#begrateful

#begrateful

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As part of the #teacher5aday initiative I wanted to just add in a new heading: #grateful.

My father in law was recently diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and wasn’t even given the chance to put up a fight, and so our little family has been caught up in a fog of despair. We are understandably feeling very sad and rather ungrateful for the hand we’ve been cruelly dealt. We’ve been searchingly asking questions and wondering ‘why us?’ But in a time when almost everyone I know has loved and lost someone to cancer it is probably more appropriate to ask ‘why not us?’. We weren’t feeling very grateful!

Anyway, I had been pottering around, absentmindedly going about my day (and desperately wishing 4:30pm would arrive so that my husband would be home to help me with our new – and at times challenging – baby) when a very good friend posted this message on Facebook:

‘Dear loved ones, having just returned from visiting a man and his wife who live in a shack beside the Ganga, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for winning the lottery of being born in a country where if I were to lose a limb, I wouldn’t have to live on the streets with a bloody, gangrenous stump.  The man I met today needs £200 for treatment for gangrene and a prosthetic limb. Then, he can work again and provide for his family once more. If you happen to read this, and would like to help, msg me and I will pass on anything that you would like to give, thank you ❤️.’

The post immediately stopped me in my tracks and I just looked at my rather blessed and incredibly fortunate life for a moment and decided that I would write down 5 things that I am grateful for…and share them with the universe – not in a free-loving, yogic kind of way, but in a grateful and thankful kind of way.

My husband often says that we must be grateful every single day and so here goes:

1. My beautiful, tiring, demanding and incredibly funny daughter Ophelia. We are blessed beyond belief to have a healthy, happy baby girl and I treasure every moment with her (including the ones that involve vomit, poop and tears – admittedly the tears are usually mine!).

2. My husband of almost 7 years. He is without doubt the strongest person I know. He has suffered for the last two years with a debilitating virus that has left him with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – a condition that would have rendered mere mortals bed bound and depressed. But he is a fighter, he continues to work, study for a Masters degree and keeps trying new ways to be back to 100% health and he makes me proud. Every. Single. Day!

3. My health. At a time when others are fighting to lift their heads, failing to save their gangrenous limbs or battling cancer, I am very lucky to be healthy and I will always be super grateful and thankful for that.

4. My family and friends. They’re a crazy and gorgeously irritating bunch of weirdos, but they’re all mine and I would be lost without them!

5. My career. I have worked so hard to be the best teacher I can be and to be a colleague that can always be trusted and relied upon, and I am proud of what I’ve achieved.

So, teacher friends, as we start to think about returning to work for another academic year, let’s start as we mean to go on and add #grateful to the list for #teacher5aday. Let’s not let first world problems and issues bog us down.

Let’s rise above it when Nicky Morgan decides that Darth Vader would make a fantastic Headteacher and he starts in your school on Monday, or when someone without any knowledge or understanding of education boldly declares that suckling piglets could do a better job than any of us do, or that anything below killing ourselves is just not good enough. Let’s say ‘I am grateful’ anyway!

Kate

P.S We donated money to that man to help him to get better. One of our family rules is to help each other and another is to think of others and so that’s exactly what we did.

Be grateful

Be grateful

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#teacher5aday

It would appear that I am extremely late to the Twitter party with this one and that most people have now not only set their #teacher5aday goals, but they are now reflecting on their progress too. Anyway, late or not, where there’s a will and all that…

#Teacher5aday caught my eye this week during my usual dabbles in Twitterville and I immediately wanted to be a part of something so wonderfully positive (heaven knows it’s been a tough teaching year by all accounts). Here goes:

#Connect – tweet more and retweet less

I love being on Twitter and I even dabbled with a blog post or two last year – an endeavour which I found to be both liberating and incredibly petrifying at the same time. I definitely need to put myself out there more and get involved in more ed chats, do some blogging and explore alternative perspectives.

