Being Inspired, Enabled and Empowered

25 09 2013

I’ve had an inspiring couple of days, yesterday at my last taught day for the SQH programme and today at SLF.

I have passed all of my written assignments now and just (!) have the VIVA to go, although I am not sure when that will be yet. We spent the first part of the morning preparing for that and then a couple of head teachers spoke to us, which partly reassured me and partly terrified me.

The highlight of the day for me though was two presentations by David Cameron. There were some practical tips on, for example, time wasters but the really inspiring parts were about his own English teacher encouraging him, his views on vision and purpose, and leadership. One example within leadership was that he talked of people needing from leaders certainty, early anticipation and creative responses, clarity of purpose and expectations, cohesion, engagement and direction and support. He also talked about a leader’s need to enable and empower others, which I will come back to later.

I’m not doing justice to the afternoon but suffice to say I would liked to have recorded it to be able to listen back to on hard days!

Now that I have almost finished SQH I have been doing some reflecting on the journey. I think it is only now that I am at this point that I can clearly see how I have developed as a leader over the last 2.5 years (conveniently while also taking on more of a leadership role). Rightly or wrongly during it I was too immersed in trying to do everything to take time to reflect.

I feel I am just developing my ability to enable and empower others to become leaders themselves but it is something I feel passionate about and wrote about in my final assignment:

“This is an aspect of leadership I feel strongly about developing as I have benefited, and progressed, as a result of the support, encouragement and opportunities given to me by my own leaders.”

My current head teacher is all of things I have described above but I would not have got to the point I have without a former head teacher who was all of those things and more. Andrea Reid was my head teacher when I was at Castlefield Primary and it cannot be underestimated how much of an influence she was for me professionally and personally.

Without her passing me an email about an initial study visit way back in 2007 I would not now have spent a total of 3 months in Malawi almost all of which has been spent immersed in rural village life, which led to so much personal and professional development for me.

Without taking up other opportunities I was given I may not have been able to have the chance as acting PT, and it was being asked to lead on Glow within the school, and then being given a talking to when hesitating, that saw me take on a two year secondment to the local authority. I certainly grew from these experiences and they definitely helped me get the PT post in my current school.

Although a challenging and difficult journey at times, that encouragement, and gentle, and sometimes not so gentle, pushing have got me to the point of being a deputy head for almost two years now and near the end of my SQH journey.

I’m stealing a quote here that a friend of mine used in the context of running 24 hour races for Team GB but I think fits well for me on this journey, even if it did not always feel like it at the time!

“Contrary to what we usually believe the best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”

My experiences in Malawi and completing my SQH project spring to mind here, as does completing the West Highland Way race last year!

It has been more than just professional though, these events, circumstances and developments have changed me personally too. I know it is cliched but ten years ago if I could have seen myself now I would not have believed how much I could change and grow in confidence.

So, thanks Andrea! So much of my development was as a result of your belief in me (and seeing in me what I had not seen in myself) and I thought it would be nice to acknowledge that, and let you know I am now at the beginning stages of starting to do the same for other people – I hope!

Today I attended two seminars around Human/Children’s Rights Education. The second one was mainly led by a class teacher from Lourdes Primary in Glasgow and a head teacher of 2 primaries within Argyll and Bute. They were discussing projects they had undertaken to do with Human Rights. The enthusiasm and hard work the class teacher had put in was obvious and there were some great ideas for informing others about this, most of which came from the children and included a flashmob in assembly! The head teacher was unequivocal in his belief that this is essential education for children and has the power to change lives. This may have serious consequences such as children coming forward with personal difficulties that require police/social work involvement but it is every child’s right to receive an education about their rights and our responsibility to deliver it.

So when I go back to school tomorrow I’m going to be trying to remember, and act on, my values and vision in education, the purposes of a leader and education and the passion to continue on our Rights Respecting journey! Just some small tasks then!

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RRSA pupil discussions

9 03 2013

One of our action points for our RRSA (Rights Respecting Schools Award) was to update some of our policies in line with the UNCRC (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child).

This was one of a variety of reasons for us to look at our positive behaviour and bullying policies (my situational analysis for unit 2 of SQH brought out other reasons) and we have been looking in depth at the positive behaviour policy.

This policy was in place within the school before any of the current SMT were at the school and we have been able to consult thoroughly with all staff and pupils and and are about to do so with parents to gain views from everyone.

One of the things we wanted to do was make sure we were not missing any other ideas as it does not always feel that golden time for example works particularly well. (In fact in tracking it fully and questioning every child about it, it does work for most children more than we thought.)

So I organised an afternoon where children from RRSA or pupil council groups in schools across our cluster were invited to our school to share their ideas. I then collated these and emailed them back to the schools involved. It was very simple to set up, just flip charts with different questions on them and the children rotated round them in different groups like a graffiti board co-operative learning activity with an adult at each group to help facilitate discussion. The questions were around rewards, sanctions, RRSA activities and how they have involved the local community, with additional time at the end for further ideas, questions and next steps.

It ran itself very easily and we actually felt from the responses that we were broadly doing the same as other schools. That was the end of it I thought but at our local authority RRSA steering group meeting a couple of schools brought up how successful and useful they thought the event was and so I have been asked to run it again and it will be filmed for the local authority and Education Scotland as well as having staff filmed, which probably means me as no-one else wants to do it!

It was nice to have other schools mention independently how useful they thought the event was, hopefully it will prove useful second time round too!





Always learning

10 02 2013

Having looked back on this blog I realised I haven’t blogged in just over a year.

I never intended to let this blog slip and it has not as if I have been writing elsewhere so I would like to get it going again but try to be a bit more focused in what I am writing in each post.

But first a recap of last year:

– I kept up my acting deputy head post until October 2012 when I got the job permanently. The work I was doing did not change but I feel more confident within the position now and this has helped me in developing how I am working with the HT, staff and parents.

– I am now working on unit 4, of 4, of the SQH. Thank goodness! This has been hard work and as useful as some of it is I will be glad when it is over to be honest. I will have spent 4 out of the last 5 years studying and it’s time for a break. My school development initiative is on working towards the Rights Respecting Schools Award but more on that in another post.

– In July (5 days after completing the West Highland Way Race and the day after passing out twice at a wedding and splitting my head open as a result of not recovering sufficiently from the race (read more here) my HT and I visited Fumbwa village and school in Malawi to further establish our school link with them.

– In August the HT and DHT from Fumbwa village visited us as part of the British Council Reciprocal visit grant. We had established our link through Link Community Development again but unfortunately they have now lost their funding for their link schools programme and so we are attempting to carry on this link by ourselves.

– In November our school was inspected internally as a follow up to our previous HMIE inspection. I did feel more pressure this time, as DHT and not just a very, very new PT as I was when HMIE inspected. However it all went very well and was a useful process to go through.

Another busy year again and in future posts I would like to go into more detail about my fifth visit to Malawi, our Rights Respecting Schools work and my DHT role. Although I feel a different pressure as DHT than when I was a class teacher or PT there is something every day which makes me say I love my job and I usually feel positive that I am making a difference in the lives and education of the children in the school. I think that’s a pretty good way to feel about your job!