I wanted to reflect on @ieshasmall Introverted Leader talk at the Telegraph Festival of Education, after being left speechless by @jazampawfarr story above. I have combined these with my own views on what we do as leaders and what it means to be Relentlessly Optimistic for our young people.
@jazampawfarr asks us to consider which type of teacher we are going to be and I suggest that this can be asked as which type of leader we are going to be? Do you remember ‘why’ you went into teaching and then leadership? Do you care and advocate beyond the job because it is more important than performance tables and accountability measures? We manage the hope and aspirations of some of the most vulnerable members of our society and cannot afford to hinder the life chances of any students and these students in particular.
Now, from the What it means to be Relentlessly Optimistic video, you get a sense of my own feelings on this and the breaking down and running through walls analogy, whilst motivating and inspiring for some, isn’t necessarily how we all manifest our own leadership. Or can it be but in different forms?
The values may well be the same but how we make that happen can be hugely different and equally important.
@ieshasmall spoke about the benefits that the introverted leader can bring to school leadership, especially when complimented with extroverts. @ieshasmall noted five typically introverted traits and can be used as strengths. The link to @ieshasmall’s blog is below but I wanted to dwell on two of the traits identified, as I feel these connect the most with ‘why’ we do it.
‘Observation and the ability to notice what others may miss’ are essential if we are not to miss the current day @jazampawfarr’s of this world. This is something that could be missed if leadership is dominated by gregarious and extroverted leaders. We need leaders to notice all things but especially the small things!
‘Quiet passion’ – that burns and niggles is another of the traits identified in introverted leaders. Again, essential if we are not to miss any young people and ties in with my contention that actually, that fire and passion is the same as our extroverted wall-breakers but expressed and channelled through a different lens.
Ideally, leadership will be a blend of extroverts and introverts. The danger is the quiet voice of the introvert can be drowned out by the extroverts. There is a saying about being wary of the quiet person in the fight, as they sit back and watch trouble unfold and know that when trouble comes, they can take care of it. The same can be applied to leadership contexts, so extroverts need to know themselves and enable our introverts to shine through and have a voice. Extroverts need introverts spotting and noticing the small things, otherwise they will be missed.
@ieshasmall commented that ‘the most important thing for leaders of all types is to be really clear about our purpose and aims’; I feel it goes even deeper than that and that we have to connect with ‘why’ we are leading in schools. We have to lead to make a difference on everyone within the organisation. As @jazampawfarr puts it, we need to be ‘agents of transformation’ . We can do this as extroverts running through walls or as introverts, with a steely, considered determination to do whatever is needed for our young people!
As long as our values and ‘why’ are the same, the walls will come tumbling down!
We, like many of our colleagues, are in the midst of number crunching, analysing, crystal ball gazing and looking for those 'marginal gains' that will ensure that we our Year 11 students get the grades that they are not only capable of, but deserve.
We have divided the Year 11 into groups that meet regularly with members of the Senior Leadership Team; reflected on who would work best with each person, to try and ensure the best match and leverage to entice and elicit more from individual students. Google Classroom has been employed to create learning groups, Weebly has been used in the development of a one-stop-school specific revision hub where there are materials and resources in abundance.
However, what value does this extra-ordinary effort from us have if we cannot unpick the 'why' and get students to really 'TH!NK' about what they are doing? In a Leadership training session last year, we were fortunate enough to go through a coaching session with the sports performance coach Keith Antoine (@coackKBA). Keith introduced us to what he called the 'Think Model' and I have reflected on this and will endeavour to explain its value in the context of Year 11.
The model begins with the tenet that 'people always do the right thing......as they see it at that point in time for them'. It is worth exploring this a little; people always do the right thing in their mind, Year 11 students are no different. They do not actively set out to under achieve, leave work to the last minute, but they invariably do. They often lack the capacity to perceive forwards and think about seeing it at a 'future point of time'.
At this point, well intended ‘coaches’ rain forth great wisdom about what they did, what students should do and wonder why it has little or no effect. They stumble into the ‘advisory or telling’ mode.
The problem here is that very little actually changes in their learning behaviour. Students are not required to 'think' deeply enough and with guided and skilful questioning make the connections. More often than not, motivation plummets and resentment and disaffection grow. After all, ‘if I don’t try, I know I didn’t achieve because I put no effort in, not because I couldn’t do it’!
Our challenge is to enable students to 'TH!NK' deeply.
We must ask questions that enable our students to 'think' about the changes and narrow the gap between us 'telling' and them 'thinking', otherwise, learning behaviours won’t change.
I have attempted to capture this visually below.
We must ask the right questions to enable students to ‘TH!NK’ above the line and make positive connections about the choices they are going to make.
They have to connect cognitively to the tasks in hand if they are to make positive behavioural change. They lack the depth of experience to reference these points in the future so we have to elicit skilful responses by asking the ‘right questions’ and avoid ‘telling’ at all costs!
If we can get this right, then students self-confidence will grow and they will see and make the positive changes that are needed to be successful.
The challenge for us as educators is to move out of the ‘telling phase’ and invest enough time and thought to ask the right questions to enable them to ‘THINK’ with clarity and purpose so that they can sense and feel the end goal!