Thoughts and Musings on….

Strength

Girl, Brave, Bravery, Independence, Solo

It’s always hard to recognise what you are good at. We are quick to recognise what is good in others – but we hesitate when it comes to ourselves. If I was a body builder, or an athlete, or any profession where I needed to display my physical strength, the visual representation of rippling biceps or the ability to carry weights/people would be applauded. And rightly so – strength doesn’t come instantly. I believe that strength is a process and we can start that process whenever we choose to. We can rest well in our strength; or we can doubt it, question it, reject it. I truly believe that we all have strength.

The image of the lone woman walking alone does not necessarily conjure up thoughts of strength – but often we discover our strength as a solo pursuit. ‘Inner strength’ is a phrase well used and it’s the ‘go-to’ phrase that we connect with resilience and well being. We often do not know what our inner strength is until we are tested – the loss of someone we love, the loss of a job/career, the loss of good health – we all have our own examples. I personally have certainly had an interesting couple of years and my strength has certainly been tested. I would like to think that I was using the period when my strength wasn’t being tested, wisely and judiciously. I don’t think that this is true – but I may be wrong! We do not often display our inner strength when life is smooth – there doesn’t appear to be any need to do so.

How we see ourselves defines our strength, which changes over time

Human beings are incredibly strong. We are resilient. We are creative. We are problem solvers. Our hearts are also able to withstand more than we think. My mother died twenty five years ago and I can remember thinking, as a young mother with a small child (my son was just a year old at the time), that I would NEVER get over her death. I couldn’t see how life would work without her. My mum was everything to me. The thing is – I DID get over it and life HAS gone on – and I even laugh from time to time! What I do know is that I have learned to live with it, but I miss my mum every day and I look forward to the day when I will see her again. However, for the sake of my son – and this was my overriding thought at the time of her passing – I needed to get up and get on. So I did; some days were easier than others. This process added to my strength reserves and I have withdrawn from my strength account over the years. I guess that I am now aware that I must top up my strength account on a daily basis.

As a Christian, my journey with God gives me strength. I am mindful, grateful and thankful of my relationship with God. Does this mean that I get less troubled by life? No. Does it mean I am not pushed around by the same pressures that everyone else experiences? No. For me, it is a reassurance that I am not alone. That I am loved unconditionally and supported to overcome because my life has purpose – and I am being directed to make a difference.

Recently, I have embraced the #IamRemarkable initiative that I was introduced to by Hannah Wilson (@Ethical_Leader) and I love its mission. #IamRemarkable strives to empower women and underrepresented groups to speak openly about their accomplishments in the workplace and beyond, thereby breaking modesty norms and glass ceilings. This has strengthened me immensely. I have posted statements that show my own strength under the hashtag #IamRemarkable but even better than that – I have loved strengthening others!! This has given me a real buzz – our words can bring life to others and it is this realisation that is now buoying me to change direction career wise and to utilise the strength that I have to help and benefit others. Looking after ourselves is one of the key actions that develop our strength. Rest. Leisure pursuits – walking, reading and gardening are my go-to pursuits!! I have come to realise that working ourselves into the ground is not a good look – but for years, and especially in school leadership, I felt that I had to have all the answers. Couldn’t look weak or hesitant. Took on the worries of everyone. Had to be better. I thought that this was strength. Strength of leadership – when in fact it was quite the opposite. Ultimately, I had to show strength by changing my viewpoint and re-framing my experiences. I have learned that leadership looks very different and just because the world sees it in one perspective, it doesn’t mean that this is YOUR perspective. Strength is when you walk against the tide, not knowing whether it ‘looks right’, but when it ‘looks right’ for you, you replenish your inner strength account. Maybe, to answer a question that I posed earlier, this is when you are ‘working out’.

The 50 Best Quotes About Strength To Get You Through Anything ...

We live in strange times – and one day we will read about this time in history and think about how we felt and what we did. I know that even though life feels like a rollercoaster – I will hold on to everything that I know to be true but I will also embrace what works for ME to help others. All of us want our strength accounts replenished to help us through the storms of life. Rather than using the analogy of a storm, I would state that we are in a hurricane right now – but we can make it through. This too shall pass.

Thoughts and Musings on….

Intention

I am sure that intention (and I would add ‘purpose’) is part of what makes us human. We want to get ‘it’ done. We want to get ‘it’ right. “I am going on a diet”; “I am leaving that job/person”; “I am going to get started on learning/playing/doing…” The image shows how intentions may feel like – long; distant; a destination to reach; a journey to embark upon. We are often encouraged when we declare our intentions, that the first step is often the hardest because of the shifting states that we find ourselves in, and that the intention is most definitely a part of the process.

I have read a quote that states: “Set an intention by being clear on what you want and being detached from the outcome. Don’t be concerned with how things are going to happen. ” I particularly like the second part of the quote because I find that that is why we don’t see our ‘good’ intentions to fruition. What if it all goes wrong? That single thought – as neurologically correct as it should be (we are wired so that we stick to what we know so that there is no threat to our existence) is what can stop us from branching out – but if we DIDN’T have the persistence, the resilience, the grit to keep going – then its just a good intention that doesn’t amount to anything.

An interesting parallel about intentions fell in my lap this morning…. it was announced in the media that Kanye West announcing that he is going to run for the US presidency this year. There is no doubt that this man, most probably, is not qualified to be the next President of the United States, but he has not worried about publicly declaring his intention to run. What does that mean? Does it mean:

  • He’s got the country’s best interests at heart and isn’t it great that he’s going to do this? OR
  • He’s crazy but brave OR
  • He wants to be the next President and by declaring it he is showing his good intentions OR
  • His behaviours will show his reality

Kanye’s intention will create his reality. I have no idea what type of president he would make but if it happens, it happens. Let’s see what he does.