I have some really good ideas and I’ve made some excellent resources that I would love to share with people. I must make more effort to really connect with my PLN and give back. I could even create a hashtag #bradleygivesback – too much? Sorry!

#Exercise – be kinder to myself and acknowledge the amazing feat that the female body is capable of!

Ah exercise, a tricksy little minx, isn’t she! I have a confession to make: I love to exercise. I’m one of those annoying people that find clarity through sweating.

As a non-drinker or smoker the relaxation that some others find in the Friday night glass of wine can only be found for me in a gym class, running along the beach or on a netball court. “Great”, I hear you cry, “where’s the resolution in that?” (You may even be building up some resentment for me at this point and be almost ready to snake jab me in the throat. Get the right arm limbered up, but just give me a second to explain further).

I just gave birth to my first (and last) child, and a very tricky, and painful, pregnancy meant that all exercise had to be abandoned from 20 weeks onwards and I had to almost live the life of a slug (without the slimy trails). I now stand at 8 weeks postpartum and have not had my running shoes on for over 6 months and the result is terrifying!

I have however decided that I need to be kinder to myself and accept that my body has been through quite a lot to become a mummy to my gorgeous Ophelia and that, whilst things have changed forever, I won’t always be this wibbly and wobbly (fingers and legs crossed!).

#Notice – stop wishing away days and hours and counting down my life

I live in Abu Dhabi and my family and many wonderful friends live in the UK, and being away from them – especially with a new arrival in the family – is hard. I have come to accept the devastation of goodbyes – the ones that all-too-quickly extinguish the euphoria of hello – and I’ve learned that arrivals and departures are a way of life, but I’ve also learned that countdowns and milestones are the norm for us all out here.

As a result, I find myself missing out on many things because I’m wishing my life away until my next joyous airport hug. In fact, life can feel like one giant departure lounge in which I’m in, almost in or waiting to be in – that’s no way to live and so efforts must be doubled to really stop and appreciate everything and everyone that I have and love in my life!

#Learn – read everything and anything about EYFS, primary / Pre-Prep teaching and learning

I was recently promoted from Deputy Head in a Prep School to Deputy Head Mistress of a whole college and I am now overseeing the teaching, learning and assessment of children from the ages of 3 to 18 and I am completely out of my comfort zone when it comes to education under the age of 7. Of course, I see areas that need to be improved and I recognise and appreciate the talent that exists within the incredible team that I work with, but I just want to be as current as possible – just another reason why I love Twitter and my PLN and therefore another reason that I should give back!

#Volunteer – get involved with more productions and activities at school

It can be a real challenge in teaching to get involved in the extra areas of a child’s life and not just see each child as a member of your English, History or PE group, etc. It can be an even greater challenge to stay and help with the things that eat into family time: doing the make up for the school musical or cheering on the pupils in the swimming gala (especially if it comes on a Saturday morning or at the end of a busy teaching day / week / year), but it means a great deal to the children and they are so clearly delighted when teachers show up for them.

I need to do this more (even with my new baby, my wobbly bits and my new commitment to writing more Tweets and being more active in Twitterville).

It’s good to reflect and reconnect with what I feel is important. Turns out I already feel more positive – even if I’m not quite a #wellbeingsuperhero just yet.

Wish me luck!

Stop the Glorification of Busy!

Stop the glorification of busy!

I have always been ambitious, have always challenged myself to achieve the very best and have put the hours in to be outstanding. I have of late, however, started to wonder why.

I began my teaching career in a very large comprehensive school and I felt that – although it was always hard work and I had to put in the hours – I was making a difference every single day. I was the teacher, the constant adult and the reliable voice. I quickly decided that the classroom was for me and any career progression would have to be classroom based and teaching & learning related.

My career progressed and I moved up through the TLR ranks to Aspiring AST and eventually accredited AST. I knew I’d found my calling and I was now making a difference beyond the confines of my own classroom. Essentially my ideas, support and strategies were stretching outside my department and school walls and reaching into the local community and district. This was the job for me!

