#DailyWritingChallenge – Adventure

I have joined a group of fellow educators this week to participate in a daily writing challenge. Today’s 500 word challenge struck a chord with me, following my conversations last night as I joined my community for the second week to clap for our NHS workers and other carers. 

The word we were encouraged to blog about today is ‘Adventure’.

An adventure is often defined as exciting, involving an element of risk and unknown outcomes. When we hear the word, we think of adventure stories and films, in which the heroes and other characters undergo challenges, often making a journey of self-discovery as they do so and, almost always, working through difficulties and risky situations to positive endings. 

I do not think that any of us could have anticipated what our NHS workers are currently up against, and we certainly would not glibly define their vocation as an adventure during this COVID-19 crisis. But there are similarities: every day these workers are most certainly at risk, their daily outcomes are most certainly unknown and they are embracing their roles with courage, stoicism and grace.  

Yesterday, the Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing, Dame Donna Kinnair, spoke out on behalf of thousands of nurses who felt that NHS staff were being let down and put at great risk by the lack of personal protective equipment for nursing staff, including those in  hospitals, GP surgeries, care homes and hospices, as well as community nurses visiting people in their homes. In a letter to the Health and Safety Executive, she called the situation ‘unconscionable’ and called upon the HSE to intervene. 

My sister has been in despair for weeks; she is a District Nurse Team Leader and a National Clinical Lead for Nursing and has been deeply concerned about how ill-equipped her district nurses have been on a daily basis. She has been handing out insubstantial face masks to her team – one mask per nurse per day – and felt this was an insult to their professionalism as they continued to put their own safety and wellbeing at risk for the greater good. We now hear that, at last, teams of NHS workers will become protected and will be able to fulfil their roles without the fear of becoming infected themselves or infecting a vulnerable person. NHS worker testing is another dilemma which we hope to see resolved soon.

Late last night I checked in on another friend, who is currently working 12 hour shifts at a London hospital  as an Intensive Care Unit nurse. Her world, and that of all of her colleagues, has been turned on its head. She is drained, exhausted and anxious, but is coping with her anxiety admirably and has documented her experiences in a blog – her way of dealing with the reality of the situation.

Schools are doing their bit by remaining open over the Easter holiday to look after the children of key workers. We are grateful to be able to help our key worker parents in this way, who are crucial to supporting this crisis and we thank all of our parents for playing your part, in critical key worker roles, as NHS and other volunteers, as supportive members of your local and wider community and, by no means least, in supporting your children and wider family during these challenging times.

The young children we have in school at the moment may regard having the school to themselves as a bit of an ‘adventure’ too – there are very few of them with us, and the school must seem strange and empty to them without their friends around them. Luckily, our amazing staff see it as an adventure too and are helping to fill those children’s days with love and structure. Our children most likely cannot understand the enormity of the crisis that we find ourselves in as they live through it. I hope that, one day in the future, they will read blogs and listen to stories from parents and others who are on the front line at the moment. 

We will get through this moment in our history, and perhaps one day we will be able to see it as one of the great ‘adventures’ of our lives, in the strictest of senses – not a fictional story but a very real time of the unknown; a time of the unthinkable, but a time during which we all found great courage and self-awareness, and during which we cemented our roles in our families, communities and society as a whole.

Thinking of you all; stay safe, stay connected, stay strong.

Chemo 1 done….. but My Blog Though !!!

Simply wonderful! You are an inspiration to so many of us – keeping us all grounded and grateful for each day. We can all learn so much about personal strength, integrity and resilience.

My Beautiful Life

Chemo…. I’m on a 3 week cycle. Week 1 chemo, week 2 chemo then a week off. To start, 4 cycles have been planned but probably 8 and then we scan to look inside my amazing body !!! Before each chemo is bloods and after week 1, an immune boost injection in my belly at home administered by hubby!

Today, we used the port!!!! It was quite painful for the first hour but painkillers sorted that out. It felt like a hole punch to access it… I think it was sore as we didnt have much time to heal really. Chemo today was from 9am to 4am…. a really long day but again, I was comfortable, had a lovely lunch and a long afternoon nap. I just lie in a bed all day with a tube hanging from my new little friend and bags and bags of fluids drain in…

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WomenEd Unconference 3rd March

WomenEd Unconference – 3rd March 2018

#Press for Progress                                    #WomenEd                         #10%Baver

Stepping up to Headship and Still Standing

 So for those of you who attended this wonderful event yesterday here is what I planned to say but ended up free-styling!

