the emotional weight of the role.   You had probably become accustomed to its weight and had developed a pair of broad shoulders as a result! But.. this is different. The levels of stress and anxiety are coming at you from all angles and even though you have never experienced anything like this before, people are still expecting you to have all of the answers.   It’s at times like these that self-awareness and self-management come into their own as key survival skills. Many members of your school community may...
How to Live with Uncertainty as a School Leader

How to Live with Uncertainty as a School Leader

  This blog post is based on the reflections of Giles Barrow, an Integrity Coaching Associate on the topic of managing uncertainty as a School Leader. To watch the full masterclass, please click here.   It has now been almost two months since the country went into lockdown and now, very tentatively we are seeking to ease our way out.   The future is still uncertain and there remains a huge array of unknowns. As a result, most of us are now in what I’d consider to be a “liminal space”.   To clarify, if you’re not familiar with the language, liminal means threshold, it is the period of time between two concrete senses of who we are. For example, adolescence is a liminal period of time as we are no longer a child and we are also not yet an adult.   It is often referred to as a “between place” and during this time,  I’ve seen so many people have been commenting on how peculiar this between and betwixt place they currently feel they are in feels.   This is partly because one of the important things about this liminal time is that it inevitably involves disintegration. After all, there is no way in which it is possible to be a child, undergo adolescence and be a child at the end of it.  It’s just not possible!   We can have a pseudo liminal process in which we think we have had a heck of a time, but we haven’t really experienced this sense of disintegration.   We usually know that is happening because of a number of things: we feel the disintegration bodily, in our minds...
Re-Opening Schools – Why Heads Must be Trusted

Re-Opening Schools – Why Heads Must be Trusted

  Since the very start of this pandemic, Teachers and school leaders have been on the frontline.   Over the past few days, the way in which they have been vilified by some politicians and  certain sections of the media, has served no one, least of all our children.   Amidst the high degrees of change and uncertainty brought about by this global crisis, it is both mis-leading and mis-guided to characterise those who work in our schools as  either “too lazy” or difficult”, when they have expressed valid concerns about the re-opening of  schools.   Unity v’s Division   The disparaging way in which their concerns have been presented has not been helpful. By belittling the very legitimate concerns held by unions, school leaders, teachers and parents alike, the discourse around school re-openings has sadly become divisive. At a time, when a spirit of unity has to be at the centre of all efforts to move the country out of lockdown.   As an accusatory finger is being pointed at teachers and school leaders, what is patently being ignored is the fact that teachers and school leaders do care! The vast majority care passionately about the profession they have chosen to be a part of. They care passionately about the communities they serve.   We need only look back over the past couple of months to see ample evidence of this: from hand-delivering food packages to their most deprived families, facilitating community initiatives (with everything from virtual choirs to helping create masks for the NHS), to of course, providing a range of online learning.   They have done...
An Open Invitation to Every School Leader

An Open Invitation to Every School Leader

  I think it is fair to say that as a result of the current COVID-19 crisis, the challenge and complexity of role of a School Leader  has grown exponentially.   Every school leader in the country has faced an enormous amount of change; personally and professionally. These are unprecedented times, for which there are no rule or guide-books. Everything has changed! Relationships with families, pupils and staff have changed. The speed of change has been swift, with little or no time for school leaders to make sense of both the here and now and also what the ‘new order’ might bring. Whilst many Heads are doing their best in an impossible situation, many are struggling to navigate the uncertainty that has accompanied this global pandemic. The old norms have been stripped away and this can lead to feelings of discomfort, disorientation and anxiety about the current situation in which we have found ourselves. This situation has further exacerbated feelings of overwhelm, isolation and stress that prior to the pandemic, were already prevalent in the teaching profession. All we do know with any degree of certainty – is that for now, this is our new normal and it will require huge amounts of resilience, courage and flexibility to navigate these perilous times. In order for school leaders to be able to navigate through this time successfully, it is important that leaders are offered support that will help them address the emotional and psychological fallout from this pandemic. They need safe relational spaces to explore, question and reflect on how events are impacting on them, on others and their school. Without such spaces, we know that this crisis could prove to be both overwhelming and isolating for those who lead our schools.   Leaders also run the...