One of my many dilemmas has been how to manage the work/life balance to try and ensure some sense of perspective and promote my own health and #wellbeing.
I have tried to ensure that I run from school to various stations on my commute home, depending on how far I wanted to run. A short but quick 2.5km across Clapham Common to Clapham Junction, or a slightly longer 4km or 5km to Earlsfield or a longer 7km to Wimbledon. This was equally an issue when cycling in and out of school!
The problem, up until now has always been the logistical planning to make this happen, transferring suits and multiple shirts & tie combinations (pre picked by my wife to avoid horrendous clashes - as I struggle with colour blindness!) in and out of school, whilst remembering which items of clothing I have left where. The net effect hasn't been one of wellbeing but rather increased stress trying to work it all out.
That is, until I discovered the Henty Wingman Backpack, which has been a complete game changer. I naturally did some extensive research and following some great advice from Melissa the UK distributor, I made a purchase; it isn't cheap at £155 but then what is? but then running back packs aren't and I wanted to carry a suit etc (Melissa kindly offered a discount on the basis that I would review honestly and share on the Relentless Optimism blog - Melissa has extended the 15% discount for anyone using the code RO15 at the checkout until the 31st October).
The concept is simple. The Wingman is essentially a reinforced, light weight suit carrier that rolls around a waterproof inner tube insert, to keep suits, shirts & dresses crease free in transit. The origins of the design come from a cycling heritage but the back pack works with my runs now into and home from school.
I have included some photos, kindly provided by Mel for you to see.
This has been a revelation for me! I am now able to transport, daily, suit, shirt and tie in the carrier bit, my shoes, towel, wash stuff etc in the inner tube bag, as well as my reading book, keys etc in the backpack laptop pocket and know that when I take it out at school everything is completely crease free!
When running, the bag is comfortable (certainly as comfortable as any running backpack is) and I personally didn't find it too heavy. The shoulder straps and waist strap are completely adjustable and offer a secure anchoring. There isn't a great deal of bounce when running and everything stayed where is was supposed to. The velcro outer taps and clips keep the bag secure and it is weather proof - I used it on its first outing in a horrendous downpour and everything remained dry! In other reviews, reviewers noted that it was warm running with the Wingman but I didn't find it any warmer than other back packs.
You do need to pack the inner tube carefully, I tended to follow the advice in the video below and ensure that the tube was tightly secured by the wrap around bag and 2 securing clips - on my second outing with the Wingman the inner tube slipped down, I had to readjust and then off I went again. I do agree with the Road CC review that the more you put in the Wingman inner tube the better - not only from a comfort point of view but also in the crease reduction! My only 'Even Better If' comment is that it would be nice to have some kind of pocket on the waist belt for mobile phone and travel card - otherwise it's perfect!
In terms of customer service, Melissa was fantastic and really helpful in advising which of the Henty bags to go for. I had thought maybe the messenger version or the compact version may be worth considering but the fact I wanted to run and carry suits etc I went for the full sized backpack option. A colleague, who has just ordered his own Wingman, pointed out that the bag would be equally ideal if flying and could count as hand luggage.
If you have any questions then I would urge you to email her at : Melissa Wilkes
So, in summary, the Wingman has certainly made any attempt to balance work/life with some exercise a great deal easier! I am now able to pack what I need for my run to and from school with ease and know that when I get there, my suit and shirts remain crease free.
The Henty Wingman does everything you would expect from a commuting backpack. I am loving it and the flexibility it gives me running in and out of work knowing that everything stays the way that you packed it.
As long as it goes in crease free, expect it to come out the same way!!
Great job Henty!
Dimensions & Weight : Wingman Backpack – Regular – 1.7kgs (3.7lbs)
Rolled – 56 x 23 x 26cm (22 x 9.1 x 10.5 inches)
Unrolled – 56 x 101cm (22 x 39.7 inches)
Inner Tube 0.4Kgs (0.9lbs)
52 x 20cm cylinder; 18 litres
**** Backpack Straps
Wingman Backpack (suit and garment compartment):
18L Dry Bag (gym/utility bag):
I really enjoyed the HBR CfHP research article on How the Best School Leaders Create Enduring Change https://hbr.org/2017/09/research-how-the-best-school-leaders-create-enduring-change and also reading Andy Buck's response 'Rome wasn't built in a day!' and like many readers got me thinking.
