Note and Key Takeaway points from ‘The Naked Leader’

This book is a general leadership book and is self-described as ‘The bestselling guide to unlimited success’. It takes a unique approach – as a choose your own adventure book with the author advising you to at the end of each short chapter (there are 51 in the 340-page book) go to the next chapter of your choosing based on choices at the end of the chapter. I ignored this advice, and instead read it from cover to cover. I think it provides lots of useful advice; although most are uncontextualised. This is useful however in some ways as it means the reader can apply it to their own context.

The rest of this post lists some of the takeaways or quick lists that I would like to remember.

The formula for guaranteed success:

  1. Know where you want to go.
  2. Know where you are now.
  3. Know what you have to do, to get where you want to go.
  4. Do it!

The seven principles of Naked Leadership:

  1. Succes is a formula, and it is simple.
  2. This formula does not ‘belong’ to anyone – it belongs to everyone.
  3. To be successful, you need rely on no one other than yourself.
  4. Succes is whatever you want it to be, it is yours to define.
  5. Success can happen very fast, often in a heartbeat.
  6. Everyone has value, can be anything they want, and is a leader.
  7. The biggest mystery of life, is to discover who we truly are.

The top five human motivators:

  1. A sense of personal power and mastery over others.
  2. A sense of personal pride and importance.
  3. Financial security and success.
  4. Reassurance of self-worth and recognition of efforts.
  5. Peer approval and acceptance.

The benefits of a mentor – to the person being mentored:

  • A mentor can assist, and transform personal and career development.
  • He or she can also be a sounding board, perhaps before a major presentation.
  • If the mentor is more senior, there are opportunities to learn.
  • with a mentor, people feel the organisation is taking a genuine interest in them, and what they are trying to achieve. This is highly motivating.

Leadership is a skill and a habit. Like most skills and habits, one that improves with practice. As we become more skilled – the habit takes over – we worry less about the mechanics of doing it and focus more on the outcomes to be achieved.

What are the skills and attributes that are demonstrated by great future leaders:

  1. Wider vision – a compelling future plan – shiny, relevant, and involving other people in its development.
  2. Personal profile – a high profile and visibility – know everyone’s name by heart.
  3. Warrior – ability to take account and lead by example.
  4. Alliances and Friendship – form powerful alliances with other companies, directors and external groups.
  5. Spirit – higher self – at one with themselves and have their lives in balance. Combine an energetic spirit with a sense of priority and perspective and know how to relax.
  6. Imagination and mind skills.
  7. The ability to inspire.

Five pitfalls of leadership:

  1. Mistaking position for power – respect has to be earned.
  2. Practicing communication and not openness.
  3. Providing answers instead of guidance.
  4. Putting popularity before respect.
  5. Being visible but not available.

Rules for email communication.

  1. Be aware of the impact of the written word – it is direct and often comes across as aggressive. To overcome this make emails friendly – dear name and end on a friendly note avoiding kind regards. Always read through before sending it.
  2. Never send an email reply when you are angry – it starts a negative spiral that can be difficult to break.
  3. Avoid copy-copy disease. Only include who is necessary.
  4. Ensure your emails are crystal clear.
  5. Never give bad news by email.
  6. Never include information on other companies in emails.
  7. Be aware of information on individuals.
  8. Avoid / limit personal emails / non-work correspondence.
  9. Electronic communication is no different than other communication.

Notes from “This Much I know about Mind over Matter…”

John Tomsett, Headteacher at Huntington School in York is one educational blogger you should be following (https://johntomsett.com/); and on Twitter (@johntomsett). Has written two books; the first about his ideas on creating a positive school culture (well worth a read!). This second book is specifically about issues surrounding mental health in schools. Tomsett has a really readable style in which he discusses his personal and family history; alongside what works in his school and linked to bigger ideas and the views of others.

This book starts with a quote:

“It used to be the ‘C’ word – cancer – that people wouldn’t discuss. Now it’s the ‘M’ word. I hope pretty soon it’ll be okay for everone to talk openly about their mental health without fear of being treated differently” – Ruby Wax

The opening chapter of the book talks about the increase in mental health issues in young people, and also the growing obsession with results and the resultant increase in exam anxiety. This is something I have seen an increase in over my 10 years of teaching; and something experienced by my wife, who works in student support at a Russell Group university.