Womened 1

Having met Jill Berry in early 2014 at the end of the MLDP course when she came to an evening of celebration I had just applied for a Deputy Headship position and felt happy and contented with life! Jill invited me to something called a ‘Teachmeet’ at Quintin Kynaston Acadamy. That day I was introduced to Mary Myatt meeting her for a coffee prior to this ‘Teachmeet’ event and Jill made sure that I opened a Twitter account and challenged me to ‘tweet’ throughout the day!

In October 2015 I met ‘the tribe’ – WomenEd and have not looked back since!

I am now in my second year as a Head Teacher – for me personally WomenEd have certainly achieved one of their mission statements – to empower more women in education to take their next leadership role! I have not only been 10% braver but in my eyes I am 100%braver than I was back in 2015. My first teaching job was in a large comprehensive school near Watford in 1989 and 27 years on I took on my a Headship – I was not in a hurry, I was enjoying teaching way too much to really think about it!   (I only had 10 weeks off working for maternity leave back in 1999 and that is another conversation (Emma @MaternityCPD and I had a great conversation about the situation now.)

WomenEd 2

Did I feel prepared for Headship? Crikey No! No matter what training or courses you do it has been the biggest learning curve I have ever experienced; a roller coaster ride but the thrill and the adrenalin is in incredible. Having just turned 50 this truly is the best job ever and I feel that I have reached the pinnacle of my career.

I am saddened on occasions when I hear young teachers who have just entered the profession discussing their 5 year action plan – with the ultimate goal of being a head teacher as quickly as they can. My advice is to enjoy the journey, take time to appreciate every experience, work in a variety of settings and schools (even overseas if it appeals to you – I loved those 6 years of my career in Tokyo). All the experiences I have had , the people I have met have moulded me into who I am now. Have I ‘matured’….heck no! Life if for living – we only get one crack at it – so let’s not take ourselves too seriously! (I shall not include my anecdote about my recent injury!) That is not to say that I do not take my job seriously.

So how have I survived?…

In my first year I had a coach (highly recommend) – I was fortunate to have Dr Jill Berry (highly recommend). I kept a reflective journal (also highlighted by Bukky @rondelle10 in her leadmeet yesterday). A ‘happy’ file has also been very useful; keeping emails, letters, cards etc of all the positives – so valuable to look back on on those tough days.

I asked for an external consultant to conduct an appraisal for me 17 months into my Headship. She spent 2 days interviewing 16 groups of people from the school community; pupil, parents, staff, governors to gain their perspectives on how my leadership of the school was going. Thankfully it is all going in the right direction and it has given me permission to breathe….not take my foot of the gas but just breathe!

Building relationships, good communication and sticking to your values and principles are key. But most important of all if you are contemplating headship is finding the right school, which you want to lead – not just taking a headship for the sake of it being a ‘headship’.   I now laugh with my school Principals as I had almost stalked the school having met one of the Heads (who is the proprietor with her husband, now my Principals). I had met her at a conference and she spoke about the school with such passion that I was intrigued and when I saw the advert that they were looking for a new Head (both retiring after 29 years of leading the school) well…the rest is history.

I work in the independent sector, I was possibly in the minority of teachers at WomenEd from this sector as we are only approx.. 7% of schools. I made this decision some time ago. I would not claim that independent schools are any ‘better’ than maintained schools – they are just different in some ways but ultimately they are the same. Children, parents, staff….education! (Although our school is just the best!)

Our ‘clients’ pay for a ‘service’ to educate their children – and that brings many different demands. Do not think that independent education is only just for the ‘rich’ and that the schools are full of stuck of teachers – it just not like that at all! I am a comp girl through and through –brought up on a council estate, the first person to go to uni in my family and group of friends. I know where my roots are but I have always been up for a challenge, always been out to improve myself and in education always out to improve what I do to benefit the outcomes for pupils.

It is important to me as the Head to teach…..to be a Head teacher! The time in the classrooms keeps me in touch with the staff, the pupils and of course that’s why I went into education in the first place.

I am not trying to deter people applying for Headships but it is not for everyone and often it is seen as the only way of progressing one’s career. I wish that the Chartered College was around 10 years ago – what they are doing with the launch of the Chartered Teacher programme is superb and if I were still in the classroom full time this is certainly the route I would have gone done. So important to keep good teachers in the classroom and not lose them too early in their careers.

As a Head I have the desire to continue learning; I am currently on the assessment board of the Pilot Chartered Teachers programme, this week I embark upon a rigorous training course to be a school inspector – looking at educational quality and compliance. And of course I will continue to support the work of our tribe – @WomenEd. Attending Teachmeets and other such events are all part of my continued CPD.  I want to inspire all my pupils and staff to continue to learn – keeping that desire to inspire alive!

