Some thoughts and notes from the recent conference on leadership in Birmingham. A few questions to consider.
- What feeds, develops and challenges you as a leader?
- How are you committed to continuing to grow and learn?
- What will you to have a relentless focus on simplicity and improvement?
We can’t have a diet of junk food and need to be broad and balanced in what we eat and drink. Perhaps we need the same exercise and commitment in our leadership development. So thanks to those that shared in the journey and I hope we can all find a meaningful way to share the experience when we return to the pace of life in school.
Like many of those preparing for the dawn of a new term I am eagerly anticipating getting back into the routine of school life. As part of this most schools kick off the school year with some pre-season training (or an INSET day or two!). My youngest daughter was easily convinced for a while that this in fact was an INSECT day where teachers would be set free to explore the world around them…
So what could be happening during this time? I hope most schools worth their salt do a few key things…
- Celebrate the successes of the summer – personally (weddings, engagements) and professionally (results and triumphs)
- Take time to welcome new staff and welcome back the trusty team
- Invest in developing one another by learning in some way actively
If none of this happens at your school and you are sitting around listening to presentations ask “how could this be better use of our time?” and suggest some solutions.
I do think the routines of life are useful for us all on a very basic level and this is definitely the case in our family life. We love time together but equally benefit from the contrast and rhythm of school – in essence I look forward to going back and secretly I think my children do too…
As part of our learning as a staff I want to prompt some reflection on learning and how we can understand what is going on at a deeper level.
Would we send our car to a mechanic who knew nothing about how engines work or we be happy to be operated on by a brain surgeon who hadn’t been to medical school?
I am fairly confident, that on different levels, the answer to these questions would be a resounding no.
So why should be any different for anyone working in education to know nothing about how the brain works and functions?
“How brains are built”
“Optimising the Performance of the Human Mind”
“Opera Singer sings during Brain Surgery”
“The learning brain”
“How playing an instrument benefits the brain”
“The human brain”
So maybe this year we should use this time to “set people free to explore the world around them” just like my daughter once thought! Welcome back and have a great year ahead…
I have just returned from the annual trek to Birmingham to the “Inspiring Leadership Conference” which is attended by 1500 headteachers from around the country. What were the take-away messages and what will I try and do differently as a result of it? I have looked to summarise it as a top 10…
- Teach less, learn more – how do we shift the focus to facilitating learning and expecting more of students at every stage and age? Remember education is the human enterprise of “paying it forward” to the next generation.
- Think about FED – Future (where are we going?), Engage (how do we get people on board?), Deliver (how do we get on and do it?!) Leadership is not the reserve of the “chosen few”, we need to develop it in everyone.
- How do we develop and train the brain? – finding time for plasticity and detaching from screen-time to shift from virtual reality to reality… perhaps a challenge for family life as much as education!
- We need to have connected leadership and shape the system we are part of… how can we see beyond our individual needs as a school to be a strong, cohesive and compelling voice to shape the future of education.
- Develop the habits to be a great school and great leader… we need to focus on classrooms not schools. The key to this is engaging discretionary effort and motivating people.
- Learn from winners – what makes them unique, successful and compelling but remember to be the person you are “called to be”…
- Spot the trends and understand how society changes as it informs our understanding of what makes people tick!
- We need to broaden education to recognise the significance of EQ and IQ. When we accept our imperfections we are ready to learn.
- The biggest challenge we face is population growth – if the human race is to survive we need creativity…
- Never give up on the power of education to transform lives – deal in hope and nourish potential. “We shouldn’t throw away trash or peoples’ lives either…”
In essence it was an opportunity to reconnect with the reason that we teach, learn and lead. Having the opportunity to spend time with “world-class” people who challenge you to think learn and grow is significant. It is equally important to find the time and space to think and be challenged by people you respect, as other school leaders, whilst you are there. So thanks for the vitality, friendship, passion and care of those we got to share the journey with. I believe it is your responsibility then to do something with this… to drip-feed the messages of what you have learnt to others in a meaningful way. So come on… what are you waiting for? It’s time to be inspired!
“To be born at all is a miracle… what are you going to do with your life?” Dalai Lama
Some books to consider…
- Practice Perfect – Doug Lemov
- Teach like a champion – Doug Lemov
- Visible learning into action – John Hattie
- Student Centred Leadership – Jossey-Bass
- Flip Your Classroom – Bergmann
- Winners – Alistair Campbell
- Nudge – Richard Thaler
- Creative Schools – Ken Robinson