Part of a key feature of this book is interviews with others conducted by John Tomsett; this is with Claire Fox, Director of the Institute of Ideas. She talks, among many other things about the fact we talk about young peoples mental health and in some ways directly tell them they can’t cope with the trials of life. However, what we don’t do is effectively give them strategies to cope. This is something that is really important, and something the school I work in is partially addressing through the Strengthening Minds Programme (https://strengtheningminds.co.uk/); although this is not something I am directly involved in.

The book not only talks about mental health issues surrounding young people; but also that of teachers. There are some mental health issues that are linked to the nature of the job; this is summed up by Tomsett on Page 87:

“Teaching is a selfless job. We spend a whole career prioritising the needs of others over our own. And teaching is a bloody hard job. I know we don’t go down a mine to dig for coal, or clean the underground railway track all night, or fight for our country, or perform heart bypass surgery, b ut teaching expertly for five hours a day takes some doing. When dicussing the difficulty of teachin ga class of therty students, Lee Shulman says, ‘The only time a physician could possibly encounter a situation of comparable compelxity would b ein the emergency room of a hospital during or after a natural disaster’.”

John also discusses the culture of fear in education; linked to the aforementioned pressure on results. He talks about how this culture of fear breeds backside covering. He goes on to say that this can lead to a huge amount of extensive interventions; so that if results are disappointing you can turn around and say that although the results are rubbish you tried lots of things. He talks about the importance of confidence and doing fewer things well.

This is summed up by the image on page 178:

Tomsett quotes Rita Pierson’s TED talk (video here):

Teafching and learning should bring joy. How powerful would our world be if we had kids who were not afraid to take risks, who were not afraid to think, and who had a champion? Evry chid deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they befcome the best they can possibly be.

The book then goes on to discuss how this is implemented through the tutor programme. This is implemented through GREAT conversations (Goals-Resilience-Effort-Attitude-Tools). Page 184-190 provides some more details on this and gives questions that are used in framing the conversations. The book then talks about providing strategies for students to tackle problems; specifically exam papers, and Maths problems (among others).

He concludes by talking about the steps his school is taking to tackle mental health over the longer-term and concludes with his own and his families story. The final section talks about the value of a policy in his school – every student is spoken to by the teacher in every lesson. This is something I try to do, but reading this has resolved me to be more systematic about it.

The book is available on Amazon here.

Notes on: Understanding the improved performance of disadvantaged pupils in London

This report came out in September 2015, and I printed it off to read about a year after it was published; and I am only now sitting down to read through it now, so it is now 25 months old. Working in high performing inner city schools it was of interest (although obviously not that much interest as I would have read it sooner!).

The report looks at evidence that London is an educational success story, but this success is not new and was present from the mid-1990s. The difference in the ethnic mix compared to other disadvantaged areas can explain only one-sixth of this increase. Looking at all factors the change is mainly attributable to gradual improvements in school quality rather than differences or changes in the effects of pupil and family characteristics.

The report sets some context relating to London; it is the 23rd largest city in the world; and 45% of Londoners come from a White-British background, compared to 80% across England and Wales. London is very different from the rest of the country in ways that could influence trends in educational performance.

There are also differences in the school provision in London compared to the rest of the country; due to the higher population density there are higher levels of choice and competition compared with other areas of the country. Teachers are younger and less experienced; there are higher levels of teacher pay, to cope with the higher cost of living, and there is relatively higher funding, to cope with the higher costs associated with London. However, a study quoted Greaves (2014) states that most of these details are longstanding.

The report then goes on to present what they call ‘basic empirical facts’:

Fact #1 – The performance of disadvantaged pupils in London in exams at age 16 has improved substantially, starting from the mid-1990s onwards.

Fact #2 – The characteristics of disadvantaged pupils in London are very different from those outside of London, and in ways that matter for pupil attainment.

Disadvatnaged pupils in inner London are much less likely to come from a white-British background, 13% in inner London, whereas 76% outside of London.

Fact #3 – Improvements in performance are not restricted to secondary schools; large improvements in primary school results can be seen from the late 1990s onwards.

