“Hope, modern researchers are finding, does more than offer a bit of solace amidst affliction. It plays a surprisingly potent role in life…
Since the global coronavirus pandemic took hold, I have been very selective in the reports that I have read. The ones that I have found myself drawn to, have had one thing in common… they have all spoken of a hope of a better tomorrow.
In the midst of this crisis, it would seem that many are daring to believe, daring to put their souls on the line, daring to speak truth to power and daring to hope that amidst the sadness, grief and the sorrow, that it is possible to hope for a better future.
But…the hope that they speak of is not ephemeral nor is it based on wishful thinking. It is hope that is firmly linked to action and the realisation that hope is a choice. Hope is a choice that is given meaning and expression to when we decide to take action.
Hope then moves from something intangible, to something that we can then begin to experience more of in our day-to-day lives. When hope moves from an internal desire to an external action, we can find within ourselves the courage to keep moving forward, even in the face of adversity.
As school leaders across the country, seek to find ways to develop this robust type of hope it is essential that they are supported to do three key things…
1. Learning Lessons from the Past
This is a quote I came across a while ago, from the Danish Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard…
“Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”
Throughout your life as a school leader, there will be moments when you can choose to start again; when you can choose to take lessons from the past to inform the future. It is my belief that this is one of those times.
It is a time, when you can take prior learning/experiences to create new, more aligned realities for yourself, your school and the communities you serve.
In order to live more fully we need to have a process in place that enables us to develop a greater understanding of life’s’ ups and downs. It is only with that understanding that our lives can move forward with far deeper levels of insight and wisdom. This current crisis calls for these qualities to be evident in all of our school leaders. Many will have to dig deep and be supported to do so.
2. Create boundaried spaces
In these unprecedented times, many Heads may understandably, find it difficult to share with staff the full weight of responsibility for what they are carrying.
There has always been the risk of crossing professional boundaries and perhaps this task has now been made even harder, when a physical barrier no longer exists between home and school. For many school leaders a space at home has replaced their school office and it may be difficult to maintain the personal boundaries that may have existed before.
Boundaries keep us safe. Children need parameters when they traverse from one stage of life to the next.
These parameters keep them healthy and secure as they grow and develop. Adults need similar parameters too. In times such as these, when everything is shifting, school leaders need their own protected and boundaried space. A space that will support their continued growth, so that they can confidently exhibit the leadership skills and qualities that are needed for these times.
3. Stay connected
Leadership does not happen in a vacuum. Leaders need people, not only to follow them, but also to help them on their journey. The connections that you make as you move forward will have a great impact on the degree to which you are able to deal successfully with this current crisis. In school, and because of the nature of your role, relationships can often be one-dimensional, meaning that your total need for human connection and relationship are limited.
As you seek to navigate this crisis, don’t just look for relationships that will tell you how to do x,y and z. Remember, none of us have been here before… we are all still finding our way. So, as well as these relationships, seek out connections with those who can help you to:
– Understand psychologically and emotionally what this time means for leaders and their communities
– Deepen your understanding of yourself and your current coping strategies.
– Envisage a new future and put hope into action
Support in times of Challenge
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 witnessed an enormous amount of change in terms of what their life, their role and school now look like. Today, like never before many Heads find themselves having to sail previously uncharted waters.
These are unprecedented times, for which there are no rule or guide-books. Everything has changed! As a result, there is understandable anxiety about the current situation we are all in. Feelings of anxiety, overwhelm, isolation and stress are prevalent.
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.
In times like these, we need to be deliberate in pressing the pause button and finding time to reflect. Leaders need safe relational spaces to explore, question and reflect on how events are impacting on them, on others and their school.
It is a time when we can be explicit and openly address the fact that we are all in a time of transition. It is a time that requires open and honest discussion about what this period signifies for us all and with support, find ways through to the other side.
Without such spaces or the proper support, sadly we know that this crisis can prove to be both overwhelming and isolating for those who lead our schools. Leaders also run the risk of emotional ‘burn out’.
When this begins to happen, not only do we experience extreme levels of mental and emotional exhaustion that can be debilitating, but we also can begin to derive less satisfaction from our lives.
Having been a Head myself and experienced burnout, I know all too well what this feels like and equally what must be done to prevent it!
It is for this reason, that I now offer free “Coaching for the Soul” calls, for Heads who feel that they could benefit from a confidential space that will allow them to:
– Talk through the challenges they’re facing and find solutions
– Receive support and encouragement in their current situation
– Reflect on recent events and the impact they are having
– Gain clarity around their thoughts and plan a way forward
If you feel like you’d benefit from a call like this or perhaps know someone who would, please follow the link above!