Having reflected, on the both Andy's and the HBR CfHP research team articles, here are my thoughts! I am not totally convinced about the whole 'architect leader' as I believe leadership and change is fundamentally about people, noticing and engaging in the journey.
It is clear that system leadership is key in the long journey of transformation but you also need to ensure a focus on the people element as well as the performance metrics. In schools, there is an abundance of data/information for leaders and Governing Bodies to focus on and judge improvements by, but very little on the qualitative data on the 'climate' aspect of the organisation.
The CfHP team highlighted for 9 'building blocks' in turning around failing schools, 3 resonated for me more than others;
2) engaging its community
3) improving teaching
The article suggests that if you can nail 6 of the 9 you'll move your school forward - but it will take time and that no one measure was found to be more important than any other.
Here I disagree. For me, the most critical aspects relate to climate and culture, which are notoriously hard to shift and change and this is where I will focus this response.
This is where the challenge and engage aspects come into their own. Challenge the existing 'status quo' and using this as a powerful lever to engage all members of the community. Easy... if only!
The CfHP research team identified when new Headteachers committed to the school and it's community, improvements were seen. This is a total and relentless desire to pursue one of our mantras 'how can we do it better?' and links directly with our 'running through walls' approach.
They focused on engaging and invovling their communities - within the school and the communities that they served, challenging them to be 'better'. The CfHP research team suggested this took on average 5 years, if you focus on climate and feel of the organisation then this could be quicker - the challenge for leaders is that this is one of the hardest things to change and can take the longest!
If we can get the people aspect of the organisation right, then the performance side can start to grow - the problem is being allowed the time to do it when we face a high stakes accountability culture. If we look at the OFSTED framework at Inadequate rating and its sub categories, the key difference between Serious Weaknesses and Special Measures is recognising the 'capacity in leadership'. However, for our 'architect' leader - time is not something that is recognised and that capacity is often not allowed time to fruition, hence jittery Governing Bodies and strong arm academisation..
Surely, an opportunity to reflect on the people aspects of improvement would be useful here?
How does it feel to work in a school that is on an improvement journey? How engaged are all members of the schools community in securing the change and improvement? If these are both positive, then there will be improvements in learning and teaching and ultimately exam performance output.
The is no argument, Qualifications and results are essential for the life chances of our young people but we also have a duty to enrich and develop 'better people' who feel valued and part of their communities and these are simply things that aren't measurable in the current performance climate.
I am not sure how we will ensure the immense challenge in changing schools is meaningfully measured but I do feel we need to allow all leaders, 'architect' and otherwise time to change the feel of their organisations. I have previously reflected on the 'better people make better All Blacks' approach and maybe this is part of the reason I have yet to secure the Headship I desire, where there is a focus by Governing Bodies in turning around and improving results fast, often at the expense of the Headteacher, the climate and what it feels like. You can do both, the problem is that one isn't as easily measurable as the other!
The school I want to lead will be built upon this:
Too much in education and school operates under the tyranny of the results and high stakes accountability structures. The core principle at the school I want to lead, is that we strive to gather talented people together, with the same core values and passion for our young people and we treat them unbelievably well. In return, they will try unbelievably hard to be exceptional in everything they do. That is it! Everything else, OFSTED, exam results, governmental change are secondary. They are not our primary aim. We exist to have a positive impact, nurturing and releasing the potential in as many young people and colleagues as possible.
I do believe that you can create people centred, high performing organisations without solely focussing on exam results.... if given time!
I was lucky enough to go to the Royal Opera House in July and despite being blown away by the opera, (which if you haven’t ever been to, I urge you to go!); the delight in seeing a photo of a former student completing her set design apprenticeship; I noticed the work of the conductor and the orchestra.
They were totally mesmerising and got me thinking about how we can ‘orchestrate and conduct’ in our leadership.
The significance became more apparent after reading one of Dr Tim O’Brien's (@doctob) pieces in #MarkPlanTeach by Ross Morrison-McGill (@teachertoolkit) as well as reflecting on some of the great tweets and conversations that happened at #ResearchEd this weekend.
As you watch the orchestra, the stand out person is the conductor – arms moving, flicking the baton, highly expressive and animated from the front, adding their own interpretation on the piece of music being played. The natural leader! I wonder how many conductors we have seen in leadership! This might be all we see. The orchestra playing in complete unison and consistent to produce an auditory sensation. Each musician and section knowing their roles, the value of their contributions and where they fit in.