Fact #4 – The London Effect is small at age 5, before growing between ages 5 and 11 when children are in primary school.

The next part of the paper goes into to provide statistical evidence to support these facts. The methodology is detailed and well laid out; though would be difficult for me to summarise in a meaningful way. The paper fails to provide a list of strategies or conclusive reasons for this increase; however, this is not the purpose of the paper.

The full paper can be read here: http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/dps/case/spcc/wp21.pdf.

Notes from: Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minute a Day

This book is a slight understatement; it does not provide techniques to produce a dissertation in only 15 minutes a day; it does, however, provide some tips for writing dissertations.

When writing it is important to get things written; even if the quality is not perfect there should be some degree of daily writing, this should be between three and six pages daily, allowing yourself one day a week off. There is a need to keep writing every day, much of it will be junk writing, but the writing will allow ideas to shape themselves and arguments will begin to develop. Furthermore, don’t waste words, whenever you have ideas write it down. Have somewhere to write it down; develop the habit of writing down those bright ideas that come to you while you’re on the run.

When you are looking at writing and filtering it down, try to summarise a paragraph in a single sentence, it has too many ideas this can form a structure for a future series of paragraphs.

When you have set up your writing process reflect on it:

  • How do you feel about the writing process you’re using?
  • Do you feel that your process is doing what you need it to do?
  • Are you writing regularly, with reasonable ease?
  • Are you able to focus clearly on your writing?
  • Is the place you have chosen to write working well for you?
  • Are you reading too much? Enough?
  • Are you letting too many things get in the way of your writing?
  • Are you well organised so you can get your work done without having to step over either psychological or literal obstacles?
  • Is the process you’ve set up efficient?

Bolker also provides a list of strategies for revising drafts:

  • Work on one chapter at a time until you’re well along in the process; only then you should struggle with the final shape of the whole.
  • Consider leaving the revision of both the introduction and conclusion until last.
  • When you are unsure of your argument or the shape of a chapter, make an outline of what you have.
  • Leave editing at the individual word leave for last.
  • Remember the saddest rule of editing: less is more.
  • Use your eyes – a page of one paragraph is daunting to read; one that consists of very short paragraphs looks superficial.
  • Use your breath – if you can’t read a sentence without turning blue, it needs more punctuation.
  • Finally, paradoxically, realize you will never get your dissertation perfect, at some point, you’ll have to stop fiddling with it and send it off into the world.

BOLKER, J. 1998. Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis, New York, Henry Holt and Company.

What Happened – Hilary Rodham Clinton

Like many, I followed the 2016 US Election, particularly as I was teaching US Government and Politics for most of the election period – though I would probably follow it closely anyway. I found the result difficult to accept -as the leader of the US has a global impact.

This book begins by Hilary providing a summary of her book; in the introduction, she states: “Now when people ask how I’m doing, I say that, as an American, I ‘m more worried than ever-but as a person, I’m doing okay.” She goes on to say “I will always be grateful to have been the Democratic Party’s nominee and to have earned 65,844,610 votes from my fellow Americans. That number – more votes than any candidate for President has ever received, other than Barack Obama – is proof that the ugliness we faced in 2016 does not define our country.”

She quotes Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” We can disagree about policies and values, but claiming that 2+2=5 and having millions of Americans swallow it is very different.

She talks about making mistakes and says: “The truth is, everyone’s flawed. That’s the nature of human beings. But our mistakes alone shouldn’t define us. WE should be judged by the totality of our work and life. Many problems don’t have either/or answers, and a good decision today may not look as good ten or twenty years later through the lens of new conditions. When you’re in politics, this gets more complicated. We all want- and the political press demands – a “storyline”, which tends to cast people as either saints or sinners. You’re either revered or reviled. And there’s no juicier political story than the saint who gets unmasked as a sinner. A two-dimensional cartoon is easier to digest than a fully formed person.”

She talks candidly about Donald Trumps debate performance: “Trump wouldn’t answer any question directly. He was rarely linear in his thinking or speaking. He digressed into nonsense and then digressed even more. There was no point in refuting his arguments like it was a normal debate – it was almost impossible to identify what his arguments even were, especially since they changed minute to minute.”

