It’s fair to say that even at the best of times being a Head is a stressful job.
And now with the rapid outbreak of coronavirus across the world, the role has become far more complicated and stressful than perhaps had ever been thought possible.
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.
It is schooling like many of us have never known before and it’s hard to say where it will lead. All we do know with any degree of certainty, is that at present, this is our new normal and it will require huge amounts of resilience, courage and flexibility to navigate these perilous times.
It is in times such as these, when it can feel as though everyone and everything else is at sea, that Heads needs to be supported to literally keep their own heads above water and find ways to remain grounded.
The going won’t be easy, the last few weeks have already proven that, but keeping an eye on these four qualities, might just help to bring some sense of calm to the storm that we are all experiencing…
Given predictions from a range of scientific and medical sources, it is highly likely that this outbreak will continue through to the end of the academic year. There is also talk that the virus may reoccur in a multiple waves in the months and years to come.
As science and medical advisors dictate, there may well be relaxations and intensifications of isolation measures. Who knows? What we do know is, both courses of action will cause further disruption and change to the usual workings of school life. It is important to remember that change is always messy and rarely goes the way most of us plan.
Yet we know, amidst these difficult circumstances it is vital that leaders try to stay patient and positive and learn to be at ease with ambiguity and uncertainty as much possible.
This is one of life’s greatest lessons and perhaps one of the hardest to really understand. Circumstances such as these lead us all to find ways to mature as human beings and accept anxiety and ambiguity as part of the human condition. We cannot escape them, but in facing them, we can develop the attributes that will enable us to “Rise Strong”.
And so, when things are difficult or don’t go right, try not to get frustrated or become disheartened. Instead look for the learning and lessons that can be taken away from what you’re experiencing.
Above all, remember you are not alone. Almost every school is in the same situation, navigating their way through this new landscape and grappling in the dark with the same issues.
2. Mindful Decision-Making
Perhaps easier said than done, but now more than ever, our schools, our children need you to be able to make wise, mindful decisions. We need you to be fully present, so that you maintain clarity of purpose and thought as you respond the myriad of challenges presented by this crisis.
We need you to be able to let go of knee jerk responses or quick fixes that may relieve pressure in the short-term, but can also be ill-informed, fail to provide long-term solutions and may even prove to be counter-productive.
So, when it feels as though life is on a perpetual ‘merry go-round’ and it feels impossible to think straight what can you do?
1) Grow your awareness of your own emotions. This involves recognising how you are feeling in the moment. It means being emotionally intelligent and being able to exhibit self-awareness and self-control.
2) Give yourself some breathing space. When faced with big decision, take a step back and allow yourself to find a greater sense of inner calm and settle any feelings of anxiety, fear and panic. Sometimes simply taking 5 minutes to breathe and reflect can be all you need to do to gain a sense of inner equilibrium.
3) Talk! With social distancing now becoming part of the normal fabric of life, we still need to find ways to connect. The act alone of exploring an issue and outlining options or a proposed decision, can uncover flaws in our thinking and help us to gain greater clarity and conviction about the right course of action to take.
The world is indeed made a much brighter and happier place, by human acts of kindness. It would take the steeliest of hearts not to have been touched by the amazing stories of School Leaders going above and beyond to support their communities, look after their staff and support other local schools during this crisis.
It is these acts of kindness that will help us through this present challenge and if we are wise, they will be the foundation stones for the restoration of a society that truly has care and compassion at the heart of it.
With the intense giving required by this crisis, it can be all too easy if you are a school leader to forget your own needs and to become trapped in the Sacrifice Syndrome. Self-Sacrifice is never a good strategy. You always, always come out worst in the end. Remember… your emotional and psychological well-being matter.
I know that as a result of this crisis, safe-guarding issues will most likely have sky-rocketed and you’ll have been the one expected to lead on whatever cases have arisen. You don’t need me to tell you, these cases take their toll!
So, amidst this crisis, don’t be afraid to make yourself a priority. Seek to establish a routine that nurtures you from the inside out and is both nourishing and grounding. Whether it be journaling, reading, yoga or meditation, do whatever feels right for you.
“ I am a rock; I am an Island.”
Sang Simon and Garfunkel. Their song encapsulating the feelings of an individual so bruised and battered by life, that they built their own inner fortress to prevent them ever feeling hurt or pain again.
But to live life like this only causes further pain and in times of crisis and anxiety we all need to step off our rocks and realise that ‘self-isolation’ doesn’t mean that we have to be alone and without support.
Which is why to help support Headteachers and school leaders through this difficult period, I’m offering free 1:1 Coaching calls.
If you are a Head, the calls are for you, if you feel you would benefit from a safe space to:
– Talk openly and honestly about the challenges you’re facing as a result of the coronavirus outbreak
– Receive support and encouragement in your current situation
– Help you maintain perspective and look after your well-being
– Reflect on recent events and the impact they are having on you as a leader and as a person
– Gain clarity around your thoughts and plan a way forward for your school
If you feel like you’d benefit from a call like this or perhaps know someone who would, please follow the link above!