School Leadership: Growing, Learning and Flourishing

Viv Grant is doing a school leaders’ blog series on how we can flourish. Below are my reflections to the questions that she posed about wellbeing, thriving and flourishing as educators, school leaders and schools.

Context:

I was appointed as a Headteacher Designate in June and started in January but am not yet in the full role as I have no staff, students or parents but I do now have a site and an office. It has been an interesting transition into my 1st Headship.

I joined GLF as the visions and the values of the trust were strong: ‘to grow, to learn, to flourish’. As a values-led leader, designing a values-based education this resonated with me. Our mission at Aureus is to educate the whole child and to ‘nurture hearts and minds’.

I relocated for the role, I now live in Oxfordshire after 12 years in London. This was part of my wellbeing commitment to myself, I wanted a change in pace, a new lifestyle and a new environment. The atmosphere in my school is calm because of the large windows framing stunning views. Seeing blue skies and green fields is very calming and I took this for granted when I grew up in Devon.

I am committed to ensuring that my staff and students grow, learn and flourish, but I also need to ensure that I have this pledge for myself as a school leader: I need to practice what I preach!

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Have you ever struggled with the reality of school leadership? If so, when and how did it affect you?

I have a strong ethical and moral code. I lead and behave based on my values. I have seen several leaders lose themselves in their role and behave in ways I do not respect.
I always strive to maintain my professional integrity and have had to fight my corner when I have been asked to do things I do not think are ethical. I have whistleblown when I feel my values are being compromised. The increasing pressures from the system need leaders to be strong, resilient and tenacious to stay true to who they are, what they believe and what they stand for.

In what ways does the role sometimes fail to support the flourishing and wellbeing of its leaders?

Teaching and leading in education can become all-consuming. I believe that a lot of the profession are struggling to survive and keep their head above the water line. Hence why we have a recruitment and retention crisis for school staffing.

We have a lot of systems in our schools which are not time nor energy efficient which need reviewing. We also have traditional practices and paperwork for paperwork’s sake which could be changed.

Our profession has a renewed focus on wellbeing, but quite often it is focused on student wellbeing at the expense of student wellbeing. We need to focus on positive mental health and wellbeing for everyone in our school community. I have appointed a brilliant Deputy Headteacher, Julie Hunter, who has done the .B mindfulness course and the MHFA accreditation. She will be leading our wellbeing strategy.

What changes have you made to your own ways of being and leading that have served you better in Headship?

I am only a term in and do not yet have a team as I am the founding Headteacher of a brand new school site and community. This has it pros and cons.

The pros are that I have had a term lead in to think about and plan how to do things differently. I have recruited a dynamic team are all aligned with my vision and values for the school. The cons are that I am the only team member and the job feels like it is 24/7. I have especially felt the impact of this with communications as I have no one to streamline the flow and interface with all of the stakeholders who want to talk to me/ meet me.

With no team to delegate to, I am accountable for everything and everything is medium to high priority. I am employed a virtual PA to support me as I could not keep all of the balls in the air at one time! From September I will have a personal plan as well as a professional plan for 2017-18 goals. I will get into more a routine once the school is opening and ring fence more time for me. With our holistic offer including yoga, mindfulness and martial arts I will build this into my working week.

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What advice would you give to those struggling with the role?

I have a very strong support network who have kept me sane – I have a professional mentor and a personal coach who I can contact to seek support and advice from. I live the #10%braver mantra of #womened – I found my voice a while back and use it. If I am overwhelmed, stressed, unhappy I articulate it.

I have recently been involved in a group coaching programme curated by Annemarie Williams and we had a session with Harriet Minter who challenged me to challenge myself about how I ensure that self-care and self-compassion are part of my professional identity. I am realistic about the fact I am a one woman band and cannot do it all, so I do what I can, when I can and do not beat myself up when I miss deadlines or make mistakes – we are humans and things go wrong, when they do I apologise and make amends.

For me, it is all about fit. I have found myself in the wrong role, at the wrong school, in the wrong culture and I had to walk away. We are responsible for the culture of our schools and the behaviours of our teams, but we are also responsible for our own wellbeing. If we are not healthy, happy and well, then how can we look after the wellbeing of others?

