“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 in October 2022, we’ll host our 4th “Education for the Soul” conference to help address this issue and explore how leaders can successfully manage and respond to the growing complexities and emotional demands of School Leadership.
This conference will feature a new selection of expert speakers and workshop hosts, who will be sharing their insights into how school leaders can look after their own well-being, lead with authenticity, get the most out of those they lead and above all, deliver the best outcomes for their pupils.
The conference will aim to build on the outcomes of our previous “Education for the Soul” conferences and seek to explore how school leaders and teachers can learn to lead with integrity, depth and purpose.
As part of this, we will look into how individuals can stay connected to their “why” and their deepest values. Above all, “Education for the Soul” 2022 will aim to help school leaders and teachers:
– Foster a deep sense of vocation and purpose amongst all staff
– Increase their understanding of the relationship between school development and personal development
– Keep hope, joy passion, commitment and creativity at the heart of their school and relationships with self and others