This blog comes from ex-secondary Headteacher, trainee therapist and Integrity Coaching Associate, Tim Small.
Although it’s a long time ago now, I remember vividly what it felt like being a school leader at this time of year, after the longest term, when the days are shortest and the summer sun seems so far off.
As well as fatigue, which affected everyone, I suffered from a kind of ‘over-immersion’, as if I’d been under water for too long and was starved of oxygen.
In this ‘glazed’ and unreal state, I would decide to put off such things as difficult conversations and creative challenges, if I could do so safely, until I was clearer in the New Year.
Like being caught in a thicket, I couldn’t see the wood for the trees. If I encountered negativity, I would find myself more likely to react negatively and compound the problem. Then it felt as if everyone around me was getting agitated.
With this in mind, I believe that our school leaders need 3 gifts this Christmas and New year…
Having difficult conversations comes up quite regularly in coaching conversations, as you might imagine. Confronting the unacceptable, especially in a colleague, is never comfortable, but it only gets harder if it’s shirked.
The courage to initiate and manage moments like this is an essential asset. It enables what needs to be said to be out in the open, rather than fester.
It clears the way for more positive evidence to be asked for and validated and balance restored. It also enables the relationship to be renewed on acceptable terms. This is powerful learning, which itself is a gift, not to be denied.
Being doubtful or apologetic about it would only complicate the issue and encourage avoidance of the learning and change that is needed.
At times of overwhelm, it is important to be able to stand back, pause and wait for the ‘snow globe’ to settle.
Mindfulness practices can help with this: attending closely to the present moment can dissolve the emotions associated with the past (sadness, low mood) and future (fear and worry).
Whenever a decision is needed (as many are, every day) I wish for you the clarity to see it, take it and set off staunchly in the required direction without looking back.
Whilst there is agitation, the snow globe will continue to be a blizzard. We are not machines with on/off switches, but we can imagine having a ‘pause’ button.
If we want clarity, we need to know how to be calm, to pause, even when the world’s in a hurry, breathe deeply and remember who we are again. That way, what we do stems naturally from who we are, instead of our identity depending upon what we do.
Having all these three gifts can both help with new beginnings and can also carry you through until the sun comes out properly again. So it is my wish this Christmas and New Year that every school leader gets all three.
“Staying A Head” – Inspiration Calendar Cards
As a school leader, you do an amazing job! Every day you invest enormous amounts of time, energy, passion and commitment – seeking to create better futures for our children and the communities you serve.
It isn’t easy and sometimes support and encouragement can feel in short supply. That is why we have developed these twelve FREE inspiration calendar cards (one for each month) – designed for those moments when you need a little inspiration in your day and to help you stop, pause and reflect.
It’s entirely up to you how you use the cards; pin them up on your board, look at one on the first day of each month, use them as book marks or coasters for your tea or coffee! It’s your choice.