People say January is the most depressing month. I can’t remember what last January was like but this one has been tougher than I thought.
However, this week things are on the up and are getting better as I continue to think, reflect and reaffirm the things I believe in, the people I believe in and the priorities that lie ahead. Over the past two weeks much of what I have felt has come down to two things
1) Time – if you want to do a good job, you need the time to do a good job.
2) Confidence – keeping the faith when others don’t or when you have moments of self-doubt about what you are doing.
As a consequence much of my reflection has focused in on these two things and this week I have made conclusions that will move me forward.
1) I don’t have the time to do everything I need to do. I am not going to get more time so need to think about how I manage this. This involves compromising. To do this, I need to prioritise. My priority is year 11 attainment. My focus is on year 11 as they are my responsibility. This means that I have to compromise on other areas – like my teaching. Last week I was struggling with this realisation. This week I am sure of it. Sometimes I will not have the learning objective on the board, sometimes I won’t have the lesson planned to the minute detail, sometimes all the books won’t be marked up-to-date. Do I want this to be my reality? No. Is it my realistic reality? Yes. Do I need to be easier on myself about this? Absolutely.
I have realised that in striving for perfection all the time, you actually achieve very little. You become both a mediocre teacher and a mediocre leader. We all know the image of a person who is carrying too many plates..eventually they will drop one. But what’s to say that we can’t choose to throw our plates down and smash them on the floor as the Spanish or Greek tradition would have it. If we choose to hold on to the 1-2 plates that are really important to us, we regain control of ourselves and the direction we are going in. We also end up making those 1-2 plates very sparkly which in the long run is good for all.
2) Reflection is key. I reflect upon everything – conversations, people, events, lessons, meetings, relationships, the works. Sometimes reflections lead you to expose your weaknesses and I do spend a lot of time on here reflecting upon things that have happened and how I can improve. However, I don’t often comment on my strengths. Sometimes, I can forget to do this. For starters, I am a great teacher. I have amazing relationships with my classes. We laugh and we learn together. I love teaching my students.
I have learned this week that it is so important to take a step back and reflect upon your successes. This week alone year 11 told me that their parents thought I was brilliant; year 10 spontaneously erupted into a fierce debate about responsibility in ‘An Inspector Calls’ whilst I took a seat and watched them with pride for 15 minutes; year 8 told me they have never been worked so hard (and it shows moving from 4b to 6c in four weeks); year 11 sat in silence as they sat a Controlled Assessment and many asked if they could do extra work in order to improve their attainment; my colleague has achieved great success with her year 11 class; so many staff have emailed me about how they are developing key vocabulary across the curriculum and the list goes on and on. In reflecting upon your successes you are reminding yourself to have confidence in standing up tall and stating that you are making good.
However, this confidence is also what spurs you on to be honest. I have confidence enough to be honest when I am reflecting on myself as a leader as well.
Am I brilliant leader? No. This is only the second time I have led a faculty and the first time I have done It by myself. In addition to this, I have walked into some difficult circumstances – circumstances that the most experienced of HOFs would find tough.
HOWEVER, what I do know is that I am confident in my position because I search deep for clarity – being clear about myself, my role, my direction, my future and in doing so I have discovered this:
I know where I am taking the faculty. And I do know how I am going to get there. I have a vision and that vision has never wavered. I am a thinker and thinkers are the best leaders (as long as it is followed by action). I am strong and I have the strength of character to see that all that needs to be done will get done. I am focused and will not let others steer me off course. I will succeed because if I succeed, the kids succeed and I am not going to let them down.
Finally, being confident in yourself allows you to focus on what is important. If you are confident and clear then you know what you can’t do which in turn allows you to focus in on what you can. I know, for example that
I can’t be all singing and dancing all the time and that I don’t have the time nor the energy to buy into every teaching fad. Knowing this allows me to quietly and methodically work on what is important for my faculty and my students at this point in time. I can keep the main thing, the main thing.
I can’t rush the process of change; it isn’t something that happens overnight. After all, it was the tortoise who won the race and not the hare. Change needs to be thought through carefully and whilst there is a degree of urgency to improve outcomes, sustainable change is not something that happens quickly. In saying I cannot rush, I am saying I am affording myself the time to make the right decisions for all.
I cannot be perfect. I am confident enough in myself to admit to the mistakes I make and luckily enough to have people who will point them out to me as well. However, my confidence allows me to smile and learn from these errors so that I can move forward. I have confidence enough to know of the impact I have already had and the impact I will continue to have as I get better and better at what I do.
I can’t work 24/7. It isn’t healthy. Instead I choose to have Friday nights off and at least one day at the weekend, guilt free. This makes me a better teacher because it makes me a happier person.
And with these thoughts, the confidence I have in myself and my team, I look forward to the next working week.