Coaching & Leadership Development
Keeping school leaders
hope alive today, for
our children’s hope of a
better tomorrow.
How to Lighten the Burden of School Leadership

How to Lighten the Burden of School Leadership

In every headteacher or school leader’s office, there is an invisible bucket of rocks. They may be squirrelled away under their desk near their feet or they may be up on a shelf, nestled amongst the folders and files. Sometimes, the bucket is almost empty; sometimes, the rocks can be seen spilling out over the rim of the bucket and gathering in small piles around its base. Some of these rocks are fragile and flinty, prone to breaking in sharp shards should they be handled in the wrong way. Some are barely more than clumps of sand, on the surface, seemingly firm and strong but ready to crumble under the slightest pressure. Others are shining polished glittering pieces of stardust, twinkling with promise; among the rest of the bucket are jagged and tearing pieces of layered rock, ready to skin your hands should you reach out to help them. Towards the bottom are endlessly heavy rocks, although small in size, dense and almost un-liftable, such is their deceptive weight. Between the bigger rocks lie multiple tiny pebbles, some beautifully smooth and polished, others spiky and rough. The bucket is invisible, yet it is carried everywhere the leader goes. Sometimes swinging the empty invisible bucket cheerfully as they go around their daily business and other days simply staring at the bucket, almost cowed by its weight and seemingly without the strength to lift it alone.

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Why Heads Leave – The 3 Key Reasons

Why Heads Leave – The 3 Key Reasons

Every time, I sit with a Headteacher as their coach, I become acutely aware of the amount of energy they expend in seeking to do what is right for them and right for their schools. It is not an easy task. Many find themselves in situations where it seems impossible to see the wood for the trees and if they are not supported to find their own way forward, they may inadvertently end up following someone else’s. More often than not, this other path can end up being the wrong path and for the reasons cited in the above quote, can lead to good people leaving the profession. To understand why this happens and why there is still such a high rate of attrition amongst Heads, we need to deepen our understanding of three key things that happen to Heads when they ‘temporarily mobilise energy in service to goals’ that are not their own…

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Race Equality in Schools – 4 Things Heads Must Learn

Race Equality in Schools – 4 Things Heads Must Learn

On paper, schools have had a duty to ensure that they are places which are safe, happy and equitable for all staff, children and their families. We know that in reality, this is much harder to achieve than could have been imagined when we signed up for the job as teachers and leaders. When it comes to race, schools may have been busy with bureaucracy around racial incidents, but it seems like recent events have made many school leaders realise how deeply entrenched structural or systemic racism is in our institutions, and the real impact this has on people of colour, their life chances, access to opportunity, wellbeing, physical and mental health. The start towards becoming an anti-racist school leader is the understanding that racism isn’t just situated in name-calling or focused attacks on individuals, but is more likely to take place in subtle and insidious ways that are the result of our implicit, inherent, learned, or as it is most commonly known, ‘unconscious’ bias. We know that schools are microcosms of society, and schools are charged with fixing all of society’s ills. And recently, we have realised that society is very ill indeed. In short, racism is ‘in’ all of us and it resides in almost every aspect of life. That might sound depressing but the first step to educating oneself as a leader, is to acknowledge that we all have a problem, and to understand that we all have a responsibility to be part of the solution. Before rushing to solutions, it is important that leaders take steps to properly educate themselves, to learn and unlearn in equal measures. Here are four things you can do right now:

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Wholeness & School Leadership: Why Race and Identity Matter

Wholeness & School Leadership: Why Race and Identity Matter

It is my belief that good school leadership has at its heart a desire for wholeness. It is a wholeness which individuals seek to see manifested through a harmonious interplay of their deepest values and beliefs, by fostering right relationships with themselves and others. Recent events sparked by the death of George Floyd have clearly illustrated that we live in a society that is far from whole. Fault lines run through the lives of individuals and organisations, teachers and school leaders, families and their children. We have seen how people have come together to try and repair the damage but there can be no papering over the cracks. For the dream of racial equality to be real, complete healing and transformation is needed.

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Why Headteachers Need Different Support to Teachers

Why Headteachers Need Different Support to Teachers

Everyone can use support in their careers. But what many people don’t realise is that the further you progress in your career, the more support you need. Many assume that once you climb to the Head teacher post that. Either support is no longer required or you require a similar level of support to that received in previous posts. However, nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is, the role of Head teacher is markedly different from any other teaching or leadership post that you might have held; strategically and operationally, mentally and emotionally. It is for these reasons that Heads need support that is bespoke and tailored to meet the specific personal and professional challenges of the role.

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Why Even the Best Mentor is no Replacement for a Coach

Why Even the Best Mentor is no Replacement for a Coach

When you step into the Head teacher role, it is quite common for you to be offered a Mentor. An individual who has been there before, who can show you the ropes and who will share their wisdom, knowledge and experience with you. But… a Mentor is different from a Coach. A lot of people think that they do pretty much the same thing, but actually, a coach takes care of crucial support needs that a mentor simply isn’t trained for. Even the best school leadership mentor can’t replace the support you can get from a coach — and here’s why: You’re not your role; you’re a person in a role. Mentoring is fantastic for developing yourself in the context of your role. It’s largely focused on the external things, like developing your skills for operations, navigating your first governor’s meeting, preparing your reports. But it doesn’t focus on the inner growth that’s necessary to really step into your new role and make it your own. At best, it’s a fantastic way to learn strategies and skills.

