Coaching & Leadership Development
When Schools Return – How to Make Wellbeing A Priority

When Schools Return – How to Make Wellbeing A Priority

  This blog comes from Integrity Coaching Associate Coach, Steve Russell.   Much is being talked about currently of the need to make staff wellbeing a priority as schools extend their doors to more pupils – and rightly so. COVID-19 has impacted on colleagues’ emotional and psychological health significantly.   No one person’s experience has been the same – ‘we are in the same storm, but we are in different boats’. Nonetheless, every colleague will have been impacted in some shape or form and either need and/or benefit from being supported.   To consider how best to tend to staff wellbeing, I’d like to introduce you to a model called the Cycles of Development. This offers a perspective on how the trauma of COVID might impact upon individuals from a developmental perspective.   Crucially, the suggestions that arise out of this model a) do not require you to be a psychologist or psychotherapist, yet is informed from sound psychological theory and b) can be framed as supporting post-traumatic growth, rather than a medical, and perhaps more deficit based, approach.   The central premise behind the Cycles theory is that as humans we move through distinct stages of development, each stage having its own set of developmental tasks or growing up jobs that need attending to.   Having visited each stage at specific chronological points in our childhood and adolescence, we then revisit these at various points in our adult lives. In particular, times of change, including traumatic events, trigger certain developmental needs within us that connected with these stages.   Below is an outline of some of the developmental stages, together...
I Can’t Breathe – Implications for Schools

I Can’t Breathe – Implications for Schools

  Like many in recent weeks, the death of George Floyd, has left me almost daily swamped by waves of emotion.    I heard someone say the other day that their “mind was full and their heart heavy” and that’s just how I have been feeling. It’s as though my whole nervous system has been experiencing some kind of historical trauma.   The flagrant disregard for the life of a Black person, has surfaced many painful memories from my past and times when I had been made to feel ‘less than’ simply because of the colour of my skin.   As a young Black woman growing up in the 70’s and 80’s incidents of racism were peppered throughout my life.  When I was 15, I was told by my career’s teacher, that my aspiration of becoming a Nursery Nurse was too high and instead, I should consider becoming a cashier in the local supermarket.   On another occasion, I was reprimanded for talking in class and told to “Go outside and swing on the trees, like my friends and relatives the monkeys do.” During those times, complaining or expressing my hurt was never an option so I simply learnt to swallow the pain, some of which is undoubtedly bubbling to the surface today.   When I eventually qualified as a teacher, the weight of carrying this fear only intensified.   Throughout all of my teaching career, I taught at schools in Brixton and Stockwell. One of the schools that I taught at  was on the borders of a road that had been a flash point for the Brixton riots in the late 80’s....
Coronavirus – How to Manage Change as a School Leader

Coronavirus – How to Manage Change as a School Leader

“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional” – John Maxwell Change is all around us. It happens every second, every minute of our lives. Yet in spite of this, change is not something many of us are comfortable with. As a result, we so often miss the inherent opportunities for growth that accompany any change process.   Within the context of school leadership, my belief is that the reason for this, is because very little if anything is done to prepare individuals for the emotional and psychological consequences of change.   This becomes a particular problem at times like this, when school leaders are facing a huge amount of change and uncertainty as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.   When faced with a crisis like this, when you are at the forefront and needing to manage change across your school, you also have to take stock and ask, “What is the change process  asking of you?”   This is a necessary first step if you are to develop the wherewithal to manage the crisis positively, not only for yourself, but also for those that you lead and manage.   In my work with school leaders, I have come to realise that change is managed most effectively when individuals understand that there are four distinct stages that they and their schools must successfully progress through.   Each stage requires a deep level of self-awareness and emotional maturity to avoid the fight or flight syndrome, or remaining stuck in an unhealthy comfort zone. The four stages are…   1. Letting go:   This is the stage where you have to: – Accept that some or...
The Role of a Headteacher – Podcast

The Role of a Headteacher – Podcast

Back in May 2017, I was delighted to be invited by the Evolve Team to discuss the unique and changing role of a school leader. As part of this, I shared learnings from my own experience of Headship as we explored the emotional and psychological challenges that school leaders now face in the role and common pitfalls that leaders can fall into as they try to deliver the best outcomes for their schools. To build on this, we also addressed a number of topics including: – The loneliness of the headteacher role – Why headteachers need to find the space to process recent events, issues and challenges – The sacrifice syndrome that many school leaders suffer from and how to overcome the issues it presents – The important “inner work” that headteachers must do to stay focussed, build a greater self-understanding and maintain equilibrium – The importance of self-compassion, self-care and 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...
What is Authentic Leadership?

What is Authentic Leadership?

This blog comes from the principal of the British School Muscat in Oman, Kai Vacher (@PrincipalMuscat). An original version of this blog can be found here. Leadership has never been a hotter topic. Distrust of those at the top seems to be at an all-time high, with politicians and high-profile chief executives repeatedly found to be lacking integrity. People want to be led by someone real; an authentic leader. But what does that mean? How do authentic leaders lead and behave? How can we distinguish the authentic leader from the tyrant? These questions are important when we are looking for the leaders of a country, but they are just as crucial when we think about the leaders of our schools. To thine own self, be true   The notion of authentic leadership is not new. Shakespeare was pressing the importance of leaders driven by ethical and honest morals more than 400 years ago. Whether it’s King Lear’s ego dividing his kingdom and family, or Macbeth’s maniacal hunger for power causing his own tragic downfall, we can see similar storylines playing out in the contemporary world. “This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” Shakespeare coined this definition of authentic leadership in Hamlet. There are many ways in which to interpret these words of wisdom. Mahatma Gandhi perhaps expressed the notion more clearly to the modern ear when he said: “When what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony – that is happiness.” Both Gandhi and Shakespeare seem to be commenting...
Why Robots can’t replace School Leaders

Why Robots can’t replace School Leaders

  The blog comes from Emma Turner (@Emma_Turner75), who is the research and CPD lead for Discovery Schools Trust, Leicestershire.    There is much talk about future thinking and future-proofing and there are lists of jobs which in the future may be completed by robot technology.   Hundreds of thousands of people have read these articles, to see if their role falls under the remit of a yet-to-be-built robot.   But there are some jobs that we cannot envisage being done by a robot, which is devoid of emotion, empathy and human characteristics. There are some things that simply require heart to be successful. Leadership is one of those. Leadership: Capturing hearts and minds   For anyone who has followed a sat-nav or become infuriated by the lack of nuance in a telephone voicemail menu, it is clear that there are some aspects of life that require more than a little humanity.   It is unlikely that the impassioned speeches of Martin Luther King or the kindness-driven changes implemented by Florence Nightingale would have made as much difference – however well-thought-through they were – had they not captured hearts and minds.   Leadership is about belief, and belief is about trust and connection and vision. However much we trust our computer systems, our sat-navs and our self-drive cars of the future, we cannot truly connect with them. They do not inspire us to go that extra mile or to give more of ourselves than we thought possible.   Computers do not inspire honesty or integrity or the vulnerability that leadership and change requires. They are blunt, binary instruments whose very function can be reduced to two simple digits....