She talks about changemakers, explaining “Change might be the most powerful word in American politics. IT’s also one of the hardest to define. In 1992 and 2008, change meant electing dynamic young leaders who promised hope and renewal. In 2016, it meant handing a lit match to a pyromaniac.” “It was sad to watch the Republica Party go from Reagans Morning in America to Trump’s Midnight in America”.

Hillary discusses her slogan for the primary campaign “Stronger Together” and how this was meant to be a direct challenge to Donald Trump’s divisive campaign. However, she also talks about the mistakes she made, when she said: “We are going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business”. This was an unfortunate soundbite, however, it was actually part of a much longer quote which was about how the move to clean energy was going to put coal mines out of business and as such their needed to be an economic plan for them.

She puts part of her failure down to the state of the United States and its failure to recover from the Recession. A lot of working-class Americans were hurting and frustrated. Unemployment was down and the economy was growing, but most people hadn’t had a raise in fifteen years. The average family income was $4,000 less than when my husband left office in 2001. Since 2001 half a million jobs in department stores have disappeared, that’s many times more than lost in coal mining.

Hillary quotes Jill Abramsom, former New York Times Editor saying “This may shock you: Hillary Clinton is fundamentally honest”. She found that Hilary told the truth more than any other presidential candidate in 2016, including both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, who was the most dishonest candidate ever measured.

Each chapter in the book begins with a quote, and my favourite is:

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right-for you’ll be criticised anyway. You’ll be damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

The penultimate chapter is entitled ‘Why’ and in it, Hilary gives a number of reasons why she lost the election. This is exceptionally honest and well written, and I can’t really summarise it effectively for this post. It is worth reading in itself.

The book ends on a positive note giving examples of what people can do to avoid feeling helpless, the some of the examples given are:

  1. Make a contribution to the ACLU
  2. Look ahead to 2018 and get involved in the Democratic party
  3. Join a church or synagogue
  4. Volunteer
  5. Teach your children to love all people.

 

Research Ed National Conference 2017

This weekend I was lucky enough to attend the Research Ed annual conference, and as I work at the host school, I received a free ticket. The below is a brief summary of my chicken scratch notes – mainly for me to refer back to at a later date. Due to other commitments, I only stayed for the first 4 sessions. In the next few weeks, I hope to catch up with some of the other sessions that were videoed/blogged about.

The image below was shared by David Weston at the start of his session, the third I attended, and this is an important reminder about both ResearchEd and all professional development opportunities.

Session One – The Lean Department – Amir Arezoo

This session focused on the way that department leaders can work in a ‘lean manner’ focussing on the what is likely to have the biggest impact. Amir drew from his experience in engineering and explained that we should view education more systematically rather than simply intuitively.

The session began by setting the current education situation, constant change with uncertain staffing and funding. This desire for change leads to searches for panaceas; over time there have been a number of these APP, VAK, ICTAC, SEAL, all of which later fail or fail to deliver the desired impact. This is in part as they are not structural changes but instead ‘bolt-ons’.

This is in part due to the problem of waste, a cycle occurs:

  1. A new idea appears
  2. A plethora of resources are produced.
  3. Poorly realised, executed, or understood.
  4. Shoved to the back of the cupboard.
  5. People go back to what they know and understand.

Raising standards is notoriously hard; however, it is much easier to improve 10 things by 1%, rather than improve one thing by 10%. Success comes from accumulative advantage. It is important that ground rules are deinfed, establish core processes, and share cognitive boundaries.

All improvement strategies should feature a feedback loop – ensuring there is a mechanism to evaluate the strategy and look at its impact.

Amir then went on to talk about Lean Thinking talking about reducing waste (through time, money, and materials) and improving quality (through planning, creation and execution) to have optimal action.

This can be done though in part considering process and flow:

  • How actions are carried out
  • How problems are identified
  • How decisions are delegated
  • How information is shared
  • How data is obtained
  • How learning takes place

This should also allow a reflection on what takes the most time and intellectual challenge; this may include buying in resources to ensure teachers then are able to spend time in planning how to use them. Furthermore, questioning is the most important so time sould be spent on planning good quesitons.

Amir then went on to discuss the logarythmic nature of time, and considred the importance of hitting the difficult topics early so they can be revisited.

