Coaching & Leadership Development
Keeping school leaders
hope alive today, for
our children’s hope of a
better tomorrow.
Coronavirus – How to Protect your Mental Health in a Crisis

Coronavirus – How to Protect your Mental Health in a Crisis

After a week of self-isolating and not getting any better, this was very much the case for me. When it was confirmed over the phone, by my doctor that I had contracted Covid-19. The diagnosis didn’t surprise me. For a week I’d felt awful; sore throat, persistent cough, aching limbs, no energy and loss of appetite. By the time my family made the decision to call the doctor, those symptoms had intensified, along with stinging headaches, that seemed to go on for hours and Paracetamol had little effect. Self-isolating in my bedroom and with no energy to even read a book or watch TV, the only thing I could do was face my own interior world of thoughts and feelings. My family were worried, particularly my 93 year old mum (who struggled to understand why she couldn’t come over and take care of me) and my eldest son, who despite his best efforts, found it difficult to mask his anxiety and worry. As I slowly came back to full health ( a process that took slightly over three weeks) I realised that the sense of connectedness that I had with myself and others was a key factor in protecting my mental health. It helped me to retain a sense of hope as my body sought to recover.

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7 Ways to Care for your Well-being – COVID-19 Crisis

7 Ways to Care for your Well-being – COVID-19 Crisis

With news of coronavirus dominating the headlines and increasingly affecting our daily lives, even the most level-headed among us will be feeling worry and anxiety. The first thing to recognise is that feeling that way is normal. Considering the abnormality of this situation that seems to be playing out across the globe, it’s completely OK not to feel OK right now. Spiralling into panic, however, rarely helps anything. Or anyone. So whether you’re still in school or teaching from home, the following steps will help you to remain realistic, resourceful and calm as we move through these uncharted waters…

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Why is Change so difficult in Schools?

Why is Change so difficult in Schools?

There is an ancient Persian tale about a householder who notices a bump in a rug. Whenever he tries to smooth the rug the bump reappears again, and again, and again. Finally, in frustration, he lifts the rug and out slides an angry snake. Of course, the point is that this is how we tend to try to change things in our organisations; dealing only with the symptoms and not the underlying cause – the snake under the surface. This is understandable, for we live in a rational age when we’re taught to believe only what we can see and to value only that which we can know. And so it goes for our professional development as leaders and managers, which trains us to view our colleagues as nothing more than rational actors, moving about on a surface in ways we might try to predict, and motivate with carrots and sticks. This perspective is so pervasive that we rarely question it.

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Coronavirus – The 3 Steps to Surviving a Crisis

Coronavirus – The 3 Steps to Surviving a Crisis

This blog comes from an ex-secondary Headteacher, trainee therapist and Integrity Coaching Associate, Tim Small.    Many things can cause a crisis in a School, more often than not – they result from a set of circumstances which are often caused by things entirely out of one’s control as a school leader.   This has never been true since the coronavirus outbreak caused schools to shut back in March. Today, many Heads find themselves having to sail previously uncharted waters; they are having to captain and lead ‘digital’ schools whilst simultaneously provide some type of specialised, alternative provision for children of key workers.   Given this pressure and enormous amount of change is also happening alongside many leaders’ personal circumstances, it is understandable to experience quite significant psychological upheaval.   With this upheaval leaders can begin to feel overwhelmed and helpless in the situation.   If this is the case for you, here’s three things you should do to regain a sense of agency and give yourself the best chance of surviving a crisis like this…    1. Remember Your Oxygen Mask   Firstly, I have learned that how you feel is more to do with your inner state than what’s going on out there.  When I’ve slept well and feel physically and mentally OK, I somehow feel ‘bigger’ and problems seem ‘smaller’.  They even seem to matter less, although I am still driven to solve them as best I can.  The difference is that I have some energy to do so.  Fatigue, on the other hand, makes us turn in on ourselves and it becomes even harder to face the world.   The first piece of advice,... LEARN MORE
What is a Coaching Relationship really like?

What is a Coaching Relationship really like?

Senior school leaders are in positions where their behaviours, words, actions and relationships are on constant public display. As a result, their lives are under constant public scrutiny. This in itself brings a unique set of pressures. School leaders have to learn how to manage both their private and public personas; in a manner that ensures they are able to maintain high levels of authenticity and a deep connection with their core values and what they stand for. When faced with challenging circumstances (which often arise on a daily basis) school leaders normally respond automatically to these situations with perceived expertise and aplomb. Responding to stress, responding to crisis, small and large that are not a part of the planned daily routine, soon become an accepted part of a school leader’s daily life. However, left unchecked, and without time to reflect on causes, impact and consequences of actions taken, these automatic behaviours can result in leaders becoming disconnected from themselves and in extreme cases, disconnected at various levels from those they lead and manage.

