Tom Sherrington and the tree of confirmation and confidence

I have had a pretty shit week this week – a challenging week.   My knowledge /decisions with regard to a particular area of English teaching have been called into question.  That’s cool.  It is bound to happen.  However, there are three schools of thought on how, as HOF, I respond to this 1)I feel a certain amount of pressure to concede or 2) compromise or 3) continue on regardless.  Of course, the process is slightly more long winded in that we should listen, reflect, discuss etc etc before making a decision but fundamentally you either give in, compromise on your cause or fight on behalf of the cause.

I’m a new leader so most of the time I start to give in.  Not necessarily in the ‘you’re right, so we will do it your way’ but in the sense that I find myself exhausted with the challenge that is presented.  It gets to the point where the confidence I had about my decision in the first place is eroded and I begin to doubt myself.  This is as a result of being new to the role – in wanting to make the right decisions, do the best by the students – yet the feeling of the need to stick to my principles slowly starts to disappear when emotively challenged about my decisions.  This is weakness and not the sign of a good leader.  And it happened this week.

I walked into EdFest tired and weary, worn down by the ideology of others which was contrastive with mine, fearing that my entire school of thought was an error. Fearing that I was making poor decisions and that these poor decisions were not only frustrating for my team members but would not be beneficial for my students…

And then I walked into Tom Sherrington’s session.  And I went from this exhausted shrivelled up shadow of myself to someone who literally wanted to punch the air with excitement because he passed on the strength that enabled me to recognise that my school of thinking was right and that, rather than be worn down, I needed to find my confidence and stand by the decisions I believe would have the greatest impact for our students.

You see, Tom has a simple message.  He believes in foundation before progression and structure before possibilities.  In order for students to be independent, they need to learn what it means to work independently; in order for students to write a great analytical essay, they need to know what makes a great analytical essay and…

…before students are able to analyse the finer points of our great English Language, students need to know the components of it.

And, we as teachers, need to provide the opportunities to ensure those foundations are rooted.

It isn’t revolutionary.  It isn’t complex.  But after a tough week – that message was the most powerful message of all because not only did it reinforce my own ideology but it reinforced the need to hear but not react to those who critique you.  It taught me that I need to listen to myself so much more and trust my gut because more and more often I am recognising that my gut is right.  I need to listen to others but stand firmly behind my beliefs and not falter in knowing that what I am doing will have the greatest impact on my students.  I need to have more confidence in myself to lead.

I left that session with the hugest grin on my face, with the hugest cartwheels going on in my head knowing that Tom Sherrington had just helped me become a better leader because he reminded me that I needed to be confident, to trust my instincts because in my heart I know what is right for our students.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.



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