The next part of the talk discussed data driven approach and the importance of validating the data. This is important as if we base our actions on data developed on too much of a micro scale in a lesson situation it may not be representative of what would happen in an exam situation.

The talk concluded by reminding the audience to consider, teachers don’t perform ideas in isolation, and the best results come from, fixing the route for critical action, and ensuring effective communication.

Session Two – School Census – What you need to know – Jen Persson

Jen Persson campaigns for safe, fair and transparent use of data, particularly with relation to the national pupil database, which contains records of 23 million pupils and dates back to 1996. This data is collected through the national school census. This personal data is collected by schools and lots of data is not thought that much about, schools also have conflicting duties under their statutory obligations to submit data to the Department for Education and the data protection act. Schools need to be clearer about what happens to the data collected

Jen talked about examples of how personally identifiable information has been provided to Telegraph journalists, and even private tutoring companies from the Department of Education. The information that is shared in these cases is published in their data access log. However, they don’t list information about access from the Home Office and Police. This information is used by the home office who request data on up to 1,500 pupils a month to insist with their investigations.

This use of data is not safe, nor is it fair within the definition of fair as defined in the data protection act. There are four fields in the national student census that parents can refuse to provide:

  • Ethnicity
  • First Language
  • Country of Birth
  • Nationality

Jen discussed ways that schools can allow parents to refuse this data and the importance of people refusing this data; if the data becomes poor quality it will be less likely to be used this way.

Session Three – Toxic Schools and how to avoid running them – David Weston

David began by introducing his list of  features of Toxic Schools:

  • Low trust
  • Lack of improvement
  • Low clarity
  • Low morale
  • Poor communication
  • High monitoring
  • High Beaurocracy

David then went on to discuss research that identified key features of non-toxic or high performing schools.

  • School Culture
  • Peer Collaboration
  • High Order and Discipline

Also important (but less important)

  • Professional development
  • Teacher Evaluation
  • Principal Leadership

A thriving school will need all, particularly a clear culture. Further more staff should be involved in setting the goals rather than just knowing what they are. Leaders should engage in CPD and participate in CPD. It is important to avoid sunk cost bias – because something has been worked hard on does not necessarily believe that it is effective.

Weston then went on to talk about the importance of curriculum and shared language. However too often the focus is on lesson plans rather than the learning arc or scheme of learning.

The final point made about toxic schools is how damaging Appraisals can be, and the way that schools appraisals are typically carried out go against the recommendations of the chartered institutute of professioanl development, some key ideas are below:

  • Separate developmental and evaluative appraisal.
  • Most of your data is much less valid than you hope.
  • To make appraisal effective people need to be involved with their own targets.
  • Forward facing feedback – give people ways to improve their strengths
  • Target/goals that are outside teachers controls are damaging.

More information can be found here on the Teacher Development Trust website.

Session Four – What can we do about the growing Educational Divide in Politics? – Sam Freedman

Education has become the biggest predictor on how people vote. Sam went through some examples stating how in the Brexit vote education and age were important and linked, but education was most important. This report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation was referenced. He discussed that in the 2017 General Election class was not a major factor, people were more likely to vote Labour if they had a degree, and much more likely to vote conservative if they only have GCSE. The same was seen in the 2016 US election, with 67% of white voters without a degree voting for Trump, but only 47% of white voters with a degree voting for trump.

This is an area with a huge potential impact and should be viewed in the context of the increasing numbers of graduates in the United Kingdom.

1990 – 77,00

2000 – 243,246

2011 – 350,800

This is in part due to the increasing number of universities, 73 since 1990, and courses awarding degrees that may not have previously, but is also just due to the number of graduates increasing.

Freedman went on to share research that explained it was the status of employment that mattered rather than the income. For example, a tube driver earns more than a teacher, however teaching is considered a higher status profession.

Why does going to university make people more liberal – three potential theories:

  • Psychodynamic Model – university increases knowledge, creators self-esteem and psychological security meaning higher tolerance of difference.
  • Cognitive Model – improved reasoning means better able to think through new ideas and accept non-conformation.
  • Socialisation Model – meeting a wider range of people and socialise with more people makes you more likely to be liberal.

