I used to worry it was arrogance …..
and to be entirely truthful it is a bit. I have come to realise, however, that it is more faith than arrogance; or at least more akin to faith as the years roll by. The certainties of youth have gradually become replaced by a solid belief that it is actually possible to effect transformational change. During the days when I see less of the students than I would like and more of the problems than I want to; on the days when people seem to be forming a queue to tell me how badly I am doing, and the backlog of work is obscuring the vision – on those days how I control my thoughts becomes very important. I focus on the transformations I have seen and the faith I have in those who will not give up. The signs of the transformations committed colleagues of goodwill achieve are all around us. I stand at my window and remember when this academy wasn’t here: I can still see the land with a couple of burnt out cars on it. I remember the predecessor schools to the academy – dreadful physical environments. I think about the quality of outputs from those schools, the lack of aspirations of the teachers for the students and the students for themselves. And then … I go for a little walk around our academy and see high quality teaching and learning all around in a beautiful and inspiring physical space; I talk to students who are applying for apprenticeships and university places and I see smiles all over the place. This transformation happened and it didn’t happen by accident. It was tough, and if committed people of goodwill had not held strong and firm, it would not have happened. If this transformation can be achieved, then I am a fool to doubt. I have the faith to carry on.
Someone once told me that successful headship was a “relentless optimism, even in the full face of the facts!”
and I have always remembered that because so often, when serving challenging communities, fellow professionals treat you like some kind of optimistic dreamer or deluded fool. I lost count of the amount of people – many of whom ought to have known better – who told me that the children of Seacroft wouldn’t wear smart uniform / attend regularly / achieve above the floor targets etc etc. In fact the thing that keeps me going is not a dreamy optimism, nor a political position, not even a personal ambition to prove myself right (although in weaker moments that sneaks in a bit!); what keeps me going is hope. We have writing on the wall outside our staffroom and part of the quote is “… we are touching and shaping tomorrow”. I defy anyone to walk past that and not be filled with hope. There is nothing more thrilling, awe-inspiring and humbling than the potential every child brings into our schools and academies. Every child has their own unique potential to help create a better future for their generation and future generations. There is no other profession that has such a profound influence on the future as we educate, shape, nurture that potential. Sometimes it is hard to feel that hope when struggling with the problems and backgrounds the children bring with them, and we can get worn down with the repeated battles and relapses. The thing that makes it easy to come back confident and smiling and to never give up on them is the hope the children give us everyday as their gift: their unexpected (and sometimes inappropriate)kindnesses; their humour; their resilience, the sudden leap in achievement (apparently from nowhere) and the gentle shoots of aspiration. A quick glance through the average Headteacher’s twitter feed every evening has these examples of hope which we share because we know they keep us all going!
We say that our academy runs on love and we are quite open about this
We pay and treat our staff well, but ultimately my staff serve our community motivated by, and with,love. I see a thousand examples everyday; not only in the interaction between staff and children, but also between staff themselves. And love is catching! It is actually quite hard not to respond positively to a tough and truthful love which refuses to condemn, refuses to compromise and refuses to give up on you. As I watch the selflessness and commitment of each team of staff giving their skills willingly and cheerfully, helping to transform the lives of countless generations of children, supporting each other when the going is tough and striving to be the very best they can be I know that I can do no less in leading them. So in the end it really is these three things: faith, hope and love……. And the greatest of these is love.