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How to Live with Uncertainty as a School Leader

How to Live with Uncertainty as a School Leader

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 and we find that what used to make sense, no longer makes sense. Therefore, there is a real feeling of disorientation.

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Re-Opening Schools – Why Heads Must be Trusted

Re-Opening Schools – Why Heads Must be Trusted

Teachers and school leaders have been on the frontline since the very start of this pandemic. 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. 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.

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Coronavirus – How to Manage Change as a School Leader

Coronavirus – How to Manage Change as a School Leader

“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional” – John Maxwell Change is all around us. It happens every second, every minute of our lives. Yet in spite of this, change is not something many of us are comfortable with. As a result, we so often miss the inherent opportunities for growth that accompany any change process.   Within the context of school leadership, my belief is that the reason for this, is because very little if anything is done to prepare individuals for the emotional and psychological consequences of change.   This becomes a particular problem at times like this, when school leaders are facing a huge amount of change and uncertainty as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.   When faced with a crisis like this, when you are at the forefront and needing to manage change across your school, you also have to take stock and ask, “What is the change process  asking of you?”   This is a necessary first step if you are to develop the wherewithal to manage the crisis positively, not only for yourself, but also for those that you lead and manage.   In my work with school leaders, I have come to realise that change is managed most effectively when individuals understand that there are four distinct stages that they and their schools must successfully progress through.   Each stage requires a deep level of self-awareness and emotional maturity to avoid the fight or flight syndrome, or remaining stuck in an unhealthy comfort zone. The four stages are…   1. Letting go:   This is the stage where you have to: – Accept that some or... LEARN MORE
The Role of a Headteacher – Podcast

The Role of a Headteacher – Podcast

Back in May 2017, I was delighted to be invited by the Evolve Team to discuss the unique and changing role of a school leader. As part of this, I shared learnings from my own experience of Headship as we explored the emotional and psychological challenges that school leaders now face in the role and common pitfalls that leaders can fall into as they try to deliver the best outcomes for their schools. To build on this, we also addressed a number of topics including: – The loneliness of the headteacher role – Why headteachers need to find the space to process recent events, issues and challenges – The sacrifice syndrome that many school leaders suffer from and how to overcome the issues it presents – The important “inner work” that headteachers must do to stay focussed, build a greater self-understanding and maintain equilibrium – The importance of self-compassion, self-care and support Supporting yourself in the role…   When you are working in a school, engaging day-to-day with children and their families, teachers, support staff, governors and other adults, you know that in addition to expending great amounts of mental and physical energy, you expend equal (if not more) amounts of energy meeting the emotional needs of others.   If you don’t invest the time in meeting your needs, you can end up carrying a huge emotional debt and become increasingly emotionally overdrawn, with no readily identifiable means for bringing your emotional account back into credit.   This is particularly dangerous if you’re like most Heads in our school system, you’re incredibly under-supported. There’s no one you can talk to who... LEARN MORE
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 the Headteacher role 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 an understandable anxiety about the current situation in which we all find ourselves. On top of this, feelings of overwhelm, isolation and stress that Heads often report have also been further intensified. All we do know with any degree of certainty during these times – 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. Therefore, this is a time when we need to be deliberate in pressing the pause button and finding time to reflect. This is a time, when different types of conversation and leadership support are needed.

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“Sustaining a Vital Profession” – Research Report

“Sustaining a Vital Profession” – Research Report

There is growing evidence of the deterioration of wellbeing amongst teachers and school leaders and a growing recruitment and retention crisis facing the profession. As recently as November 2019, Education Support published its Teacher Wellbeing Survey. In this survey, over 84% of senior leader respondents admitted to experiencing high-levels of stress from the role, with over 66% of senior leaders have considered leaving. The survey also highlighted the culture of overworking in the profession; 59% of senior leaders who completed the survey indicated they typically worked more than 51 hours per week. Meanwhile, 28% of senior leaders worked more than 61 hours per week and 11% working more than 70 hours per week. This situation further highlights the dire situation that faces the profession, which comes after the NFER report in 2017 found that headteacher retention rates have significantly fallen since 2012.

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