Sam also discussed some really interesting research about once an issue links with your values it is very difficult to use reasoning to change your mind, and he quoted a particular paper, Kahan et. al. here. I found this so fascinating that I don’t want to discuss what he said about the paper now as I want to read the entire thing and may blog about it separately. However, he said that although it is difficult to change people’s values through reasoning smarter people are better at cherry picking data to support their pre-existing view points.

The talk then quoted Runciman in the Guardian in 2016 – an article well worth reading here.

Implications for Education

  • Education drives polorisation.
  • Formal education becomes considered a negative by a large part of society.
  • Increasing polarisation at school level between parents and teachers – pupils caught between.
  • Social mobility creates tension between individuals and community success.

What can educators do about it?

  • Switch the vocational argument – its not about parity of esteem of qualification but what jobs are available to non-graduates.
  • Managing value clashes at the school levle – how do we help pupils understand underlying values rather than clashes over symbols of cutlural identity?
  • How do we build a sense of community into the concept of social mobility?

Notes from ‘Leading from the Edge: A School Leader’s Guide to Recognising and Overcoming Stress’

Stress is something that is prevalent in everyday life, and impacts all school leaders in one way or another. Not only is it important that leaders recognise stress themselves, but also in their colleagues and team members. This book is written by a former headteacher and shares personal anecdotes, information from interviews and structured advice. A quick read that has has a large range of practical tips and advice for all working in schools.

The author starts by stating “the pressures have been building for a while. Most people have higher imposed targets than ever before, yet fewer people to help them achieve them. The result is that most people are working harder for longer. There is an increasing sense of disenfranchisement, with school leaders experiencing a far higher degree of accountability set against a background of a decreasing sense of empowerment”. He states that pressure is part of work. It helps to keep us motivated and can improve our performance. However, excessive or unrelenting pressure can lead to stress and have a negative effect on performance. Stress is therefore a response to pressure. It can be costly to employers, but more importantly, it can make people ill. A good understanding of the nature of stress is central to maintaining our own personal resilience and to leading others effectively.

One headteacher interviewed stated his ability to cope with the role was linked to his ability to be able to unwind relatively easily; the techniques he listed were personal to him, but provide potential ideas for other leaders, these are:

  • Avoiding educational programmes on TV;
  • Taking his dog for long walks;
  • Listening to music, watching films and , increasingly reading stories;
  • Foreign travel.

One of the most important pieces of advice that this interviewee gave was ‘have the confidence to know that there are some things that you can ignore’

People tend to become stressed when they feel out of control in a situation. There is much in education which is unpredictable; so it pays to take control whenever you can, ‘control the controllable.’ Some tips for time management are listed below:

  • Preparation is key, so start well in advance with whatever task you are planning.
  • Build in quick wins, however small, into large projects allowing everyone to feel progress is being made towards the goal.
  • Plan long term so that everyone knows the key priorities for each half term and where the ‘pinch points’ will be be in terms of key tasks and deadlines.
  • Set yourself clear deadlines. We are usually more focused and productive when time is limited. Don’t let tasks drift on.
  • Have a master to do list and then daily ones broken down into ‘must’, ‘should’, and ‘could’.
  • Start each day by reviewing your list and by completing a short task that will allow you to get back into the work zone and give you an early sense of achievement.
  • Keep lists of what you have done as well as what you plan to do.
  • Be realistic about what you are likely to achieve each day. Work on the basis of five hours of ‘planned’ work. In education there will always be enough ‘unplanned work’ such as phone call or visits from parents to fill the rest of the day. Over-scheduling your day can leave you feeling frustrated and reduce your sense of control.
  • Give yourself short five-minute breaks during the day.
  • Getting things done is often better in the long run than achieving perfection. Sometimes ‘OK’ has to be enough.
  • Set yourself one or two nights a week to stay later and get through tasks with fewer distractions. Some people schedule that for Friday, so they can take less work home over the weekend.
  • Plan a regular no work evening at home, e.g. ‘No work Wednesdays’ to give  yourself a proper break in the week to socialise, spend time with the family, or to pursue outside interests. Do not compromise on this.
  • Try to reserve some time with no interruptions.
  • Don’t dwell on what happened yesterday, it won’t change it. Concentrate instead on today and tomorrow.

