hope alive today, for
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Our Blog Archive is organised into 8 key themes to make it easier for you to find posts on areas that are of particular importance to you:
Maintaining a good work-life balance is difficult in any profession. The wonders of technology have given us endless ways to blur the boundaries, meaning that we often take our work home, physically, emotionally and mentally. Despite what some may think, educator don’t “own” work-related stress. But by golly we’ve earned a majority share. Given our excessive workloads, accountability measures and the fact that we work more overtime than any other industry, it’s no wonder that 67 per cent of educators describe themselves as “stressed at work”, with many showing actual symptoms of clinical anxiety and depression. The truly tragic thing is that we’re not surprised by this. To us, the language of stress, panic attacks and antidepressants has become commonplace and normalised.LEARN MORE
The demands on the shoulders of our school leaders has never been greater, with inordinate demands on time and resources distracting from the essence of the role. Amidst the heightened pressures and challenges, what steps can School Leaders take to succeed in their role? Firstly, many SLT members forego training for the sake of saving time and money. But professional and personal development need not cost the earth: sometimes it can be as simple as finding a course that suits you, reading an article or keeping up with inspiring educationalists on social media. After all, who wants to follow someone whose leadership has gone stale? So keep reading, learning and growing (all things we expect of pupils, lest we forget) and seek out anything that will keep you engaged.LEARN MORE
The frustrations, pressures, and challenges teachers face test their self-esteem, energy and dedication every day. To preserve throughout their careers the vision with which the best of them started – to hold fast to the idea that the business they are in is that of setting minds on fire – is a heroic project. It is a project that all teachers and school leaders face, one that is about learning to bring out the best in themselves and others. It is a project that is as much about ensuring their pupils are emotionally intelligent, as it is about ensuring that they are numerate and literate. It is about ensuring that they leave school with levels of emotional maturity and insight that will enable them to develop positive relationships with individuals from all walks of life. It is about a human quest where the prize should not just be a ranking on government league tables, but building generations of young people who possess a healthy sense of self- worth and belief in their own capabilities and potential, ready to stride forward and to make their own dreams reality.LEARN MORE
Over the past few years, I’ve seen and heard the term “toxic school culture” or “toxic schools” being used to depict various situations in which there are qualities that negatively impact the performance, mental health or working environment in our schools. It’s a term that is a source of great debate, as what qualifies as a “toxic school culture” to one teacher or school leader is so very much dependent on context and the personalities/people involved. Having read some of the accounts from teachers and school leaders who have described their experiences of “toxic schools” and from my own experience in education, I would surmise that these experiences, are rarely caused by a wilful intent to toxify a school culture by any one party.LEARN MORE
It is my belief that more Headteachers would remain in the profession if, on appointment, it was made explicit to them the link between school improvement and their own personal development. Unfortunately, however, in today’s world of high public scrutiny and personal accountability, they are not and as a result far too many Heads become victims of stress and burn out, unable to cope with the intense psychological and emotional demands of the role.LEARN MORE
As you may have seen, recently I shared how the NUT (alongside Integrity Coaching) will be running a wonderful scheme to offer heavily subsidised coaching to all of its Headteacher members – the deadline of which is the end of April. This generous offer from the NUT has already attracted a spectrum of amazing Heads from different backgrounds and at various different stages of their headship journey.LEARN MORE
As I write this it is a cool spring day during the Easter holidays and I am sat in my newly created office, carved out of a basement room at my home. I imagine a collective professional mind, paused and taking breath, recharging the batteries, enjoying time with family, friends, perhaps sneaking in a holiday abroad or counting down the weeks until the summer one. This holiday is an odd hiatus to the frenzied school year. The majority of the year is done and yet the most pressurised period of time is still to come for students, their parents and school staff alike. The time left is short and for that we are relieved, and yet the time left is short and for that we are not relieved – another example of the contradictory nature of school life in the 20teens. For many it will be a period of reflection, looking for new jobs, promotion or a different challenge, finally deciding to take the plunge and retire – or just looking for a way out. At the Headteacher’s Roundtable conference recently I spoke of the moment, just over a year ago, where, commuting to work, at the end of another testing term, the Basement Jaxx song ‘Where’s your head at?’ blasted out of the radio, the song rattling around my head like an earworm, as it has done for the most of the past 12 months.LEARN MORE
With the increasing pace of change in our schools and heightened levels of public scrutiny and accountability, it takes a great deal of courage and bravery to be a school leader today.
There are many joys involved in the role, but equally as many challenges. It is not until many school leaders reach headship, that they realise that the stresses of the job are such that they need to strengthen their emotional resilience in order to both thrive and survive. One of the reasons is, the rules of the game keep changing. As a result, school leaders become unsure of which rules to play by. Imagine saying to a child, “Today I am going to teach you how to play tennis” and every time they thought they had mastered how to serve and felt confident in their own abilities [ based upon what you had told them] you then said to them “No, you’ve got it wrong. You now have to do it this way.”
When I became a Head, the weight of responsibility often weighed heavy on my shoulders. More often than not, this was due to the fact that any responsibility towards the meeting of my own needs, I unconsciously placed second. Not realising that doing so only added to the pressures that I felt. It was only after many a dark night of the soul and more than a few tears, that I came to realise that true, authentic success was very much going to be dependent on the degree to which I took responsibility for how I engaged with the pressures of the role and the commitments/promises that I was prepared to make to myself. Every school leader that I have had the privilege to work with has travelled a similar path. As I have journeyed with them, I have come to see that much like myself, in my early days of Headship, their path towards success has deepened when they have learned to accept three key responsibilities about the role. Many of these responsibilities were in fact commitments; promises that they made to themselves to help ensure that they stayed true to their own leadership path and were not unduly swayed by the inevitable challenges that so often arise. Here’s what these 3 key commitments were…LEARN MORE
Good coaches and indeed good school leaders are able to communicate a belief in people’s potential and an expectation that they can do their best. Their tacit message is… “I believe in you. I’m investing in you, and I expect your best efforts. As a result, people sense that a leader cares, so they feel motivated to uphold their own standards for performance, and they feel accountable for how well they do.” For those that line manage others, it is essential that they have the skills that will have a strong, direct, positive impact on staff levels of motivation, and improve standards for all. Many of the skills required for this type of impact stem from coaching. Coaching is a broad term for a process that is concerned with bringing out the best in others. There are a wide spectrum of skills that coaches develop over time to assist both the personal and professional growth process. For school leaders seeking to develop both their coaching competence and confidence there are three key coaching skills that are the foundations for success when working with others.LEARN MORE
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.
The stress that headteachers are under continues to be reported – with the numbers leaving the profession a growing concern. For many, headship is a role that’s beginning to feel untenable. This echoes what I often hear from headteachers in my role as school leadership coach. The headteachers I speak to feel overwhelmed by shrinking budgets, the teacher recruitment crisis and the high-pressure inspection system. So what steps can they take to prevent burnout?LEARN MORE
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