I know that every day, you take on a role that asks way more than many others could imagine. Every day, you give of your best so that our children can bring forth the promise that lies within them. Yet, I wonder, how often have you stopped to ask yourself;
“What of my promise, what of my gift to the world, who is that takes cares of and nurtures this for me?”
If you grew up in the 70’s as I did, you may be familiar with a poem by Dorothy Law Nolte called Children Learn What They Live. It seemed to be a guide for parents, telling them how to be with their children so that that they grew into healthy fully functioning adults.
If you are unfamiliar with the poem, here it is:
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
It strikes me that much of what she says can be applicable to the complex emotional life of a school leader, on three levels:
Level one: The Children that you work with
– You know the level of emotional investment needed to turn around the lives of children who have grown up with criticism, hostility, fear, pity, ridicule etc. You know that every single interaction, with every vulnerable child requires a huge amount of emotional giving.
– You know the immense joy, pride and sense of fulfilling one’s vocation when these very same children begin to learn that the world is a ‘nice place in which to live’ because you and others have shown them encouragement, tolerance, praise etc.
Level two: Those you Lead
– You know the importance of developing positive relationships across your team and a culture of tolerance, fairness and understanding amongst staff – so that they can model the same behaviours with pupils and feel safe as they carry out their role every day.
– You know the impact that positive leadership has on staff performance when there is encouragement, praise and trust – and how a few supportive words can empower individuals in your team to keep going.
Level three: Yourself
– Sadly, you also know how it feels when our system puts your humanity to one side and treats you with criticism and hostility. You know the type of feelings such behaviours engender in you and how they impact negatively on your ability to perform at your best.
– But hopefully you will know how on all those too rare occasions, what it feels like when you receive genuine upward feedback. When your hard work is recognised, your efforts praised, and you are treated with kindness and understanding. You know what it feels like to be treated with humanity.
So to every Headteacher reading this, I want to invite you to consciously take steps to invite more of these types of positive relationships into your life.
Just as our children hold so much promise, you do too. Just as you seek to help them live out their promise, you also deserve relationships that will help you to become all that you can be and more!
You deserve this not least because 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.
This isn’t easy to maintain. After a long week and the inevitable challenges of your role, it can often feel as though your energy, hope and emotional reserves are in short supply – and it can be hard to find someone to turn to for support, to get this encouragement that you deserve.
This is partly because it is understandably difficult to share ‘fully’ with staff. There is always the risk of crossing professional boundaries. Friends and family might offer a listening ear, but again it isn’t easy. Unless they have walked in your shoes, it can feel like it’s hard for them to understand what you are going through.
However, I know from my own experience as a Headteacher and now as an Executive coach that personalised support is vital, if leaders are to keep their hope alive and stay connected to their vision, passion and purpose. I believe it’s the least our leaders deserve for their on-going commitment to achieving the best possible outcomes for our children.
That’s why I offer free 30 minute Coaching calls to give senior leaders a chance to:
– Talk through and get support with the challenges they’re currently facing
– Reflect on events and the impact they’re having
– Gain clarity about their current situation and plan a way forward
If you’re keen for support and guidance in your current situation, please do book now!