Organisations run like that! A conductor at center stage leading the team into daily battle, in a consistent, scripted approach…or not!
Now, I must say that I am not a musician, absolutely don’t get ‘rhythm’ as my wife and children will support, so these are just my thoughts! As the performance continued,
I became particularly fascinated by the string section.
Have a watch below.
I began watching the individual nuances and differences in technique, grip, size of stroke (if that is a thing) and yet within the different techniques the overall sound was stunning! I began thinking about the whole consistency issue in school and organisations and the often relentless pursuit of it.
The string section showed that you can produce brilliant music but still be individualistic in how you use the instrument. In fact the orchestra as whole is the embodiment of this! Could the same be said in school and organisation? I believe the answer is ‘yes’ and it has nothing to do with consistency but more an understanding of coherence.
Philippa Cordingley explored the issue of consistency and coherence in her blog: Putting the pedal to the metal; Gaining momentum in accelerating pupil progress. Philippa identified that the very systems and effort that are put in place are often barriers to further progress. She noted that with reference to behaviour, "a strong focus on consistency in behaviour management, which had been essential to establishing order, sometimes obscure the moment when the majority of the pupil community had internalised behavioural expectations and were ready to move on to focus on behaviour for learning'.
So, in pursuing consistency, could we lose coherence? Philippa suggests "coherence that derives from clarity of purpose and developing systems that create and them remove scaffolding for teachers and pupils". Once systems are in place, so if we go back to our string section, the piece of music has been learnt, we can create an environment to harmonize, yet still be coherent.
The challenge for leaders is to allow the flex in the system, without feeling like it is a loss of consistency, enabling a coherent flow through the organisation, underpinned simply by not just 'doing the right things' but by ensuring that "everyone understands the purpose and principles well enough to use them to remove the complex obstacles to learning for vulnerable learners".
Dr Tim O'Brien likened inclusion to an orchestra, (see above) where we perceive the orchestra to be both diverse and inclusive but coming together in a coherent community, "where difference is celebrated, collaboration critical and everyone's contribution is valued'. making fantastic music!
So I guess the challenge for leaders is to reflect on how much we are striving for consistency without over looking the importance of coherence.
Does the desire for consistency mean we miss the opportunity to develop coherent communities, built upon values and shared contributions, even if we do it with slightly nuanced ways?
I shall leave you with the finale of Beethoven's 9th, with Ricardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and ask are they consistent or coherent!
Beethoven 9 - Chicago Symphony Orchestra - Riccardo Muti The full piece can be watched here!
#Mark.Plan.Teach is an honest and refreshing read, which I would recommend for EVERYBODY that works with young people in education. #Mark.Plan.Teach will enable you to reflect on successful strategies that will add the most value to your work and its impact on your students.
Ross Morrison-McGill aka (@TeacherToolkit) is straight to the point and tells it as it is, whilst presenting a solution to how it should and could be! Senior Teams, Middle Leaders and Teachers, need to read and reflect on how the essence of teaching can be re-framed in the #Mark.Plan.Teach approach.
Dr Tim O'Brien (@Doctob) shares psychological perspectives that help remind the reader that there are 'students' at the centre of everything we do. If we can understand them and ourselves better, then this will help with our own practice and improve our effectiveness.
#Mark.Plan.Teach should be a mantra and 'call-to-arms' for the profession, to take back the classroom and manage the balance between workload, well-being and ‘The Grim Reaper’!
I had the pleasure of being invited to a meeting at the Adidas Head Office in Stockport this week and took time to reflect on how refreshing and inspiring it was to see how leaders engaged with colleagues.
The building was full of inspirational quotes and images, some taken from the original Adi Dasler standards others new but these alone do not create the culture within.
A lending library positioned under a signed All Black rugby shirt set the tone in the central atrium, where individual pods/booths shared floor space with larger, communal dining tables. The atrium was vibrant, light and full of energy.
The leader I was meeting interacted seamlessly and with ease with every colleague we came across on the visit. The obvious warmth evident and the impact of 'noticing' clear. Be it a discussion around upcoming football fixtures or a 'what Are you up to with the kids this weekend?' - each encounter was genuine and enduring.
The leader then described how he had invited a number of junior colleagues for a group breakfast, something he did regularly, where he shared his journey within the organisation, discussed and shared his own values, vision and experiences - including mistakes and key learnings. At other occasions, listening to colleagues, mentoring, guiding but engaging genuinely. Noticing, listening and remembering!