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The Well-being of School Leaders – Podcast

The Well-being of School Leaders – Podcast

  In an increasingly challenging environment of reduced budgets and recruitment difficulties, prioritising the health and well-being of school leaders is vital.   Higher levels of accountability and ensuring the wellbeing of staff and pupils can leave school leaders feeling stressed and isolated.   Whether you’re taking on a new school leader role, or maintaining current leadership under new challenges, this podcast looked at ways to minimise stress and maximise efficiency.   In this podcast, I explored:   – Strategies in achieving a work-life balance – How to recognise the importance of looking after your own wellbeing, as well as your team – Leading without sacrificing yourself – The importance of the relationship with the governing body in offering support     Supporting yourself in the role…   When you are working in a school, engaging day-to-day with children and their families, teachers, support staff, governors and other adults, you know that in addition to expending great amounts of mental and physical energy, you expend equal (if not more) amounts of energy meeting the emotional needs of others.   If you don’t invest the time in meeting your needs, you can end up carrying a huge emotional debt and become increasingly emotionally overdrawn, with no readily identifiable means for bringing your emotional account back into credit.   This is particularly dangerous if you’re like most Heads in our school system, you’re incredibly under-supported. There’s no one you can talk to who really gets your job and all the stresses that come with it, leaving you stuck with coping mechanisms and busy-ness to get you through the day — not a great set up... LEARN MORE
Staying Grounded – How to Lead Positively in a Crisis

Staying Grounded – How to Lead Positively in a Crisis

In times of crisis, such as the one we are currently facing, it’s natural for our minds to become dominated by loss, or the threat of loss. In our current climate, loss has taken centre stage in our social consciousness. Depending on individual circumstances, losses might range from something as simple as missing routine stimuli, to cancelled plans or holidays, to financial losses, even to the agony of losing someone we love. With rolling media coverage heightening the removal of so much we’ve taken for granted, it is all too easy for fear, anxiety and stress to weigh us down and crush our spirits. In such times, we must hold on to what matters and be ready to let go of everything else. We must work out how to progress, from a narrow focus on our loss of normality to awareness of the opportunities that may now be open to us, which our previously overcrowded agendas might have been depriving us of. So that we can do this, here are three ways to stay grounded and positive, in our self-leadership and leadership of others…

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The “R Word” – What Schools must Learn about Race

The “R Word” – What Schools must Learn about Race

A few years ago, I was sitting in a parent-teacher conference. A black mum sat across the table from me as we discussed her son. By this time, I had been through a master’s program and had been asked to join a diversity committee. I considered myself a “good” white person, now “thinking” about racism (it was still an intellectual exercise for me). I was particularly troubled by this young black boy who “was not living up to his potential.” I felt that he could do more, but he was not. I expressed my oh-so condescending concern as, “Look at all I’m doing. Why won’t your son meet me halfway?” — a sentiment I have felt and heard in schools more times than I can count. This mum looked at me and said in a calm voice, “I think you’re being racist toward my son.” And what did I do? I doubled-downed. I proceeded to explain to this mum all the ways that I certainly was not racist, how much I had worked with her son, given him extra time. I had not written him off as so many other teachers had done, telling me that I shouldn’t waste my time with him. Couldn’t she see how “good” I was? I defended myself, and my whiteness, just as I had been taught to do by centuries of white superiority and white silence on this topic. Years later, I shudder when I recall this conversation. But I do so — and do so publicly — because it brings me to one central question: What if being called “racist” was the beginning, not the end, of the conversation? What if, instead of offering a ranting defensive of my intentions, I had taken this mum at her word? What if I considered that she might know her son’s experience better than I did? What if I had owned the outcome of my behaviour and considered with her how my work with her son was perpetuating racial stereotypes and prejudice? Do you think that might have impacted her son’s experience in my class? In the school? Do you think it would have made me a better teacher?

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Talking about Race – 10 Steps to Progress

Talking about Race – 10 Steps to Progress

Many of us will have experienced the explosive nature of conversations about race. So much so that we become afraid of even mentioning the ‘r-words’ – ‘race,’ ‘racism’ and, the most explosive of all, ‘racist’. Pointing out the racism behind someone’s actions often places us in precarious situations, especially if you are a person of colour. As a teacher of colour in Scotland, I have encountered numerous difficulties when speaking about race with colleagues, pupils, friends and my biracial family. There is often a fear of offending, of being offended and many misunderstandings, making race a practically ‘taboo’ topic. And, unless we communicate clearly in this area, racial violence – be it discursive, physical or systemic – has a dangerous potential to grow even more. There is a misconception that talking about race only makes matters worse and increases racism.

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“Education for the Soul” 2017  – Conference Report

“Education for the Soul” 2017 – Conference Report

On the 19th October 2017, Head teachers & School Leaders from across the country joined us for our Inaugural “Education for the Soul” Conference. Our purpose was to provide a different type of school leadership conference; one that would provide a space for school leaders to explore new and sustainable ways of leading that would enable them to overcome the stresses of their roles and maintain their ability to lead and inspire others. Unlike other School Leadership conferences, the day aimed to provide a unique opportunity and space for… Reflection – Where leaders could be themselves and reflect with like-minded colleagues on the aspects of school leadership that mattered most to them. Learning – Where leaders could deepen their personal knowledge and gain a better understanding of how wellbeing contributes to personal performance and school outcomes. Creativity – Where leaders could explore solutions, practical ideas and suggestions for bringing their visions to life. Collegiality – Where leaders could laugh, share and have time to talk with others about how to achieve the very best for themselves and those they lead and manage

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The 3 Key Lessons of “Education for the Soul” 2017

The 3 Key Lessons of “Education for the Soul” 2017

As a coach, I trust myself to be able to create the type of 1:1 spaces where it is safe for the soul to be seen.
Spaces where School Leaders can come out from behind their leadership masks and explore what it means to live lives of authenticity and integrity, amidst the challenges and complexities of day to day school life. However, in hosting the ‘Education for the Soul’ Conference, I faced a new challenge.

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