“There’s a crack in everything and that’s how the light gets in.”
This being the famous line from the Leonard Cohen song, “Anthem”
When we look at our schools today, many will argue as I have done, that there are cracks, that there are major fault lines across virtually all aspects of our education system and that that it is near to breaking point.
Yet increasingly, it would seem to me, that wherever there are cracks, there are lights, there are beacons of hope; individuals, groups and organisations who are daring to speak out, who are daring to come together to mend the cracks within our system.
These beacons of hope are asking such questions as:
– Is there another way?
– How can we improve things?
– What else can be done?
The Framework for Ethical Leadership in Education, published by the Chartered College of Teaching at the start of the year, is in my opinion, one of these beacons of hope.
This documents’ raison d-etre is to provide a set of guiding principles for leaders in education, that can offer guidance on such questions as:
– How do we ensure that the language of values and virtues impacts our everyday decision making?
– How can we ensure wisdom is modelled by leaders at the heart of our schools and colleges?
– How can we revitalise the principles behind our daily work?
Working so closely as I do with school leaders, I know these are the right types of questions that we need to be asking of our leaders. These types of questions go beyond the surface of things. They guide individuals towards a deeper connection with their moral purpose and therein enable them to be the lights that our system needs.
We need school leaders who are so deeply connected to their values and their purpose that no matter how challenging the circumstances they find themselves in, they are able to stay vitalised and connected. I believe we still have some way to go to get to that point, the attrition rate within the profession is still way too high.
However, if the profession can positively engage with the framework’s guidance, then overtime, it is just possible that we will begin to see a greater prevalence of;
‘an observable set of behaviours, internally rooted but externally focused based on service and purpose’
This is a bold, but necessary statement from the framework. As it points to the fact that good leadership, ethical leadership is rooted in the inner life of the school leader and that his or her behaviours will reveal the depth of their own individual inner work.
For there to be real traction in this area, the system also needs to repair the cracks that exist across a range of interpersonal relationships across the profession; at all levels. Ego driven policies and practices still drive some parts of the sector and these need to be challenged for the greater good. The deep inner work that the framework alludes to for supporting ethical behaviour, is much harder to address when there is a lack of trust or a willingness to be vulnerable with others.
For those individuals who have read the framework, yet feel they do not yet have the relationships around them to support the inner work, here are a few questions for you to consider privately:
– What are my reasons for being in this profession?
– What is my leadership like when I am at my best?
– Who/what supports me to be at my best?
– What does it mean for me to be a wise leader?
– What does courage look like for you in your role?
Again, these questions go beyond the surface of things. They won’t necessarily be easy to answer. They are really questions for the soul and not the ego.
And probably more often than not, your ego has been in the driving seat, when questions have been asked of you. So don’t be surprised if you find a bit of an inner conflict going on!
But if you do … just remember this; by focusing on what matters most to you, you can be a light in some one’s day. You can help heal the cracks in our broken system and your light can shine even brighter if you are prepared to dig deep and go beyond the surface of things.
To help School Leaders begin to answer these important questions, in October 2020, we will once again host Headteachers & School Leaders from across the country for our very special “Education for the Soul” conference.
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, get the most out of those they lead and 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” 2020 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