For some this may seem over the top or indulgent but the thing about a 'high performance culture' is that you have to continually nurture it or it is easily lost.
Culture is about 'feel' and you cannot create a positive culture without being humble, demonstrating humility and empathy in abundance. It simply isn't emblazoning walls with posters and mantras, super sized with inspirational images. It is not about grand gestures, motivational speeches and charismatic leaders.
High performance culture is 'noticing' the small things, all of the time, with everyone in the organisation. It is how you make colleagues 'feel' being part of your team or organisation.
I cannot think of a better demonstration of 'living' the culture.
I have finished reading The Talent Lab and am halfway through @Imsporticus’s recommendation of Team of Teams and have been reflecting and thinking about ‘high performance culture’ and how we can build, nurture and develop this in teams and schools.
Culture is a varied term and one that is often bandied about in terms of coaching, leadership and performance but very difficult to define, create and even harder to maintain. In terms of defining culture,
The Business Directory define it as:
‘Broadly, social heritage of a group (organized community or society). It is a pattern of responses discovered, developed, or invented during the group's history of handling problems, which arise from interactions among its members, and between them and their environment. These responses are considered the correct way to perceive, feel, think, and act, and are passed on to the new members through immersion and teaching. Culture determines what is acceptable or unacceptable, important or unimportant, right or wrong, workable or unworkable. It encompasses all learned and shared, explicit or tacit, assumptions, beliefs, knowledge, norms, and values, as well as attitudes, behaviour, dress, and language.’
For us, simply defining it is not possible, as it is constantly flowing and ebbing and in need of constant nurture and maybe having worked through this blog I may be closer in terms of a definition! In terms of high performing teams – culture is often the stand out feature and as Owen Slot explored in The Talent Lab, a key building block in our Olympic success in both the London and Rio games.
So how do we develop a high performance culture? Our first attempt at modelling this lead to us distilling what we felt were the key building blocks of a high performance culture and creating The Temple of High Performance. These were Transformational Leadership at ALL levels, Context, Alignment & Challenge and Trust and these will be explored in more depth in a moment. These are all built on deep foundations of well-being, reflecting on ‘how can we do it better?’, climate and values. Without these building blocks in place, high performance can only be dreamed of.
*As I am half way through reading Team of Teams, I would suggest ‘adaptability’ as an essential pillar too!
Transformational Leadership at All Levels:
Alignment & Challenge:
These are all built upon making wellbeing, values and the climate the absolute foundations of the team. If we ignore wellbeing, we do so at our peril, as high performance culture requires the team to be in excellent health, both physical and emotional and requires high levels of resilience, relentlessness and adaptability.
Values and climate are absolutely connected – ‘that’s what we do here’ built upon absolute clarity of ‘why we do it’. The values within the organisation are exemplified and modelled by all and unite to deliver the team goals. Constant reflection is an essential part of this and something that is a constant driver of high performance and extremely powerful in a high performance culture.
So, having worked through the Temple of High Performance, each of the pillars are fundamental in their contribution to high performance culture but equally fragile and can be damaged if they are not nurtured. Similarly, individuals in the team are equally robust but easily damaged if not nurtured, which would impact negatively on the high performance culture. However, I strongly believe that if the pillars are built on clear and ‘lived every minute of every day values’ then you have a chance of creating that ‘high performance culture’ that has an enduring legacy of every individual that comes into contact with it.
As a member of the REACH Project Steering Group, a Kings College Study into Teenage Mental Health in Ethnic populations and a member or the McPin Foundation Priority Setting Partnership ‘Right People, Right Questions’ group, working to raise awareness in young people on the issue of mental health, I would argue that as a school we are ahead of the curve in not only our awareness of teenage mental health but how we manage it and support our vulnerable young people.
But the last 2 weeks have made me realise that teenage mental health in our schools is akin to the historic sexual abuse of children scandal, or the Rochdale grooming ring, in both its scale and catastrophic ‘knowing the problem is massive but an unwillingness or inability to know how to tackle or address it’. The statistics are staggering, 1 in 5 young people suffer from a mental illness, that’s 20 percent of our population but yet only about 4 percent of the total health care budget is spent on our mental health.
I don’t want to get into a political rant, as we all know that mental health in schools is appearing in soundbite form in manifestos. Similarly, this is not an attack on CAMHS or Social Services – we are all in this together but merely an off-load, a cathartic sharing to raise awareness of the realities that schools face day in and day out.
