This blog comes from an ex-secondary Headteacher, trainee therapist and Integrity Coaching Associate, Tim Small
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…
1) Focus on the Here and Now
For the foreseeable future, most of us will be putting some cherished dreams and plans on hold, because we can no longer be sure of what’s possible, or when.
What that can give us in return is a narrowing of focus, permission to prioritise what must be done and what can be done, today and tomorrow. Just as we can’t take our bodies all over the country or around the world at the moment, it’s as if our minds are being asked to ‘stay home’ too!
We’re being asked to ‘pull our horns in’: just do and think about what is ‘sufficient unto the day’. As long as we let go of what we’ve lost and stop craving for it back, we can release a lot of energy this way; sharpen our focus; concentrate the mind.
As leaders, we were constantly striving to be strategic, struggling against being ‘sucked into operational detail’. Just for now, not for long, if we’re still dealing with this crisis and leading others through the adjustments and uncertainties involved, we can allow ourselves to stop struggling; simply focus on the job in hand, taking each day as it comes.
2) Remember what and who Really Matters
There’s nothing like a crisis for sweeping away the inessential. What’s already gone? Sitting exams; school attendance; mass entertainment; travel; commerce; a balanced budget; even partisan politics (mostly!). Many of us are coming back to our core values to decide what to give our energy to: preserving life; keeping ourselves and each other safe; being kind; finding new ways of connecting, new ways to learn.
Learning is suddenly given a special significance: we have to learn our way through this! Maybe it would not have happened if we’d already learned!
Perhaps, when this is all over, we could rebuild our entire curriculum on these principles: loving life; loving learning; cherishing ourselves and each other. So simple! If we don’t, will there be any more point in passing exams?
3) Stop and Reflect
For some, the situation is still in flux and it’s hard to draw breath.
For others, the most frantic period of adjustment has begun to ease and we are confronted with more time and space in our lives than we are accustomed to. It seems likely that everyone, in the coming weeks and months, will experience a kind of emptiness, in hours or days that previously were full of something that has had to cease.
It is important to stop thinking about those things that are not happening anymore: put them down! Let them go! This enables two things to happen which might be essential to our health and future wellbeing.
Firstly, we can use this space in our minds and hearts and schedules, these moments, to pause and reflect on what matters most; and what does that mean we should decide to do with our lives?
Secondly, if we put things down properly, however much they mean to us, we will be able to make clean, free decisions about what we pick up again and what we leave behind for ever.
This time is precious. The globalised world has slowed down, suddenly but temporarily. It is an opportunity for us, as individuals and as a species, to make sure that, in the most healthy and life-giving ways, things are never the same again.
Support in times of Challenge
As a result of the current COVID-19 crisis, the challenge and complexity of the Headteacher role has grown exponentially.
Every school leader in the country has witnessed an enormous amount of change in terms of what their life, their role and school now look like. Today, like never before many Heads find themselves having to sail previously uncharted waters.
These are unprecedented times, for which there are no rule or guide-books. Everything has changed! As a result, there is understandable anxiety about the current situation we are all in. Feelings of anxiety, overwhelm, isolation and stress are prevalent.
Relationships with families, pupils and staff have changed. The speed of change has been swift, with little or no time for school leaders to make sense of both the here and now and also what the ‘new order’ might bring.
In times like these, we need to be deliberate in pressing the pause button and finding time to reflect. This is a time, when different types of conversation and leadership support are needed. It is a time when we can be explicit and openly address the fact that we are all in a time of transition. It is a time that requires open and honest discussion about what this period signifies for us all and collectively, how we can assist each other to find a way through to the other side.
It is for this reason we have developed our new “Staying Connected” Leadership Support Programme to provide bespoke support for Headteachers as they navigate their way through this crisis.
This new eight week online programme has been designed to help leaders personal and professional challenges that have arisen from the current crisis, as well as explore and consider the type of leadership needed for these times.
The programme will consist of three elements:
– 4 x ZOOM Masterclass Discussions: These involve thought leaders from the education sector and beyond on topics pertinent to the current issues leaders are now facing.
– 4 x Group Coaching Circles: These sessions are so that Heads can find support, stay connected with other Heads and share expertise through these challenging and uncertain times.
– Online Leadership Community and Resources: leaders have access to various online leadership resources and the option to join an online community of support.
The purpose of the programme will be to provide safe online spaces where school leaders can:
– Stay connected and in relationship with fellow Heads whilst social distancing measures remain in place
– Be a part of in-depth discussions around what matters most, as schools seek to navigate their way through this crisis
– Identify meaningful solutions for addressing the unique challenges that have arisen for school leaders during this time
– Strengthen their own personal and professional resources for remaining well and focused on their sense of vocation and purpose
If you would like to find out more about the programme, please follow the link below…