Change is never easy. Ironically, we counter it almost every single day of our lives and yet the accompanying struggles and stresses that are often a part of the change process, still seem to always take us by surprise.
Never more so is this the case than in schools where very often the emotional responses to change and school improvement can cause individuals to lose sight of the fact that change is just as much a relational process as it is a strategic and operational process.
Successful change involves engagement of the heart, just as much as it does engagement of our cognitive faculties. When the heart is engaged, the stories that individuals then tell about the change process within their schools is more humane, generative and hope-centred.
Research carried out by Dr Belinda Harris (one of the workshop hosts for our up and coming “Education for the Soul” Conference) suggests that there are three emotional conditions necessary for school improvement or three `heart’ conditions which are central to the process of change…
1. Emotional Fitness
The first of these is defined as `emotional fitness’, whereby creating a climate of trust in the school is essential to foster positive feelings of involvement and ownership.
When fears, anxieties and even resistance are articulated and accepted as normal and healthy responses to change, teachers are more likely to trust that their efforts will not be ridiculed or dismissed. Communication and positive relationships are central components of emotional fitness allowing staff to realistically assess and confront their own strengths and weaknesses in order to achieve personal growth and change.
2. Emotional Literacy and Depth
The second condition can be defined as emotional literacy and depth, whereby time and space is actively provided for self-esteem and positive relationships to develop. Within this context, constructive feedback is a means to enhancing self-awareness and shared reflection is encouraged.
The aim of emotional literacy and depth is to deliberately enhance the quality of communication and relationships between staff and other stakeholders and to build self-reflection into the fabric of school life.
The emphasis here is on improving the intra-personal, inter-personal and social processes within the school. Where emotional fitness and literacy in depth combine, the third condition of emotional alchemy is possible.
3. Emotional Alchemy
This is where teachers are more willing to take bold and creative steps forward to improve their practice, to take on leadership roles and to engage others in research and theory making.
In essence, this means a high degree of emotional exposure and trust, which is at the heart of successful and sustainable school improvement. An essential aspect of successful change is the optimal development of interpersonal and emotional energy.
This is achieved by harnessing and maximizing the creative talents of all those within the school and, where possible, outside it. It is achieved by building trust and tolerating ambiguity, dissonance and difference.
Leaders have a prime role to play in this process; they can orchestrate the conditions for school development to succeed but they need to recognize the limitations of rational approaches to change.
Through respectful, honest, direct communication, relationships with colleagues, students, parents and governors can flourish.
The emotional work, however, is not cost neutral and it requires courage, patience, humility and resilience on the part of those leading within organisations and on everybody’s part. At its simplest, emotional alchemy calls for leaders to invest more time in building and nurturing relationships; at its most profound, it suggests a radical re-conceptualisation of what is meant by organisational change and improvement.
It calls for the normative and inherently reductionist theories of change and improvement to be replaced with more holistic, humanistic and experiential forms of intervention and understanding.
Most importantly, it calls for leaders to recognise the limitations of approaches to school improvement that factor out the very emotional conditions that are most needed to transform their schools.
On the 18th October at our “Education for the Soul” Conference, Belinda Harris will explore how school leaders can use the challenges of leadership to bring greater depth, meaning and purpose to their roles.
This workshop will form a crucial part of the day which will centre around the theme of “Creating New Narratives for the School Leaders’ Journey” and will aim to extend the conversation around school leadership, well-being and standards in our schools and help leaders redefine what being a school leadership looks like for them and write exciting new chapters for themselves, their pupils and the communities they serve.
Like last year’s conference, we hope to create a safe and collegial space where you can meet with like-minded Heads and School Leaders, openly explore present challenges, discover new ways of leading and develop personal frameworks for thriving in the school leadership role.
Above all, we aim to provide school leaders with a unique opportunity where they can…
– Talk truthfully and honestly about the challenges of school leadership
– Experience the companionship of fellow school leaders in ways which are collegiate and supportive
– Probe and re-connect with their purpose, values and sense of vocation
– Explore how to make lighter the weight of school leadership
– Discover solutions and new ways of leading their schools
If you’d like to find out more about what the conference is all about, please visit our website using the link below…