A Head’s job can be a lonely one thus it is so important to have a network outside of school – people that you can share experiences with that perhaps you would not share with your SLT.

Mental health and well-being is crucial for everyone but as the Head teacher if I do not look after myself and burn myself out then what example am I to the staff! (I have just returned from my Sunday morning yoga class!) I do leave work at least one evening at a reasonable time, do not bombard staff with unnecessary emails or make them attend unnecessary meetings or do unnecessary paperwork. My mindfulness though is what keeps me fully grounded – I teach both the paws b and .b programmes at school and practice myself.

I have a great staff and superb school Principals and although my Headship really is still in its infancy I truly believe that I have found the best job ever. Thank you WomenEd – for giving me the confidence and community in which to grow!

WomenEd 3

 

 

 

Well-being a model for Primary Schools

Well being- a model for Primary Schools
Me Me · 6 months ago on Staffrm.
One of the reasons that I was drawn to applying for the Headship at St Helen’s College was that wellbeing played such an important part of their curriculum and I felt that the school’s aim and values aligned so well with my own personal and professional values. I was very fortunate to be appointed as Head and in my first year I continue to develop well-being across the school, not only for the pupils but also the staff and parents.

The previous Heads (who are also the Proprietors/Principals and happen to be the parents of Cleverlands author Lucy Crehan) were very forward thinking and recognised the need for wellbeing and ‘personal development’ to be a significant part of what an outstanding school should be offering pupils.

I will outline briefly what is currently offered to the children from our little 2 year olds to Year 6. Our PHSE curriculum is bespoke and we were recently commended on what we offered by the ISI inspectorate team.
One of the reasons that I was drawn to applying for the Headship at St Helen’s College was that wellbeing played such an important part of their curriculum and I felt that the school’s aim and values aligned so well with my own personal and professional values. I was very fortunate to be appointed as Head and in my first year I continue to develop well-being across the school, not only for the pupils but also the staff and parents.

The previous Heads (who are also the Proprietors/Principals and happen to be the parents of Cleverlands author Lucy Crehan) were very forward thinking and recognised the need for wellbeing and ‘personal development’ to be a significant part of what an outstanding school should be offering pupils.

I will outline briefly what is currently offered to the children from our little 2 year olds to Year 6. Our PHSE curriculum is bespoke and we were recently commended on what we offered by the ISI inspectorate team.

P4C is embedded into the school, from stand alone lessons to themes in assemblies. Morning Dash questions help to deepen their philosophical reasoning and language skills.

All staff have undergone ‘Growth Mindset’ training and the language of the school and type of questioning and high challenge/low threat in lessons all help to nurture this. In Year 2 the children participate in a 6 week course on Growth Mindset.

The principles of Mindfulness are embedded with staff and my recent training in .b and pawsb (Mindfulness in Schools Project) has allowed me to continue to teach Year 4 and Year 6 courses which have been on the curriculum for several years. We are also offering an evening class of Mindfulness for parents this term which has been oversubscribed – parents so aware that what we are offering the pupils is so valuable in their lives too!

We run courses in ”Peer Support” and at the end of their training ‘Playground Pals’ are elected who give support in the playground at break times.

Assemblies are based on values and character traits. We have a ‘values spotters’ board and golden pillar box. Pupils post a note to me when they have spotted someone upholding the value of the week and both the spotter and the spotted are commended in a special assembly. The Character Education programme complements our assemblies and has super follow up resources.

Our co-curriulum is MASSIVE, this term over 60 clubs are on offer! These include yoga, gardening, taekwondo….too many to list!

For staff; each month I have tried to implement the ideas from healthy teacher toolkit in a practical form across all 3 staffrooms (we are a split site school), lots of fun has been had! Yoga and ceramics classes for staff are being arranged for next term, sign up has been great.

On Friday I attended the Festival of Education and one of the discussion panels I attended was ‘How does student’s well-being impact attainment’…but that’s another blog!!

What Might Have Been… A Tale of Hope from a Teaching Adrenaline Junkie

Miss Scott Said What?

I was chatting to an old school friend this morning, one who has vividly punctuated my life with wonderful memories, and oh so much trouble, for over 2 decades now. He has made me smile and laugh, countless times, over those years, often when we were getting up to mischief, truth be told. We are grown up now, are settled, have careers and responsibilities and are very different in many ways to the kids we once were, but I imagine he will be my friend the whole way through my life, one of those who I hope is always there, lurking, supporting, just being.

We got onto a conversation (no idea how) about a message that was supposed to have been passed on to me, by another one of our mutual friends, when we were 18 or 19. It was in the days before we all had a mobile phone superglued to our palm, I was at…

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