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On a wider level, what needs to happen?

• To make school leadership more sustainable we need to invest in wellbeing and resilience build in activity such as coaching and mentoring.
• To support the well-being of school leaders we need to review the workload challenge and create a space and a range of opportunities in schools for staff to breath.
• To help school leaders to flourish we need to invest in the development of their leadership capacity.
• To create a happy & healthy school we need to focus on the whole person and offer holistic activities to develop the mind, the body and the soul.
• To recapture the soul and put the humanity back into education we need to remember and focus on the ‘names, not the numbers’ for our children and the ‘souls, not the roles’ for our staff.

We also need to spend more time on our values as individuals and as communities, ensuring that our values are ‘lived, not laminated’.

MLK FLOURISH QUOTE

Final Thoughts:

I am presenting at the Mental Health and Wellbeing TeachMeet at Magna Carta School this week, sponsored by the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust. My workshop is on MH & WB Policy and Vision: With a blank piece of paper where would you start in nurturing a school culture where everyone can #growlearnflourish?

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The Holistic offer we have at Aureus to develop the Whole Child, I now want to focus on ensuring we have an offer for the Whole Educator too!

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I am looking into how we can establish, develop and nurture our Mental Health and Wellbeing programme at Aureus School.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • My #wellbeing contacts who I will see at the MHWB teachmeet this week – Clare Erasmus, Kathryn Lovewell, Sue Webb and Viv Grant inspire me.

 

International Women’s Day 2017: #BeBoldForChange

#IWD17:

International Women’s Day is celebrated on 8th March each year, it is a global celebration of the social, economic, political and cultural achievements of women. The theme for 2017 is #BeBoldForChange. Let’s make #IWD17 a day for our students and schools to reflect on the global progress made to challenge gender inequalities around the world. Use the virtual toolkit to focus discussions, reflections and activities.

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#WomenEd:

As a global community that connects existing and aspiring women in education, our aim is simple to support women on their journeys as educators and to collectively challenge some of the systemic barriers that disable women from having choice in their career progression. Our community values champion having courage, working collaboratively and affecting change. This year’s #IWD17 theme really resonates with the #WomenEd community as it is #BeBoldForChange.   The impact of the #WomenEd community is being seen and heard through the testimonials of the educators who have been coached and supported to be #10%braver. Each small step moves us closer to reducing the confidence gap and the pay gap. We are an inclusive community who champion one another’s achievements.

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Collaboration:

Our community partnerships and collaborations across the system are enabling women leading in education to grow their tribe and grow their confidence. We are working with two of our partner organisations, and many of our community, on a virtual toolkit for #IWD17 for educators round the world to access and use in their classrooms.

Action Aid:

ActionAid UK works with women and girls across 45 countries to understand and claim their rights, whether that’s the right to education, to run their own business or to live a life free from violence:

“We believe in supporting girls to understand the power they have to challenge and change the world. This toolkit, curated by #WomenEd, is a fantastic way for teachers to energise the girls in their school to be “10% braver” so we are delighted to get involved”.

We are recording a conversation between women’s rights campaigners Jessica Njui from The Africa Youth Trust in Nairobi, a partner of ActionAid and Caroline Jones from ActionAid UK. They will be discussing the question: ‘How can girls #beboldforchange?’ We’re hoping they will be joined by a surprise celebrity guest! The final video will be posted here for you to access and share: http://po.st/IWD2017

Action Aid are currently seeking questions for the campaigners from girls across the country; please send your questions to schools@actionaid.org with the name, age and school of the girls who asked the questions.

Dauntless Daughters:

To celebrate International Women’s Day Worcestershire-based illustrator Steph Green has teamed up with #WomenEd to produce the #BeBoldforChange Virtual Toolkit: which is available to all educators for free!

When her oldest daughter got interested in space, rockets and astronauts, Steph looked around for images that would reflect her child in this role. “There was nothing, so I drew her myself.” says Steph. From the astronaut it snowballed, with Steph drawing a whole crew of Dauntless Daughters. “After I started to share the illustrations on social Media, Hannah from #WomenEd got in touch and asked if I would like to get involved in the toolkit. We really wanted to give the toolkit some personality and so the character Abbie Bold came to life.”