This quote gives the importance of maintaining positive behaviours “repeated ingrained behaviours, or habits, are generally accepted as the way in which your perosnality is demonstrated, so behaviours are often worth changing if they are unhelpful”.

Another key take away was this list of early indicators of stress in staff:

  1. Increased absence from work.
  2. Poor timekeeping.
  3. Failure to complete tasks on time.
  4. Rushing everywhere.
  5. Unwillingness to accept feedback or advice.
  6. Resistance to change.
  7. Inability to reach decisions or delegate tasks.
  8. Becoming withdrawn,
  9. Tearfulness.
  10. Irritability with pupils or colleagues.

The final quote from this book that is worth concluding with is:

“Positive thinking in itself will not change the world, it has to be combined with decisions and action. however, in itself it is a massive start and it has been proven that positive thoughts actually enhance our health – not surprising really, given that stressful ones clearly do not help us” – David Taylor – The Naked Leader

Art in the Age of Black Power

Photo of the gallery guide for 'Soul of a Nation' Art in the Age of Black Power

 

Today I visited the Tate Modern and among other things saw ‘Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power’. This is a temporary exhibit that is running until 22nd October. This was interesting, but of particular interest, as until recently, I taught US politics as part of A Level Government and Politics.

This links to the Black Nationalism section of the ‘old’ Edexcel course in Unit 3C – Racial and Ethnic politics, of which the last students will start studying this September, it is also a theme in the area of nationalist thinkers in the new Edexcel course (and I would expect with other exam boards as well). Had I be teaching this in September I would definitely point my students in the direction of the exhibit; if not taking them on a trip.

The exhibit focuses on the work of Black artists working in America in the two decades after 1963. As well as showing strong communities the exhibit reveals artistic differences in what it meant to be a Black artist at this time. “In 1963, when the exhibition begins, the American Civil Rights movement was at its height. At the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed his children would live in a ‘nation where they would not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. Others rejected the idea of an integrated America, and began to speak of a separate, autonomous Black Nation.”  (the text in this paragraph is paraphrased, or in the case of the chunk in quotes – copied – from the gallery guide written by the curators, Mark Godfrey and Zoe Whitley).

Below are some of the works that I found most interesting.

America the Beautiful  (1960) – Norman Lewis  – the gallery label points out that the title suggests the difference between the way America views itself and the reality.

Fred Hampton’s Door 2 (1975) – Dana Chandler – This was created by the artist in response to the original, an oil painting being stolen. The work is a statement against the Chicago Police who murdered a young black panther, Fred Hampton.

Did the Bear Sit Under the Tree (1969) – Benny Andrews – the artist said about this work “it is a Black person who is shaking his fist at the very thing that is supposed to be protecting him and that he’s operating under.

This exhibit is free to Tate members or £15.00 otherwise.

As you leave the gallery there is a sign encouraging you to hear the curator’s playlist of tracks on Spotify inspired by the exhibition. This is the first time I have seen this at an art gallery – and of course, I immediately listed to this on Spotify – and this playlist would also be useful for teachers of Politics.

The final takeaway from the exhibition was this book in the gift shop “Why I Am No Longer Talking to White People About Race” by Reni Eddo-Lodge. This looks like a timely well-authored read, it should be noted that this book is written by a London based author (so not directly linked to Black Nationalism in the 1960s), and I have not yet read the book. You can see an excerpt in the Guardians’ website here.

How school leaders can optimise behaviour.

In March the report ‘Creating a Culture: How School Leaders can optimise behaviour’, was published by Tom Bennett, commissioned by the Department for Education. This is a really interesting document and should be read by all school leaders. The full report can be found here or here (alternative link).

The report begins by summarising the impact of improved behaviour:

  • Students achieve more academically and socially
  • Time is reclaimed for better and more learning
  • Staff Satisfaction improves, retention is higher, recruitment is less problematic.

The are a number of illustrations used throughout the report – the one below is used to illustrate the commonly found features of the most successful schools.