My husband works in Risk Management and his job, rather unexpectedly, brought us to Abu Dhabi where I have been working as the Academic Deputy Head for the last 18 months. I work for a leading Independent School international branch and have a large (and very talented) academic team. I am teaching a subject I love, working in a great building with some of the most well-travelled and knowledgeable colleagues I have ever had the privilege of working with and learning from, and yet still…

I feel that the road to headship is taking me further away from the things I love to do the most: teaching and learning. I have gone from a full teaching timetable to 70% as an AST, 40% as an AHT to 25% as a Deputy Headteacher. I can’t help wondering if this is as far as I should go. The Head Master of my school doesn’t do any teaching at all; he has minimal contact with the children and he mainly deals with red tape and bureaucracy (yes, this does still exist within the Independent sector). I hate the elements of my job that are box ticking and form filling and I’ve become so busy that I am almost resentful when colleagues plan a beach trip or a weekend in the desert and I know that I’ll be organising the reporting schedule, updating the handbook for the new arrivals or doing battle with some other time-gobbling dementors.

We have become a profession of people that can tend to glorify just how busy we are. We have research and reports coming out daily about how hard we’re working based on the number of hours that we do and yet we have a government who says we are failing, a body of newspapers that say we are failing and a collective dislike of Mr Gove that is just not productive for anyone.

I know some parents who work 7-4 and then head home to their children. They feed them, bathe them, read them a story, prepare their lunches, backpacks, uniforms etc for the next day. They then sit down to do everything that they didn’t manage to do during the working day and yet colleagues will often casually comment that ‘so and so leaves early’. I will be at work from 7-7 almost daily and yet I go home and I’ve done my work for the day. I have some time with my husband and search everywhere for my life. (That is the life that stays in hiding until the holidays arrive. ‘Life’ reluctantly packs his bags at the beginning of term and then only reappears at the onset of the holidays. He knocks on my door, announces himself and tells me to grab some suncream and we skip off to the beach). People regularly tell me how busy I am and how hardworking I am. I know of another colleague (and great friend) who procrastinates constantly and so has to work every weekend to get through the work volume. He is also deemed to be busy. There’s something very wrong with this picture.

I think that we as a profession need to stop the glorification of busy and take back what is rightfully ours: a full life with family and friends. We need to reject the model where we work until we’re close to death during term time and then rejoice (and quickly collapse) at the arrival of the holidays – after all, who hasn’t had the dreaded ‘arrival-of-the-holidays-cold’? We need to stop living for the holidays and counting down the days during term time and stop wasting the precious moments that we have with our families.

A close friend of mine recently lost her mother and I sat here thinking of her and her pain and wondering how I would cope without my mother (who is currently 4,333 miles away). I decided to pick up the phone and call; to Skype more often and to put my ambition into being the best wife and friend I can be and to taking back my time and my life. I’ve found that people will stop asking you to join them at the beach or to go for brunch because you are the person who always has one last book to mark or a full set of reports to complete. I don’t want that person to be me!

Honestly, I don’t cope very well with incomplete work or standards below excellent, but I sure am going to try to maximise my time and then walk away saying “enough”. There will always be more to do in this never-ending profession that we find ourselves in. If protecting my personal time means that I will never become a headteacher and that I’m destined to stay in the classroom then so be it: that’s where I make a difference.

I intend to stop the glorification of busy and to take my life back!

Image from @FunkyPedagogy

Losing Your Head!

Losing your head…

In 2001, Sven Goran Eriksson took up the job of England Manager.  He managed to turn around England’s fortunes in their bid for qualification for the 2002 FIFA World Cup, with many critical wins over lesser opposition, before shocking the world and beating their oldest rivals: Germany 5-1.  Five years later and without the World Cup in his arms, Eriksson left under a cloud of allegation, denial and disappointment.  Just as the ultimate prize for the England manager is the World Cup, the ultimate prize for the Headteacher is an increase in 5 A*- C grades and an ‘Outstanding’ classification from OFSTED. What happens when a school gets a ‘Notice to Improve’, or goes into Special Measures?  The Head teacher pays the ultimate price.  Extreme examples and non-examples can sometimes illustrate a point and inform practice.  Here, a lesson can certainly be gleaned from Sven Goran-Eriksson in considering a headteacher’s conundrum: how to distribute leadership.