Steph continues, “Every day our daughters encounter little messages and big signs telling them what to do, what items to wear, and the books to read, reinforcing the supposed limitations of being a girl and which box they have to go in. It is 2017 and we say ‘enough’.”

Meet Abbie Bold:

When Hannah Wilson from #WomenEd spoke to Daniel Wardle from the Action Aid Schools’ Team and Dauntless Daughters’ founder Steph Green about the collaboration, they decided that an avatar to personify the #IWD17 theme would capture the hearts and the minds of the educational community.

Abbie Bold is bold by name and bold by nature. She represents all of the young girls in classrooms around the world with bold hopes and dreams for the future. Dreams of smashing the gender stereotypes of how to behave, what to think and what to like.

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Our Virtual Toolkit:

We asked our contributors to share their motivation for creating a resource to share with the #IWD17 and #WomenEd community:

“I wanted to create resources or vehicles for reflection that would help a group of young girls move forward with purpose and intent. To validate themselves by the thoughts and actions they choose to believe in. I hope they harness the power of perception and look inwards to help them reflect on the future they have the power to create”.  Kiran Satti, primary school teacher, Midlands

 “The resource is designed to get students and even teachers thinking about the importance of women and women as role models. It’s vital that young people have others to look up to and aspire to. Equally, I place importance on them to be able to identify those same qualities and attributes in the everyday ‘real’ people around them so they have ‘real life’ role models to aspire to become”.  Genevieve Bent, Head of Chemistry, London

 “I am contributing to help inspire, educate and inform the female leaders of tomorrow. My resource will encourage wide ranging discussion, airing and challenging stereotypes. I hope it will help students question inequalities they encounter and make bolder choices”. Frances Ashton, secondary school leader, Oxfordshire

“IWD can be just another date in the busy International calendar for teachers to find something interesting to teach. I wanted to contribute to raise the profile of this global issue in an engaging way for the next generation and to help classroom teachers have a resource they can quickly put in place with maximum impact. As a classroom teacher dipping in and finding a resource starts the conversation going about be bold. Sharing how people have used the resource can continue the message. It would be good to ask people to share what they did. Social media is a good starting point, PSHE association may share the link but the Educational press has a far reach meaning maximised awareness of it being available TES and BBC. Sharing the message be bold for change with students helps them realise that they have the ability to change things. This resource enables teachers and students to notice inequality in the world, to consider their opinion and decide upon their response”. Julie Hunter, secondary school leader, Wiltshire

I knew at the age of 14, my passion and destiny was to work in the field of education and invest in next generation leaders.  Everything I do centres around my vision and mission. Use it to define what’s working & what’s not. Strengthen what is working & change what it is not. Acceptance & change are powerful concepts to embrace for all individuals, especially leaders. The resource starts the dialogue in a safe environment.  Hopefully it will equip individuals with the ‘how to’ as well.  It’s all about sowing seeds & enabling them to flourish”. Anita Devi, educational consultant, Buckinghamshire

“Success is driven by expectation and our language can empower or tear down our expectations. By reflecting on and being mindful of the words we use when engaging with challenges. Use the “Reframe: Can’t Don’t and Won’t” video to trigger reflection and discussion with your class or tutor group”. Jaz Ampaw-Farr, educational consultant, Buckinghamshire.

“Based on the Lean In concept of having ‘workplace allies’, the resource hopes to stimulate discussion about how we support, champion and advocate for women in school, group situations and the workplace. It highlights the embedded cultural practices that can hold back or diminish women’s strengths and talents and offers an opportunity to investigate solutions that both women and men can pursue, together. If we can change these habits by highlighting and modelling them with young people as well as adults in schools, then we might be able to break through what we don’t realise is taken for granted as ‘normal’.” Rosanna Raimato, educational consultant, Italy.