‘Young people need adults who notice them’
I was greeted on Monday, a fortnight ago buy a Year 9 student who we have referred to CAMHS for chronic self-harm, who is seen by the school counsellor, known to Social Services, you get my drift! She presented with a very specific suicide note, outlining her desire to end her life, at a train station on Tuesday.
Naturally, safeguarding systems kicked in and we attempted to triage the situation, informed the ‘Team Around the Child’ and invited parents in to collect her and agreed that they would take her to CAHMS via A&E as we felt this was an escalation and there was a real danger to her life.
She appeared in school the next day, as if everything was fine and on talking to her we discovered that her parents just took her home. We contacted CAMHS and Social Worker (why hadn’t parents done as we agreed and I am not convinced that the home is the trigger for the self-harm) as it was Tuesday and she was still very clear that she would end her life today. The self-harm increased during the school morning, despite colleagues being aware of the safety factors that needed to happen to safeguard her but with arms and legs bleeding she ended up in the care of our school nurse, who sat with her and contacted her CAMHS worker to seek advice.
At this point, she absconds and I now have a potentially suicidal, self-harming student, who has made a very clear threat to her own life, now non-communicative, hiding in a large building. Major problem. Fortunately, she was very quickly located as she is a creature of habit and secured.
Parents, CAMHS and Social Services were all called, as was my Safer Schools Officer and an Ambulance. We had a suicidal young lady making very real and visible threats to life. It was only midday. Ironically, the REACH Study were in school researching with student groups for the study and were shocked by the reality that schools face.
Eventually, ambulance service and police convene and we talk through the situation. A stand-off as no colleague wanted to entertain the discussion of ‘sectioning’ a 13 year old, self-harming, suicidal girl. I expressed concern about discharging to parents because of suspected abuse in the home and the fact that they didn’t engage with the care plan from the day before. The Social Worker was happy that this wasn’t the case. Stand-off.
In the middle of this, said Year 9 is non-communicative and scared. It was agreed that at 13, she didn’t need to have her parents travel in the ambulance with her, so a colleague did, because there was a trusting relationship, (after all, that’s we all do for our students) and she was taken to an CAMHS A&E appointment and I informed parents, who followed the ambulance.
Some days later, with a very bland care plan, further updating to risk assessment, NFA from Social Services and a future appointment later with CAMHS, the problem was solved!
A week later, a different student, self-harmer with a specific penchant to iron the inside of her legs, erupts with another student and potential fight ensues. Myself and colleagues were very quick to the scene and able to dissipate it but I have a very angry and strong young lady, completely out of control and harming herself and anything that got in her way, that I needed to safeguard.
Despite numerous warnings, I and another colleague take the decision to restrain for her own safety, as the damage she was doing to herself and the wall was escalating. At this point, slow motion and visions of 2 careers going down the drain but at least she was safe. We manage to calm and talk her out of the rage and ball of destruction that she was in. Other colleagues who have a caring relationship with her come and support and the scene ends in tears and a full break down.
I inform her mum, who we have been working with closely and she arrives and our fantastic school nurse tries to get hold of her CAMHS worker. A quick phone assessment later, she too is fixed and we put them both in a taxi home.
Now my point here, is that this is increasingly becoming the norm and not the exception. This isn’t because of a lack of in school services because as I said, we are ahead of the curve in our wellbeing provision. This is just what colleagues like me are doing day in and day out in our schools, because we ‘notice’ and we care.
This is why I liken this to the historic sexual abuse cases; everybody in every school knows that there is a mental health epidemic bubbling under the surface but there isn’t a strategy to tackle it. I don’t have the answer but I can tell you what it isn’t.
It isn’t just a money thing. Throwing money at CAMHS and Social Services isn’t going to solve the problem. Young people need people/adults to ‘notice’ them. They need adults who will commit and work with them and their families in enduring relationships.
They need continuity in their care and support. That is why we can hold it all together like ‘glue’ in our schools.
It is about building and sustaining enduring relationships and connections. It is about breaking down barriers and fear and building non-judgmental, trusting relationships with professionals that last and endure.
If we get this right, then maybe we can build a support network that will make a lasting difference. In the meantime, we just need to make sure that we keep ‘noticing’ and running through walls for our young people.
