Recently, I received a letter from my son’s school. He is sixteen and in the midst of exam season. The school wrote to parents of every child in Year 11, asking them to write and return to the school a letter to their son or daughter, that would be read out to them on the day of their first exam.
Our letters were to simply tell our children, that no matter the outcome of their exams, we would always love and care for them. My son doesn’t know I have written this letter. His first exam is today! I hope that when it is read out to him, he will appreciate not only how much I care about him, but also how much his school does as well.
I hope it will reinforce for him the compassion, care and concern that are at the heart of the way in which his school works with young people. It is my hope too, that one day this same level of compassion, care and concern will be reflected in the way in which our school leaders are treated.
For those of us who work in education we have seen the way in which education has increasingly become a data driven enterprise. The ‘achievements’ of our children and school leaders only meaning something if they have a number or a score attached to them. We have seen the way in which a constant need to weigh and measure and to succeed at all costs has near enough affected the mental health and emotional wellbeing of every pupil, teacher and school leader across the country!
It deeply saddens me that because of this so many talented people have left the profession. The stories abound in staff rooms, across the net and in the press of children, teachers and school leaders whose lives have been blighted as a result of increasing levels of stress and pressure within the system. This isn’t what education should be about. I want my son to have happy memories of school and I want his teachers and senior leaders in his school to have happy memories too.
In today’s current climate this might seem like a big ask, particularly for senior school leaders but I am going to ask it anyway. I am going to ask it because it is my belief that when school leaders are supported to make the weight of school leadership that much easier to bear, then things change for the better for our teachers and ultimately for our children.
How can the weight of school leadership be made lighter to bear?
Currently there are a plethora of initiatives being trialled and examined to address this. Many are focused on minimising the external pressures of school leadership, such as ways to reduce workload etc. To my mind, they are like putting a sticking plaster on wound when something more substantial and curative is needed.
It is my belief that true healing can begin when we start to listen deeply to school leaders and support them to engage in conversations that connect them back to their original passion, purpose and sense of vocation. Conversations that help them understand how to best take care of the person in the role. When we do so, we set in motion a whole chain of physiological, mental and emotional responses. These responses help the mind and body to recalibrate and find a place of inner equilibrium.
As a result, when engaged in these types of conversations school leaders can begin to regain:
– Their sense of agency and purpose
– Hope and belief
– Their sense of vocational vitality
Ultimately, they begin to discover for themselves how to make their particular leadership load that much easier to bear.
Without a doubt the pandemic brought many unexpected challenges for us all. However, one of the silver linings of the past two years has been a heightened awareness of what matters most for all of us. We learnt:
– The value of community
– The need to stay connected
– The importance of being supported
We also learnt that deeper connections matter, none of us can survive alone and to thrive and overcome the challenges of leadership life we need real, deep, and meaningful connections with others.
That’s why we have launched our new “Heads Together”, a new school leadership community, designed to connect like-minded school-leaders and to provide a watering hole for inspiration, encouragement and support.
Our “Heads Together” Community is designed to provide school leaders with:
– A vital network of support to help individuals manage the emotional strains and stresses of the role
– Collaborative forums for thoughtful exploration around timely and important leadership themes
– Inspiration and encouragement throughout the year to help keep leaders’ passion and purpose alive
If you’d like to find out more about the community, and how it could help support you in your role, simply follow the link below…