The results are in. Following weeks of nervous excitement going through all the possible outcomes of how results will turn out, it can feel like the whole year has been building up to this moment.
Having poured your heart and soul into ensuring that your school delivers the results you felt it could achieve, sadly it might be that they haven’t quite turned out to be what you had hoped for. It may feel like someone has not just let the air out of your balloon but has popped it.
When you have invested so much of yourself into the job, it’s all too easy to take the results personally as though they are a sole reflection of your ability to lead. It’s at times like these when all sorts of doubts and concerns may well creep into your head and you may begin to question the validity of role.
If this sounds familiar, then don’t despair. Now is not the time to give up on your dreams! Indeed, it is more of a time for deep reflection, a time to pause and re-caliberate, so that you can begin the new school year with a renewed sense of energy, purpose and commitment.
So, if your school results are not as you had expected and you have found yourself prone to negative and self-depreciating thoughts, read on and take encouragement from our seven tips on how to re-define what success really means for you and your school.
Seven key tips on how to re-define what success really means for you and your school
Tip 1: Remember that true learning lies in developing the ‘whole’ child
Over the past years, with an increased emphasis on results, some have lost sight of the true purpose of education. The truth is that schooling is about educating and nurturing the whole pupil and not just getting good exam results.
It is about instilling pupils with attitudes and behaviours that will prepare them for life. It is about allowing pupils to believe in their own potential and enabling them to see that there is world of opportunity open to them. It is about nurturing children so that they leave school with a strong sense of self-worth, hope and a zest for life.
Tip 2: Don’t define yourself purely on external factors
Whilst external judgement and scrutiny from governors may come, it is important to remember that these individuals don’t truly know your school as well as you do. You’ve seen the changes that have taken place in your school, where it was and where it is now. You’ve seen the pupils who have been transformed in the walls of your school. You know the hours you’ve poured into your job, the triumphs throughout the year, your strengths and skills in action.
Ultimately, just because your school’s exam results may not have been what you had hoped for, they are not an indication of your self-worth and the immense value that you are to your school and the community that your serve. Results don’t make a person. It’s what we know to be true about ourselves that defines who we are.
Tip 3: There are successes even in disappointments
When you are presented with a huge range of results as you will have been, particularly ones that are disappointing, it can be hard to see the triumphs contained within. Dig deeper beneath the performance trends and you’ll have stories of students that your school has helped to achieve results that they themselves probably didn’t believe were possible!
You’ll find staff who’ve made huge strides with their teaching methods and who have transformed pupils’ love for and engagement with the subject they teach. So, whatever you do, don’t forget to celebrate these triumphs. They need to be acknowledged as they are a part of your school’s narrative and they are an essential part of your school’s success story.
Tip 4: Stop comparing yourself and your school’s results with others
By comparing yourself and your school to others, you can never win. It is a simple fact that they’ll always be more successful schools and they’ll always be less successful schools than your own. So if you recognise this habit within yourself, make a commitment to yourself today, to break it.
Instead of comparing yourself to others, seek to compare and improve upon your own previous best. Focus on you. Focus on your results and on how you can make things better in this new academic year. Keep in clear sight your victories, the success stories and the praise you’ve received, this will give you a clearer perspective as to how you’re performing in your role and what else you can do to be the best that you can be.
Tip 5: Challenge and silence your inner critic
We all have an inner critic and when it’s on your side, it can spur you on to get things done. But more often than not it can turn from being a constructive force into a destructive one and drag your self-esteem down. As a result, we can often end up being more offensive and deprecating of ourselves than we’d ever have dreamt about being towards anyone else.
The good news is, if you want to challenge your inner critic, you can! It is possible to retrain your entire internal narrative and ultimately, change how you treat yourself. An effective first step is to simply say STOP whenever you hear your inner critic speaking loudly and negatively to you, respond to it with positive affirmations about your strengths and successes.
Tip 6: Become Your Own Best Friend
Another helpful way to retrain your internal narrative is to try and encourage the voice to treat you as though it were your own best friend. Instead of beating yourself up, ask yourself: “How would my best friend support me and help me in this situation?”
Then do things and talk to yourself like he or she would. It keeps you from falling into a pit of despair and helps you to be more constructive after the initial reaction to the disappointment. Learning how to handle and to replace the voice of your own inner critic and transform it into a caring and nurturing voice is a great place to start when raising your self-esteem.
Tip 7: Go back to your core
Reflect on who you are as a leader, what you stand for, your vision, motivation and goals. Consider whether you have been acting according to that vision and motivation.
For example, if what motivates you is to inspire a love of learning in your school, reflect on all the ways that you did that over the past academic year. This exercise could remind you that either you need to re-focus on your beliefs (which could be the key to your success) or alternatively, it could remind you that you have been successful in remaining true to your core purpose and passion.
I know how damaging any bad news, whether it is exam results or OFSTED report can feel as a School Leader. When you invest so much of yourself into the role and you know how good your school is and can be, bad news can hit even the most assured school leaders.
The important thing to remember is that as a school leader, you do an amazing job! Every day you invest enormous amounts of time, energy, passion and commitment – seeking to create better futures for our children and the communities you serve.
This isn’t easy to maintain and particularly, after a long week or a setback, it can feel as though your energy, hope and emotional reserves are in short supply.
That’s why I believe it’s vital that when these times comes (and they will) that you have someone who you can turn to, who can offer you a listening ear, support, encouragement to help keep you going towards your vision.
For me, the realisation came about, after a particularly challenging encounter with a parent. I had become so used to numbing out my emotions and wearing my ‘super-head’ cloak, that when my emotions did finally catch up with me, I was at a loss as to what to do.
All I could do was sit in my car and cry and cry and cry! It was only when this happened and after some deep soul searching, that I realised why I had got to this place and what had been missing from my life as a Head teacher … Support!
I’m not talking about the type of support Head teachers get from school advisors, governors or fellow colleagues. It was a different type of support that I realised had been missing.
I needed support that was confidential and non-judgemental. I needed a space where just for a while, I could take off my cloak and be me. A space where I could show my vulnerabilities and be supported to make sense of my own emotions in relation to the demands of the role.
We all need help sometimes, so that when the going gets tough (as it always does) and we fall down; we don’t remain on the ground – but instead are supported to get back up again and with renewed focus and energy, empowered to carry on towards our dream.
Sadly, some 15 years later, there is still a woeful lack of ‘proper’ support for those who are at the helm. As a result, there are many Heads for whom emotional overload is a still hallmark of the role.
It’s for this reason, why I now offer FREE “Coaching for the Soul” Calls to provide school leaders with a safe, non-judgemental space to talk through the challenges of the role.
This call offers a confidential space where leaders can:
– Talk through the challenges they’re facing and find solutions
– Receive support and encouragement in their current situation
– Reflect on recent events and the impact they are having
– Gain clarity around their thoughts and plan a way forward
If you feel like you’d benefit from a call like this or perhaps know someone who would, please follow the link above!