Features of Effective Schools

The report describes what good behaviour is: “Good behaviour is not simply the absence of ‘bad behaviour’ (swearing, fighting, or retreating from classroom tasks). Good behaviour includes aiming towards students’ flourishing as scholars and human beings. So, while good behaviour does include the absence of, for example, vandalism, rudeness and insolence (which we can describe as negative good behaviour), it also describes behaviour that is more broadly desirable. This could mean helping students to learn good habits of study, or reasoning, or interacting with adults, coping with adversity, or intellectual challenges (positive good beavhour). School leadership needs to create circumstances for both forms of good behaviour.”

The report talks about the importance of clarity of instructions from leadership and gives an example: “Don’t only say, ‘Assemblies should encourage good behaviour’. Say, ‘For example, in every assembly, I want to see merits given out to the best students for [behaviour x]’. This should be at the end of the assembly, and the pupils should be asked to go on stage to collect their certificates.”

As well as clarity of instruction the report talks about the importance of routine. “The school must have well-established and universally known and understood systems of behaviour, fo example, student removal, consequences, and sanctions, corridor and classroom expectations, behaviour on trips, arrival, transition and departure behaviour and so on. Any area of general behaviour that can be sensibly translated into a routine should be done so explicitly. This removes uncertainty about school expectations from mundane areas of school life, which reduces anxiety, creates a framework of social norms, and reduces the need for reflection and reinvention of what is and is not acceptable conduct. This, in turn, saves time and effort that would otherwise be expected in repetitive instruction. These routines should be seen as the aspirations of all members of the school community whenever possible.”

On sanctions, the report quotes Bill Rogers saying their “certainty is more important than their severity”.

This is linked to the need for students to meet expectations “All students need to meet the expectations set of them. Anyone not meeting the expected standard must expect an intervention of some form, a reaction from the staff body. Any member of staff not maintaining these boundaries and expectations must be challenged, retrained or otherwise engaged to aim more closely to the standards expected”.

The final aspect of the report that is worth repeating is the list of obstacles to developing a culture of good behaviour:

  • lack of  clarity of vision
  • poor communication of that vision to staff or students
  • demonstrating values or routines contrary to the stated ones
  • lack of perspective, considering low standards to be high
  • inadequate orientation for new staff or students
  • staff overburdened by workload, unable to plan for effective behaviour
  • unsuitably skilled staff in charge of pivotal formal roles
  • remote, unavailable, or occupied leadership
  • inconsistency between staff and departments
  • unfair consequence systems that punish industry or reward poor conduct
  • staff unable or unwilling to promote the school routines
  • lack of support for staff to promote the school routines.

 

 

 

 

 

Notes from ‘Braveheads’

The book ‘Braveheads’ by Dave Harris is one headteacher’s guide to leadership. Although it is written to guide headteachers there is much that can be applied to any leadership position in a school. The guiding principal is that leadership requires bravery, “the good leader, indeed the great leader is marked out by the way in which his other internal roller-coaster of self-doubt, negativity and sheer desperation is rendered invisible to the outside world.”

The book begins with the motivations for leadership “The money is good and it serves as some form of compensation, but if you do the job for the salary you will soon realise that it will never be compensation enough for all that you go through. Nor will it compete with the feeling you get on those occasions when it all goes right and you see those young people – and their teachers – really shine in ways that you know you have helped make happen. Rather than simply serving as a boost to their bank balance, their pension or their ego, most of the heads I have met are in the job because they feel that they can make a genuine difference where it is needed.”

Although fear in some degrees is health Harris states that  FEAR can stand for ‘False Expectations Appear Real’ and at least half of the things that you fear are never going to happen.

He talks about the importance of school leaders protecting and nurturing the staff in their teams. “As a leader, your job isn’t to do what is asked of you at the expense of the people in your care. Your job is to do whatever you need to for the people in your care, and that includes often resisting doing what you are supposed to do. And that’s why people need you to be brave”. He talks further about leading staff stating “everybody wants to do a good job, and more often than not simply needs the right support from the top in order to achieve this.”. He goes on to state “good leadership, like good teaching, is all about relationships”.

Harris sums up his four rules for brave school leadership as:

  1. Be Yourself
  2. Be Yourself
  3. Be Yourself
  4. There are no rules. Be Yourself.

In conclusion, he states “Changing a school is tremendously demanding but recognizing the immensity of the task – and that there are no short cuts – is the first step. The only way to make real change is through determination and hard work and lots of passion.”