Interestingly, parallels can be drawn between the world of football and the world of education:  football managers distribute leadership to different areas of practice: their coaching teams, scouting staff, the captain of the team, and indeed, to each section of the team as it plays on the field.  If the team does well, then all players, staff and managers celebrate and share the praise and lucrative deals that come their way.  However, if it all goes wrong, the players remain, the coaching staff and structure largely remains unchanged, and the hierarchy of the club remains unaltered.  In fact, only the manager suffers the ultimate consequence and pays for the failings of the club with his job.  This is the exactly the same situation in education.  If a school is put into Special Measures by OFSTED, or fails to maintain or increase their percentage of A*- C grades, then the Headteacher pays the price and leaves the school under a cloud of disappointment and will struggle to gain a headship in any other school.

Just as football clubs are judged by: the points that they gain; the fans that come through the turnstiles and the lucrative deals that they can make off of the field, so too are schools and their headteachers.  Schools are accountable for every win, loss or draw in terms of pupil attainment, achievement, the numbers on roll, the curriculum choices on offer, and of course, the happiness and well-being of every child.  It can therefore be unsurprising that the job is viewed by some as a poisoned chalice.

As was exactly the case for Eriksson (and soon to be Hodgson), the job at first appears to be a beautiful cup filled with delectable wine, but after the position has been accepted and the first drink has been taken from the cup, they quickly discover that it is in fact poisoned and they are doomed to suffer the same fate as many of their predecessors.  In fact, the England manager’s job has been a poisoned chalice for years, with high profile foreigners like Fabio Capello and Eriksson ultimately flattering to deceive and Kevin Keegan and Steve McClaren overseeing disastrous reigns.  It can be no surprise then that there is a crisis in recruiting and retaining headteachers.  Put simply, there are not enough people willing to step onto the platform of the guillotine.

The Headship as a football manager, holding sole responsibility for all the important decisions – with the players (individual teachers) in their classrooms engaging in private practice – is both an out-dated and insufficient model today.  Perhaps then, there can be no wonder that distributed leadership has re-emerged as a way forward.  It has become apparent that for schools to develop and improve in a turbulent and changing environment, ‘issues of leadership and management can no longer simply be seen as the exclusive preserve of senior staff.’ (Earley, 1998)

The last few years have seen the reform and restructuring of education, not only in the UK but also in many countries across the world.  As a result of this, it is now more important than ever that school leaders and managers develop the skills that enable them to manage their new responsibilities effectively.  As Earley suggests: ‘effective leaders need to have a clear conceptualisation of the changing context of education and the changing nature of self-managing schools.’  This is interesting because understanding educational change; preparing the entire spectrum of staff for it and making positive steps to engage everyone in the leadership process could be one of the ways in which education could move forward and embrace the educational challenges of the 21st Century.

 

The aspect of distributed leadership that has garnered the most attention is the recognition that school leadership involves multiple leaders, both principals and teacher leaders.  Other people, besides the principal, can and do take on leadership responsibilities.  It has become apparent that for schools to develop and improve in a turbulent and changing environment, issues of leadership and management can no longer simply be seen as the exclusive reserve of senior staff.  (Earley 1998:22)

There have always been Senior Management teams and more recently Senior Leadership teams in schools.  Does this mean that leadership has always been distributed at its most basic form or that we have never truly recognised it as such?  Principals rarely go it alone.  Who leads and the extent to which leadership is distributed over multiple leaders, however, depends on the leadership function and/or activity.

With England crashing out of the most recent World Cup, will Roy Hodgson stay the course?  Probably not!

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