 “If we want to improve diversity and equality in terms of leadership in the future, we have to get girls in particular involved in leadership now, while they are forming their ideas about leadership and what it means to them. Our resource is a PowerPoint created by girls aged 7 to 11 to share with teachers based on the girls’ own research. It is a model that schools have used to open up gender equality discussions with staff and pupils. It could support whole school CPD looking at inequality in the classroom or be used as a discussion set of questions for children in PSHW or student council sessions. It is hoped that schools may want to then design and carry out their own questionnaire with their own students”.  Annemarie Williams, Executive Headteacher and CEO, Midlands

 “International Women’s Day is such an important opportunity for all of us, however we identify, to think about how we can be bolder, but also to ask questions about the structures and attitudes which continue to discriminate, particularly against certain ‘groups’ of people. Whose are the voices that are rarely heard in popular debates about feminism? What about those who don’t access the internet? What about the health and income inequalities facing older and/or disabled girls and women (and their families) in the UK, as well as those in other countries? If we want to address child poverty, are we listening to and supporting single mothers? Let’s be 10% bolder, encourage those we teach to be 10% bolder, but let’s also widen and diversify our networks”. Pen Mendonca, Graphic Facilitator, London  

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One of our contributors, Yinka Ewuola reflected on “How to be B.O.L.D for change…”

B is for Belief… Beliefs are absolutely everything. “Whether you believe you can, or you believe you can’t, you are absolutely right”. What you believe of yourself is everything about your potential, as you are the only one standing in your own way. How you allow the beliefs of others to impact and change the way you feel about your life, possibilities and expectations is just as important: ‘You can’t do that…’ ‘Girls don’t do that…’ They are the limits of others that they are trying to put on you… and no matter the intention – these will harm you. You need to decide what you believe about you, about whether you are going to be, whatever it is you want to be, and then go act on that. Ask ‘why’ (not to others, but to yourself) you can’t, won’t, shouldn’t do the things that you are working to achieve and then set those limiting beliefs aside for new ones… Believe you are worth it. Believe it will be ok. Believe you deserve to be there and have the good things you are experiencing… Believe change is worth choosing and you will do all you can to make it a reality.

O is for One Step Because we are the queens of plans, which means that we try and work out 26 steps ahead, and if we can’t always see exactly where we are going, then you feel trapped and paralysed and confused. But “The journey of 1000 miles, begins with a baby step” – what you need is just one small step in the right general direction. And then another… And then another… Boldness comes from understanding that smaller steps will lead to bigger, brighter places. Hell, even a step in the wrong direction is better than no step at all – action always beats inaction, and you can always course correct in motion – so be bold and take just one step.

L is for Learning and Leading from the Heart Boldness is a heart set… The word Courage is derived from the word  ‘Cor’ which is the Latin word for heart (as Brené Brown reminds us). So what does that courage look like every day? Speaking honestly from our hearts is a great place to start… It’s also about understanding what’s going on with our fear… It’s about understanding that the fear will come… It’s about knowing, expecting it… Because so long as you don’t let those fears stop you. ‘When fear is what you’re feeling (and you’re still doing), Brave is what you are doing’. But learning is so important for boldness… We become bolder after we fail at things (believe it or not) because failure gives us stepping stones for improvements.

D is for Difference See, because even though we are grown up and off the playground – we are still trying way to hard to fit in. And blend in… And to be small, and hidden, and not to noticeable or leery… But we were born to stand out. Boldness comes from understanding that all those things are unique about you are there for the reason you are here… There is nothing more important than making a difference. And the only way to make a difference is to be different. Remember how to be bold for change. Yinka Ewuola, primary school Chair of Governors, London

Please share the free virtual #BeBoldForChange toolkit for #IWD17 far and wide:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B1AxQ9bWcYaXSy02UTBEYjVBSjA

The resources are there to provoke thinking and stimulate discussions in your classrooms and schools. Thank you everyone from the #WomenEd community who has contributed.

Other ways to engage with #IWD17:

Blogging:

Contribute to the #BeBoldForChange #Digimeet on StaffRm on Sunday 5th March.

https://staffrm.io/@misswilsey/xqPZu5VJ7I 

Events:

Attend a #WomenEd #LeadMeet for #IWD17 – we have events taking place simultaneously in Bristol, Cambridge, Leicester, London, Manchester, Nottingham, Uffcolme and The Netherlands on 8th March. We also have regional #WomenEd events on March 4th in London, March 10th in Milton Keynes, March 11th in Coventry, March 25th in Leeds. All of our events are free and listed on Eventbrite, just search #WomenEd.