From the outset, I have to make it absolutely clear, that I have always held the work of Sir David Brailsford and the ‘marginal gains’ approach to improvement in the highest esteem. To be quite honest, I still do, which is why I am baffled and disappointed at the current state of affairs regarding the way that the ‘package’ and TUE’s situation has been handled from such a strong and easily identifiable leader.
As I began my deeper leadership journey, I followed the progress of Team GB Cycling and Team Sky, pausing the TV during an interview with SDB (Sir David Brailsford) to take a picture of the leadership books on his shelf, ensuring that they went on my own reading list. I was mesmerised, as I am sure we all were, with the attention to detail, meticulous strategy, marginal gain approach and the embodiment of leadership perfection resulting in stunning outcomes.
I am not confused about the TUE. If it was meant to be there, then in all likelihood, understanding the meticulous attention to detail involved with how Team Sky works, SDB would have known about it. A risk was taken and it back fired. What confuses me, is that by anyone’s standard, SDB’s ability to demonstrate the true characteristics of a leader were completely missing at a time when they were needed most.
The handling of the whole situation by SDB is a lesson for us all to heed. When a leader loses credibility, doubt spreads within the team and it is almost impossible to regain. Credibility and integrity are easy words to bandy about as a leader but very easy to lose. The more publicly this happens then greater the reputational damage to the leader. Trust errodes very quickly and team allignment shifts as doubt creeps in.
It was no surprise to read that Chris Froome, despite the employment by Team Sky of a media advisor, was not prepared to openly back SDB during a press conference, casting further doubts on SDB’s credibility as a leader. Why would Froome risk his own credibility and integrity when he clearly has his own doubts around those of SDB.
How differently this could have panned out. ‘Hindsight’ is a wonderful lens to reflect through but as a leader we must be prepared to recognise our own fallibility and be willing to embrace our mistakes and be prepared to put our hands up and say ‘I got it wrong’ or ‘I could have done it better’. Had SDB done this at the start of this incident, we may well have been applauding at the way he had managed it and the smooth way he navigated his way through it.
Let this be a ‘heads up’ to leaders at all levels, be quick to recongise when and where it hasn’t gone well and take responsibility quickly. Embrace and admit the mistake and then look at how to put it right. If we do this, then there is a chance that we can limit the loss of credibility and reputational damage and ensure that our own most valued assets (team members and those we lead) do not lose faith and trust in what we do. Once they have, as we see in Froome, it becomes almost impossible to support as you are left compromising your own values and credibility.
Ashley Meriman wrote in the Washington Post of ‘How leaders are more powerful when they’re humble’ and suggested that humility is: ‘when someone has an accurate assessment of both his strengths and weaknesses, and he sees all this in the context of the larger whole. He’s a part of something far greater than he. He knows he isn’t the center of the universe. And he’s both grounded and liberated by this knowledge. Recognizing his abilities, he asks how he can contribute. Recognizing his flaws, he asks how he can grow.'
Full article can be found here:
A humble leader would have would have recognised the mistake, taken stock, sought advice and fronted it out, putting up his or her hands, taking responsibility for it. They would not have tried to fudge the issue or mislead and would be driven by their own integrity and credibility and relied on it to shine through.
Leaders are only human after all.
Miistakes are an essential part of the leadership learning process.
Credibility is gained by recognising our mistakes and learning from them, not marginally diluting them in an attempt to deceive.
Do not ever underestimate the impact we have on young people’s lives as teachers.
We really are the ‘glue’ that holds it all together and leading up to the summer holidays uncertainty, loss of routine and fear can set in for our most vulnerable students.
As a parent, I know only too well the need of structure in children’s lives and for our most vulnerable students, the summer holidays and loss of the structure and support, that every member of the school community provides can create turbulence.
The fact that colleagues like myself, shout up and down the road about lateness and encourage students to run in, moan about uniform, jewellery, shoes, bags etc. Smile and laugh with, at or near students – before they have even set foot into amazing and learning fuelled classrooms provides and satiates needs that aren’t met in our most vulnerable homes.
This is what I mean about being the ‘glue’. This routine, the fact that I have spent most of the school year, like many colleagues in the profession, picking up the same students, about the same things, tells me that they need me to do it and shows them that I care.
As an early riser, I get to school and have my ‘specials’ sat outside my office reading. The look on their faces every morning when I say ‘Hi’ by name and watch their faces light up (yes he knows our names!) may well be the first positive interaction with an adult of the day.
More ‘glue’ holding it all together.
