A virtual event jointly hosted by the NAHT and Discovery Education
Author and experienced head teacher, David Gumbrell, is a contributing author and presenter on the NAHT Discovery Education Pathway programme. David’s Pathway course on resilience is aimed to provoke reflection on your self-compassion and the effect this can have on you as a leader. This fireside chat with David Gumbrell and Andrew Hammond will discuss I, If and OUR. Read all about what is going to be covered in the ‘I, IF and OUR’ webinar.
‘If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you’
– Rudyard Kipling
We are currently in a time of ‘ifs’ and so it seems appropriate to select this poem as a starting point to start to understand the emotions, feelings and moods that we are experiencing in these unprecedented times; this period of extreme uncertainly. Keeping our minds clear and our heads in the right place to make good decisions is challenging too. Embroiled in the emotional cacophony, we can easily drift away from clarity and into a foggier place. Many are, in this turmoil, losing their heads. Reactive overcomes proactive, the emotional brain starts to take charge, and irrational thoughts start to pervade our minds. The waters feel choppier, the emotions are heightened and the whole experience can be all encompassing and consuming. Head teachers are being blamed for many things, indeed we always have. However, this can create anger, frustration and a desire to fire back. Also, in this emotionally charged state, we are unlikely to ‘keep our heads’.
What was the dominant feeling when you last slowed down enough to consider your situation?
Which strategy worked well in helping you to overcome that feeling and to live with it?
To support this notion, Daniel Goleman offers us further advice, ‘The way that we feel in response to an event will vary from person to person because we all have different experiences to pull from’. Leaning into experience is vital, however your leadership experience is being tested as you will never have come across something like this before. Your memory reserves of something like this are limited and limiting. However, he goes onto say,
‘Our response will depend on our mood, our goals and values, our beliefs and expectations, and our ability to self-regulate.’ This to me is the key to the door. You can lean back into your core guiding principles that have served you so well in the past. You can now strengthen your hold on them (more than ever before). Your beliefs and expectations can still be trusted in and leant onto. In this values-driven state, we are much more likely to ‘keep our heads’, surely.
What are your three-guiding principles? (allow time to narrow them down to just three)
How are these principles exemplified in your actions, your decisions, your communications?
‘If and Our’ can now become the operative words that guide your actions, then you can focus your attention onto another important, small-yet-powerful, word i. I can’t help but think that there are two letter ‘i’ in resilience for a reason. They are there to remind us that proactively looking after ‘i’ is important, that recharging ‘i’ is integral. In your rightful concern for your students, your teachers, your support staff, your parents, you can easily leave someone off that list. In an attempt to be compassionate to others, it is all too easy to miss off the prefix ‘self’ when addressing the theme and topic of compassion. This, despite the fact that the ‘i’ in resilience could stand for intrinsic. Central and pivotal, it must be protected more than it is. Indeed, if we do manage to put the ‘i’ back into resilience then we are much more likely to ‘keep our heads’ when others are not, aren’t we?
What is the most effective recharging ‘i’ for you?
What effect did it have on your perspective of the situation that you find yourself in?
I, IF and OUR
These three small words can make a big difference. Sometimes the simplest words are the most powerful. I, IF and OUR can be the anchors in the stormy sea, the guiding lights in the fog, the compass to lead you in your decisions. You can’t stop others from losing their heads. You can’t avoid being blamed for their actions. However, you can keep your head, keep yourself emotionally regulated and maintain your resilience and resolve.
An eye test chart starts with big letter at the top, gradually decreasing in size as you get lower. On your resilience check, the ‘I’ needs to be uppermost and prominent. Get this right and others can follow. Get this in place and you are able to lead in the way that you want to.
On the second tier is ‘IF’ – following Kipling’s advice and trying to control the controllables, knowing that if you can, then your resilience check is going well. If you can explicitly regulate your actions, words and deeds, then others can follow. You can then be true to yourself in the way that you lead.
On the third line is OUR – our values, our mood, our emotions. Owning these, being proud of these, standing by them. Working within your principles, you can be sure that your resilience check will be positive. Lead in this way, and you can then bring others along with you.
Resilience is not about stopping the storm from happening, making the crisis go away or the blame game to end. Resilience is about managing yourself to be best placed to deal with the inevitable ups and downs of Headship.
If you could manage your resilience when all about you are losing theirs . . .
Take the time now to reflect and imagine how empowering that could be.
Take the time now to reflect and imagine what you need to do now to make this ‘if’ a ‘when’.
In summary, be confident and trustful that all decisions (right or wrong, or in need of later adjustment) are made with the best information at the time you make them and with the best of intentions. These decisions are more likely to be good decisions if you are feeling resilient, they are rational and thus well-considered.
Don’t lose sight of the importance of well-being for you and for your staff. This a relationships business and so proactively nurturing and caring for the people who make it happen is time well spent. I have written and filmed a module on the subject of resilience for the Discovery Education Pathway programme and hope that you will take the time to engage with those materials too, for your own self-reflection and/or more widely for your school community.
Former teacher and head teacher, now author, coach and lecturer
David is a former teacher and head teacher, now author, coach and lecturer. David is passionate about playing a part in using this experience to empower and to reassure the next generation of Early Career Teachers. He wants them to love our profession and to uphold the standard of our profession. He learnt that resilience is the missing link in the training that was being offered to teachers and yet explicitly talking about and considering our own mental health can make a huge difference in how we teach and what messages we implicitly send to our students.
He is well-placed to deliver the Discovery Education Pathway module as he has teaching experience to be credible; he has researched and published about resilience for nearly three years; he has a fairly unique style of connecting with his audience to engage their interest before then delivering the connection to the key piece of learning that he wants them to consider and to reflect on.
Senior Director of Learning at Discovery Education
Andrew served in schools for over 20 years, as Class teacher, Head of Department, Deputy Headteacher and Headteacher in both independent and maintained sector schools. A prolific author, Andrew has written numerous titles for a range of educational publishers. He has a BA QTS from Bath and an MA from King’s College London. He is currently studying for an Ed.D at Buckingham, researching the power of culture to deliver character traits and attitudes in schools. He is interested in how schools turn values-based platitudes into practice and how we best support pupils’ personal and cultural development by supporting the personal development of their teachers. Andrew joined Discovery Education in September 2019 as Senior Director of Learning. He designed the Pathway Programme and is series editor for its content. He is passionate about supporting the whole teacher.