Tweeting:

Follow the hashtags on Twitter: #IWD17 #BeBoldForChange #womened

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Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The power of collaboration – I met Steph Green, founder of Dauntless Daughters on twitter 3 weeks ago – what we have curated and she has created in 2 weeks is amazing!

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I have scan read each of the resouces from the #womened community contributors, I now need to go back and reflect on each one

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • The generosity of my #PLN and the #strongertogether spirit of the educators I am connected with.

Grow, Learn and Flourish: Our Mantra

The ethos of GLF resonated with me as soon as I met my new CEO Jon at the Academies Show last spring.

I have spoken and blogged a lot about my values in the last year. I had become disgruntled, disenfranchised with my vocation and sought coaching to unpick why I was frustrated and unhappy. Through coaching I excavated my values. Through coaching I can now articulate my vision and values for education. Through coaching I now know myself better as a leader.

So why do we need to Grow, Learn and Flourish? Why do we need this vision in our current school system?

This metaphor works on the micro and macro level for me. As a system we are growing, our landscape and infrastructure are in a state of flux. We need to learn what is going well and what is going wrong in the diverse range of schools around out country. We need to learn why we are not recruiting and retaining our teachers. We need to focus on our communities wellbeing and mental health. We know our staff are stressed and unwell, leaving the system to find the light, we know our students are caving under the pressure. This is why the mission statement is aligned with everything I believe could  be right but is currently wrong in our school system.

How can schools and communities be supported in living these values?

I quote Mary Myatt’s new book ‘Hopeful Schools’ a lot. The statement: “we need to live, not laminate our values” has become my personal and professional mantra. We need to focus on the holistic education of our students. We need to focus on our staff’s mental health and wellbeing. We need to focus on the “souls in the roles” and the “names not numbers” in our schools. No human should be reduced to a job title, nor a number in a spreadsheet.

What does ‘Grow’ mean to me for teaching, learning and leadership?

Growth mindset is a good starting point. Planning and teaching all lessons pitched to the top and scaffolding down, removing setting, creating equality of opportunity in our schools for all stakeholders. For me growing also means employability, our CIAG is not strong enough – it is all well and good focusing on knowledge but without the transferable skills to apply this learning our young people will not be able to grow in their careers. Growing to me also means the opportunities to engage in the arts, to grow as a person and explore one’s identity. Being able to think creatively and express one self are skills that all our school leavers should be equipped with.

What does ‘Learn’ mean to me for teaching, learning and leadership?

“No school is an island” is another one of my mantras, but I extend it by adding, “no school leader or classroom practitioner should be an island either”. I passionately believe in collaboration, community partnerships and system leadership. We need to inspire and empower our students to “learn to learn” but we also need to reignite some of the candles that are being blown out in the profession. We need to ensure that our CPD offers in schools are inspiring and enable everyone in our school communities to learn and develop. I learn through tweeting, blogging, reading and discussing my thinking and experiences with others – I want to bottle the buzz I get from #teachmeets #leadmeets #womened #bameed and share this with everyone I connect with.

What does ‘Flourish’ mean to me for teaching, learning and leadership?

I want to be a teacher, a school leader and have a life. I don’t think is much to ask. I want to model a balanced perspective on teaching as a lifestyle choice, teaching as a vocation but also teaching as a career where you can also have flexibility and a family. I want to support the teachers who join us in the profession to flourish. I want to nurture the talent we have in the system to flourish and stay in the profession. I want to inspire and empower the educators who have left the system to return to teaching and to find a school with vision and values focused on #wellbeing, to find a school where there opportunities to work flexibly, to find a school where diverse educators are coached and mentored to so they can flourish.

This is why the mission statement for GLF is more than some words laminated and stuck on the wall. These values are lived and permeate through the community, our GLF family.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Growing, Learning and Flourishing as a Headteacher
  • Co-creating our MAT/ TSA conference framed by our GLF values

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I am reading blogs and articles, attending events to shape our school systems at Aureus to support wellbeing and workload

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • The coaches who have supported me in growing, learning and flourishing – thank you relighting my flame of hope – Viv Grant, Carol Jones, Eve Warren, the team at Graydin and Jill Berry for lots of chats.
  • Amjad for nudging me to write a blog about #growlearnflourish