Coaching & Leadership Development
Imposter Syndrome – How to Silence your Inner Critic

Imposter Syndrome – How to Silence your Inner Critic

  This blog comes from teacher and experienced leader of SEND interventions, Jo Steer (@Skills_w_Frills) The term “imposter syndrome” was coined by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978, to describe those who live with the fear of being found out and exposed as a fraud. This common phenomenon is said to have affected some of the highest achievers in the world: supposedly Albert Einstein, Maya Angelou and even Meryl Streep have experienced it. I’d wager that those feelings of self-doubt sound familiar to a large number of educators, myself included. A little anxiety and passing insecurity is natural, beneficial. Imposter syndrome is not. It’s more than that. It’s a persistent, nagging feeling that you’re somehow lacking or undeserving of the position that you find yourself in. It’s an inner monologue of “I can’t”, “I’m not X enough” and “Who am I to think I can do this?” It’s the discounting of positive feedback and the tendency to attribute achievements to luck, timing, resources or colleagues. As educators, we experience a continuous expectation to self-reflect, as well as listening to others reflect on our capabilities. These could be beneficial, if they weren’t so frequently combined with an unsustainable workload and unrelenting pressure, which can all too easily become fuel for feelings of insecurity and self-loathing. If this sounds familiar, the following could help: 1) Push back against perfectionism Imposter syndrome thrives on expectations of perfection, so a good place to begin is by recognising that this is neither helpful nor realistic. Let’s say you’ve just been promoted, so you begin comparing yourself to others in that role, picturing them to...
An Open Letter to Boris Johnson

An Open Letter to Boris Johnson

    Dear Boris Johnson,   I am writing to you with a plea at a time when your mind may well be on other matters but my plea is quite simple; please begin to listen to those in education who are on the front line.   Our head teachers and school leaders who every day give their all as they seek to create better futures for our children.   I write this letter to you as a former head teacher, who has been in the profession for over twenty five years. Although I left headship over thirteen years ago, I am now in schools nearly every day, providing coaching support for passionate school leaders. When I am with my school leaders I hear the truth about what it takes to be a successful school leader.   To be a successful school leader today takes: – Courage – Bravery – Resilience   Within the current increasingly competitive and antagonistic narrative surrounding school improvement, school leaders are finding that these qualities are becoming harder to develop. As a key by product of your predecessors’ reforms have been heightened feelings of professional and emotional isolation. In such an environment school leaders struggle to form trusting relationships and feelings of connectedness and shared self worth diminish.   Yet the concerns of many hardworking Headteachers and the need for greater support for Heads appears to continue to fall on deaf ears and with this has come heightened feelings of professional and emotional isolation.   I ask you to listen to head teachers and school leaders, because if you did you would truly understand what it takes for our school...
How to Rebuild Your Leadership Confidence

How to Rebuild Your Leadership Confidence

    It’s an understatement to say that life as a school leader can be bruising. The impact of the responses of disgruntled staff, a poor OFSTED report, complaints from parents or conflict with governors can send even the most resilient of leaders into a downward mental spiral.   When negative events occur, your confidence can take at hit. You can begin to feel as though you are not up to the job for which you have been appointed. From my own experience working with school leaders, nothing can be further from the truth. Many, if not all, are still up to the role. It’s simply that they need to be reminded of their own power within and steps they can take to feel like their former, confident selves again.   If you are feeling at a bit of a low ebb now, because of events that you are facing as school leader, set a few minutes aside to read this short blog. See if you can identify at least one step that you can take to rebuild your leadership confidence again.   Step 1: Change your Habits   When we’re feeling low, we can get stuck in habits that were initially adopted to comfort us, but if overused, may actually inhibit our ability to grow our confidence and self-esteem. I knew of one school leader, who hid every time she saw a particularly vexatious member of staff heading along the corridor towards her.   At first, she did it because her thought process was, “I just don’t have the time to deal with her right now”. However, overtime,...
“Why I still have hope for our Education System” – James Pope

“Why I still have hope for our Education System” – James Pope

This blog comes from former Headteacher of Marlwood School, and Director of InspirEducate, James Pope     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.   So, it is a year since I spent Easter reflecting on that question...
How Headteachers can develop their Emotional Resilience

How Headteachers can develop their Emotional Resilience

  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.”   Not only would they soon learn not to trust you, but also, they would never develop the depth of experience, knowledge and insight needed for them to become expert in the game. This is exactly what life is like for many school leaders today.   When we are unsure, we feel insecure. We don’t feel safe. Feelings of confidence, value and self-worth are replaced with feelings of fear, vulnerability and self- doubt. We begin to question our every thought, our every action, because we are never given enough time to ascertain whether they fit with the rules of engagement....
The 3 Questions that Damage our Schools

The 3 Questions that Damage our Schools

  School Leaders are not Data Technicians and children are not units of data.  This mechanistic approach can be damaging to Head Teachers, because there are negative inferences behind the questions that are frequently asked of them.   Being held to account and responding to questions is no bad thing. As a public servant, it is only right that you are held responsible for your actions. However, the climate surrounding school improvement over the past decade has led to increased ambiguity and inconsistency. This has led to heightened levels of fear and mistrust within the profession. This has created an unhealthy dynamic between politicians, policymakers and schools.   It has also impacted negatively on the type of relationships that exist between School Leaders and those who the government entrusts with the power to hold schools to account i.e. school inspectors and advisors. Against this backdrop of fear and mistrust, when questions are asked, it very often leads to a lack of incentive and can be more of a hindrance to school improvement.   The Damaging Power Dynamic   The power dynamic that now exists between government, inspectors, advisors and Head teachers is now based more overtly on the exertion of power and control than ever before. It may be useful to analyse the relationship between School Leaders and their assessors using the ‘Naughty Child and Critical Parent’ model. If you’ve ever been the ‘Naughty Child’ in this type of relationship, you know the unspoken psychological contract that permeates every conversation and question has several negative subtexts:   – You are not good enough – You need to do better/more – You...