Having had the privilege to have heard a number of superb educational speakers over the past 6 months, among them Iain White from Newlands Junior College, who quoted from the great Billy Connolly’s classic Crucifixion joke the need to ‘Dae something….’ in terms of leading with courage; this leads me into the new, unfamiliar (and a little scary) world of blogging. But having been supported by my authority, SCEL and dared by colleagues Jay and Lena, I feel that I owe it to myself and those amazing people I have heard to put some thoughts on paper and ‘out there’……..
I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky…….
Being of the same generation as Kylie, I am one of the lucky ones in education who has been nurtured, supported, encouraged and invested in during a career of over amazing 20 years. I have been incredibly fortunate to have been part of the SCEL Fellowship programme for its second cohort this year.
As part of my systems leadership enquiry for the Fellowship Programme with SCEL I have been planning a Network group of middle leaders across Argyll and Bute, based on a model I was part of in Cheshire, called the CHiLL Network. Ten middle leaders have the opportunity to read and discuss current educational theory around leadership and develop accurate school self evaluation through a focussed project on school self improvement that they are passionate about and supported by their Head Teacher. At the beginning of the month I had the great privilege to lead the first session and the talent, thoughts and reflections were of the highest quality. It was an uplifting and exciting experience for all concerned and I am looking forward to seeing how the leaders projects and thinking have progressed at our next meeting in November.
Sir Andrew Cubie, who amongst many posts and roles throughout a distinguished career, chairs the Scottish Credit and Qualifications framework and Leadership Foundation for Higher Education; presented to the SCEL participants at our inaugural event and talked about SCEL fellowship as being a fantastic opportunity to make a difference and had the potential to enhance the esteem of the teaching profession. He recognised that Head Teachers and leaders can be in a lonely and isolated position and it was important for us to feel that ‘we could do it’ and to have ‘leadership beyond authority’. By this Sir Andrew said that we needed to empower others to do something ourselves together rather than waiting for others ‘in authority’ to be able to move on. Sir Andrew also emphasised that it is often the process of change rather than the outcome that is important. He questioned why some colleagues may hold back from taking the lead and that we should have a vision where mediocre is not accepted. Finally, Sir Andrew challenged us to think about how our vision, values and aims are felt physically when we walk into our schools?
We were fortunate in Argyll and Bute recently to have Sir Andrew speak for us and facilitate conversations between Head Teachers. Professor Clive Dimmock, representing the Robert Owen Centre for Education, also gave a considerable contribution focussing on the personal qualities (personality traits, dispositions and attributes) associated highly successful leaders and asking the question from research are leaders born or made?
All the speakers had very particular styles and affect on their audience, one senior manager reflected on how Professor Dimmock had a gentle prodding way of encouraging colleagues to think about where they were in terms of being a high performing leader when conveying his research and thoughts but his crescendo of educational passion warms your enthusiasm and she found ‘that he was walking with me in terms of my own development and it has stayed with me in terms of thinking about how to move forward’. Powerful stuff.
However, as mentioned previously; the inspirational, witty and straight talking style of Iain White engaged many of my HT colleagues at the same event; many recognising a great deal of the challenges Iain spoke of in leadership and agreed with his view that at the end of the day we need to focus on what is right for our children and not lose sight of our core values.
Little wonder that feedback we have received about such quality of input from Head Teachers present has been that the session was incredibly valuable and one that should be built upon in the future here in Argyll and Bute.
We need to provide staff with quality time with quality input from thoughtful speakers to develop their practice of critical thinking of their own role in the classroom and in leadership terms.
My Mum always said it’s important to keep an eye on the company you keep…..
It has not only been the amazing opportunity to hear top quality speakers during the last 6 months that has moved my educational world but also the opportunity to work with my fellow participants. Louise, Sheila, Andy, Jim, John and George are all more experienced than myself and have such differing situations but I cannot spend 15 minutes in their company without learning something and my thinking being challenged. Hence the need to listen, discuss with colleagues thoughts and ideas and apply your thinking to your practice in a conscious way. Indeed, my fellowship colleague Andy Travis in his captivating presentation at SLF this week described the experience of SCEL’s Fellowship programme as giving ‘Head space for Head Teachers.’
While there is exciting practice in our authority, the importance for us to get out of the glen and see what is happening elsewhere is vital to move our thinking on and I am incredibly excited at being able to work with George Cooper from Bearsden Academy in late November when both of our middle leadership groups will be working together.
Tom Bennett at the recent ResearchED conference in Glasgow said that the nature of CPD is changing; the positive energy around the event was palpable as it was about practitioners attending an event at a weekend with quality speakers and the need for them to be up to date with current research so that their work can be evidence based and they can ask ‘Why?’ with confidence (and all for £30!). Teachers need a choice in their development and how they need to be supported. Giving staff opportunities to hear quality speakers talking about what they are passionate about is motivating in itself and reflection important but it is what you do with it that counts. Where and when does it roll out into your practice? Where is the impact on our children?
As I said previously – Kylie and I have been lucky, but what of the next generation of teachers and leaders? The leadership habits I formed as a middle leader in a successful network have stayed with me into my Headship and it has been interesting that the focus of more than half of the SCEL fellowship participants this year is on capacity building and supporting leaders of the future, here’s hoping the impact is tangible and sustainable.
Personally, given that I have only outlined a fraction of what I have experienced as part of the SCEL experience, I have a feeling that my learning still needs time and space to breathe and it will be over the following year in which things become embedded and some of my leadership habits will to continue to evolve, as well as developing my systems leadership skills.
So, when Iain White says to us to ‘Dae something….’ we need to follow his advice – these are challenging times and our children deserve the best possible experiences possible. Our biggest asset is our staff, we need to listen, value, support and develop the talent that is out there so ‘Dae something….’