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!
Legacy - James Kerr
James Kerr was given unprecedented access to the most famous sporting team ever – The All Blacks. The book highlights the exceptional culture and legacy of the New Zealand All Black, which has resulted in their tremendous success.
The book combines anecdotes from those directly involved in the All Blacks’ success, to quotes and stories from some of the most successful coaches and people involved in sport. The chapters are packed with insights, candid quotes and irrefutable wisdom. The name of the book – Legacy, highlights the key theme of the book. The All Blacks have always worked to create a long-term successful culture.
The 15 lessons in legacy are:
Character, Adapt, Purpose, Responsibility, Learn, Whanau, Expectations, Preparation, Pressure, Authenticity, Sacrifice, Language, Ritual, Whakapapa and Legacy.
Legacy looks at the question of what makes the All Blacks such a successful team, and what is their competitive advantage. What could this team teach us about leadership?
“Central to their success is the phrase – Better people make better All Blacks”. Do 'better' people make 'better' leaders, teachers and students?
It’s about character and around it they’ve built this extraordinary culture. If this mantra can be embedded into a school mindset, the possibilities are endless. Legacy strips leadership down to its raw basics.
“Champions do extra. They sweep the sheds. They keep a blue head” - Leaders do extra, roll their sleeves up and get dirty as well as keeping a strategic head focused on delivering the vision.
The most recognisable sporting team in the world continually seeks perfection, they are relentless in their quest to achieve world class standards day after day. They repeatedly seeks ways of handling pressure, and always train to win at the highest level. The underpinning driving forces that are at the heart of every player to wear the iconic black shirt;
What do you leave behind you after you’re gone? What will be your legacy?
If these two simple questions are continually asked of our teams, teachers and students the schools we work in would be striving on a daily basis to be better and better.
As leaders in education we must be seen to be doing the small things and doing them right to ensure the legacy we wish to leave is fully fulfilled, constantly being relentlessly optimistic and questioning 'how can we do it better?'
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!