I am inspired by @jazampaw-farr story, watched her video and read her blog. We have a huge responsibility to ‘smile more, engage before educating, and go the extra mile to humanise students. Reassure them that the community of school will be here when they aren't’. The ‘glue’ in their lives disappears for 6 weeks and instability and fear can set in.
So, I am asking us to remember that we are the ‘glue’ and with that comes and responsibility – say ‘hi’, make jokes, smile a lot, ask about plans over the holiday, be warmer and more engaging, because for six weeks the ‘glue’ isn’t there! As adults, we can change our dysfunctional lives and do something about it (or try to at least!).
Our vulnerable students don’t have the luxury or the agency to do this and are stuck, relying on us and an over stretched care system to satisfy their basic needs, to provide love and care, which goes on holiday for the summer!
So please, make the last few days magic for your students!
Reading @imsporticus’s blog inspired me to write about something that has become increasingly apparent in discussions with colleagues this year and is a potential issue in school leadership and links to the Adidas Standard 9 about being open-minded and look forward toward the future.
Like @imsporticus, I have read and studied a great deal on the topic of leadership, both in school contexts and professional sport. I am an absolute believer in the 'aggregation of marginal gains' approach of David Brailsford and Team Sky and the constant need to reflect and ask 'how can we do it better?' I constantly test the theory and the practice in what I see and am driven by the question of how can we/I do it better for the young people we serve?
I first became consciously aware of the term 'cognitive dissonance' when it was discussed in Matthew Syed's Black Box Thinking. He describes cognitive dissonance as: 'where we spin the evidence to fit our beliefs rather than adapting our beliefs to fit the evidence'. So does this happen in school leadership? Do we, with the best of intentions, damage the very things we are trying to build at the expense of making an evidence base fit our own beliefs? Do we risk un-inspiring and demotivating leaders of the future by being cognitively dissonant, bending evidence to match our beliefs?
@imsporticus describes disillusionment when he recognised the disconnect between the rhetoric and the day to day leadership behaviours of leaders he had observed. Integrity, authenticity, trust, courage, are all admirable qualities of leaders and very easy to recite at interview but are much harder to embody, day in and day out. These differences can become chasms and very obvious when they are missing. They are very damaging for aspirant leaders, especially those that read widely or follow leaders on the twittersphere!
The danger is that when you are leading, everyone is watching.
So unless your behaviours match, there is a disconnect or dissonance. Don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting that leaders don't make mistakes, far from it. Good leaders, acknowledge, celebrate and reflect on them and move on, secure in the knowledge that their 'why', their values and moral compass will see them through. When there is dissonance, it can be very hard to have a leadership voice, which in the case of @Ieshasmall's introverted leaders becomes even more of a challenge.
So, I am suggesting that there is a need to reflect and test the leadership you observe in others against the theory or the evidence. These become important reflections that will help shape and define the leader you want to be, Much is learnt from observing 'how not to' as well as observing 'how to'. These become key components in building the leader you wish to be and can be tested against the theory that you read. I have lived a career by the phrase, ‘you are only as good as you last conversation’ – especially with your Headteacher but as leaders you are only as good as your last actions. If these uphold the values and are rooted in your ‘why’ then there will be a match and no dissonance or disconnect.
@imsporticus noted, the catastrophic damage done by dissonant, narcissistic, selfish leaders to those in their care. This, sandwiched with a desire to ‘bend facts to beliefs dissonantly’ damages the raw potential and desire to lead that we see in our aspirant leaders. Dialogue and opportunity are lost due to the change in culture; openness and challenge shrivel until we become fearful and just nod in agreement. Aspirant leaders will take their cues from the leadership behaviours of others and we then stagnate.
Leadership rhetoric is very easy but others will find you out if your values and behaviours don't match.
So, all leaders need to be open minded and look forward to the future, ensuring their rhetoric, values and behaviours match. Evidence is evidence and is a powerful tool. Failure is rich in opportunities to learn, which can be harnessed to do some good. Don’t bend it to suit your beliefs as there is a risk that the small bits, the nuances that make up working in a school are lost.
More importantly, the trust and belief of those who aspire to be like you, who are watching your every move, testing you against great leaders in their minds compared to the theory they are reading are lost or damaged.
My message for @imsporticus, keep ensuring that you ‘do the best you can for your colleagues and the children in your care’ - that is the 'why we do it'; keep questioning ‘how can you do it better?’ because at the end of the day, that is all that matters!