So it seems only fitting that I launch my Headteacher blog as I enter my last half-term as a Deputy Headteacher. So here goes… join me on my journey as I adjust to my new role and my new surroundings, relocating from London to Oxfordshire and stepping up to take on not only my first headship role, but also a Regional Director role for a hub of GLF schools.
I began thinking about ‘making the leap’ (read Jill Berry’s leadership book with this title) this time last year. I had been ‘tapped on the shoulder’ by lots of people in my #PLN about my career plans as a result of #womened leading to a chat at the unconference with Kate Chhatwal about Talented Leaders and a phone chat with Chris Hildrew about the Headship role at what is now his previous school. I applied for both and was unsuccessful in both processes, but I did not expect to get either so was not disappointed – this was me being #10%braver and practising what I preach, dipping my toe in to see if I was ready. More important for me, was the learning from the application and interview process for each role. I don’t consider either to be failures at such, just stepping stones on my journey to finding the ‘right fit’, which I am confident I have subsequently found.
When I met my new CEO, Jon Chaloner, his vision and values for the GLF MAT resonated with me and we hit it off straight away. He, like me, is a straight talking, warm and compassionate educator and an ambitious, visionary leader. GLF stands for the Glyn Learning Foundation, but it is also an acronym for the MAT’s mission statement: ‘Grow, Learn, Flourish’ which I quite simply love. At the heart of what my new trust stands for are family values and the relationships of the community. I spent 2 days with my fellow Headteachers and Education Team from the trust just before half-term and our values for the conference were: ‘Communicate, Coach and Care’. This ethos aligns with my vision and values for our school and the wider community at Aureus. For those of you following the rise of the #WomenEd movement on social media you will know that we established our community values as the 8 Cs: Clarity, Communication, Connection, Community, Collaboration, Confidence, Challenge, Change. We believe that it is important to capture and articulate the shared vision so that everyone is on the same page and can ‘buy-in’.
Our mission statement at Aureus is: ‘Nurturing hearts and minds’. I am passionate about educating the WHOLE child and about the holistic aspects of education that are often forgotten in our high accountability system. I will make sure that we know each of our students as “names, not numbers” at Aureus. We will nurture our school community so that everyone – all stakeholders – will flourish and thrive. I capitalized ‘whole’ because when I was recently drafting the marketing literature for my website, prospectus and open evening it is how I articulated my values, although subsequently I have tweaked it to be WHOLE: Wellbeing, Honesty, Optimism, Love, Equality; CHILD: Courage, Humility, Innovation, Leadership, Diversity. I read recently that values should be “lived and not laminated” which is so true, I see meaningless mission statements all the time and know lots of schools who say one thing and do another. I will strive to ensure that these values become behaviours and actions in practice at Aureus rather than thoughts and ideas in theory.
In Start with Why, Simon Sinek challenges you to invert how you approach things and use the ‘Golden Circle’ to structure your thinking: Why? How? What? (instead of What? How? Why?) My ‘Why?‘ is strong (see the About section re my motivation for writing this blog) – I want to create a school with a heart, filled with love, where the wellbeing of staff and students is prioritized. My ‘How?’ is percolating as I research Mindfulness, Yoga, Art & Music Therapy, as I develop a staffing model that is flexible. My ‘What?’ is a vision at the moment as I reflect on how to instill global citizenship in the community, celebrate diversity in the curriculum and ensure that our students develop 21st employability skills. Having a long lead in my role (6 months until I start and 14 months until I open) is a luxury and gives me lots of thinking time to create a clear vision and strategy for how to actualize it. Having a blank sheet of paper is also really liberating as I can think beyond the box after years of working in turn around schools that need reactive strategies to quickly fix problems, rather than being preventative. However, the long lead in time could also result in lots of doing and undoing as there is time to plan, re-plan and unplan everything required to open a new school. I will need to be mindful of time and energy management over the next few months, ensuring that I make decisions that are sustainable once the school is opened and is operational. At the moment it is still a little surreal and I have to pinch myself to remind myself that it is happening as I count down the days to my January start and mentally prepare (if that is possible?) for my new chapter.
A final mention goes to Mary Myatt who has kindly agreed that I can magpie her phrase as the title of my new blog. I have had quite a few out-of-body experiences in the last few months, one was being at the Leadership Matters launch party last week with Andy Buck’s eclectic #PLN where I re-connected with Mary after meeting her at #Researched and #ShapingCPD events, another was a few days ago as I was sitting in Toronto reading High Challenge, Low Threat when I received an email from the author asking me for a favour…
Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher
Currently feeling hopeful about:
- The opportunity to do things slightly differently at Aureus.
- Our Year 6 Admissions that are due in on 31/10 – fingers crossed for lots of 1st choice preferences as this will enable my plans to come to fruition in Year 1.
Currently reading and thinking about:
- High Challenge, Low Threat – Finding the Balance, Mary Myatt
Currently feeling grateful for:
- Jill Berry, Kate Chhatwal, Chris Hildrew, Jon Chaloner, Mary Myatt, Andy Buck – as mentioned above
- Jaz Ampaw-Farr and Natalie Scott for critical friendship and feedback on the blog