And therein lies the dilemma. Intention – to have intent – is a doing word and thoughts cannot be active unless they are activated.

Paulo Coelho Quote: “There is always a gap between intention and ...

Sometimes we get bogged down with good intentions. Sometimes we think that we have good intentions but it doesn’t always end well – for some! There are times when we can commend ourselves for thinking well – and think that the ‘thinking’ is enough. I would much rather see actions that come from intentions that don’t succeed as opposed to no action at all. These are the people that I naturally gravitate to. I also like to inspire those that require support in their intentions turning into actions. From my own experience, I remember that my dad had many good business intentions but they did not always come off and I guess that these good intentions – but lack of action which he would blame on others – would frustrate him from time to time. I wish – he passed away in 2009 – that he had carried out some of his plans. But…..where would I be now if he had carried out his plans? I’ll never know.

I’d like to think that I live with intention and I am fairly active in wanting to put my plans into action – but my motivation has changed over the years from me from being all about self and I’m now more about service – service to and for others. That motivates me so much – to the extent that I am now prepared to take more ‘risks’ for the greater good. I press on; sometimes I take steps backwards and sometime I shuffle sideways – but always I look to create – where love is the basis of my intentions to make life better for others. Maybe this is the catalyst for why intentions don’t manifest themselves into actions? Using the L word isn’t very fashionable in work situations – I am not that worried about that!! It’s my intention to do this – so let’s do this!!!!

Let love be the intention within everything you do and nothing ...

Thoughts and Musings on….

Empowerment…

I really like this image. The vast expanse of the sky, the rugged rocks, the lone walker. However – it’s the mountains in the distance that I really like; the peaks that can be seen but the valleys that can’t. A year ago, this image would not have meant that much to me….but now its poignancy is something that resonates and lives with me as a reminder of where I have been and where I am going.

A definition… ‘Empowerment is a set of measures designed to increase the degree of autonomy and self-determination in people and in communities in order to enable them to represent their interests in a responsible and self-determined way, acting on their own authority.’ Empowerment – for me at least – is the process and realisation of becoming stronger. I don’t believe that it means that you are the finished product – sometimes this is not in sight – but it is definitely a state of mind that cannot be wrestled from you once you realise that this is where you heading towards your goal or goals. And like a coat of many colours, you can feel amazing – as Joseph did when Jacob gave his favourite son a present that sadly sealed his fate as he headed, not for the summit as Joseph thought, but for the valleys….the pits. The major difference between you and Joseph is that no one would have given you the coat – you have done the work yourself – or with some support – to have moved on to a point that you may not have thought that you would ever have achieved. This is the fuel that keeps you going in order to ‘finish the race’.

I am no mountain climber. Or hill walker. In fact – any form of incline used to get me upset….I didn’t want to expend any effort in order to get from A to B. But I found myself – in October 2019 – climbing one of the Three Yorkshire Peaks (Whernside). I thought that I could do it relatively quickly and had anticipated that I was going to do two of the three Peaks!!!! Madness – I had not practised and as a result, my levels of fitness did not permit me to do two.

Just because the mountain is there doesn’t mean that there is a compulsion to conquer it. Well, not for me!! Many of us will see it and still want to go ‘around’ the mountain. Risk adverse or lazy – I’ll leave you to insert your own definition!! Going over it just feels like it is too much…..effort, planning, emotion, money, risk – again, insert your own words. I have to tell you that the pic of me smiling as I touched the ‘peak’ was bitter-sweet – most people had reached the summit at least an hour earlier than me and were heading down as I smiled for the camera. Did that matter? No. All that mattered was that the summit had been conquered. By me. I was exhausted but happy. I didn’t call an Uber to take me there; no one carried me on their back (that would have been an interesting sight 😉 ) and I had the support of a friend whose physical presence and psychological and verbal encouragement kept me moving. Just a few hours earlier, I had been told by one of the organisers that it was unlikely that I was going to be able to complete the first peak, and I had to stop. The feelings that I felt as I was given the instruction to turn around, just twenty minutes into the first peak walk, was devastating to me. I had never experienced someone telling me that I couldn’t do something and the feeling of shame, belittlement and feeling ‘less than’, burned me. Hard!! However, as I stood smiling and exhausted, at the summit, I knew that this was a huge life lesson that I needed to re-apply as many times as required to hit the summits that I want to surmount.

What creates a sense of empowerment? Control, confidence, preparation, positivity, perseverance, motivation, attitude – and the combinations of the ingredients depend on our own specific circumstances. I know that my sense of self worth was not particularly high at this time so I really don’t know why I felt I could manage a couple of mountains – an inflated sense of self? Maybe? Unrealistic? Who knows?

What do I know now? Everyone’s route/pathway to empowerment is different. However, I would stress that its achievable for everyone that wants to feel a sense of autonomy in their lives. Some people have a sense of empowerment in everything they do and are able to engender this to those that they meet. I would suggest that most of us have to work at it and this makes us feel all the more confident when we achieve. The role of my friend who kept me going as I traversed the rough terrain and sometimes stumbled, was an essential part of my journey. The role of the said key person or persons cannot be underestimated and it’s often what is said or not said that can make the difference.

Whichever role you are in – ‘enpowerer’ or ’empoweree’ – the process of achievement and autonomy can change lives. We are all running our own race. Climb your own mountain. Get help as and when you need it. Start or continue the journey. You CAN do this. Believe.

Thoughts and Musings on…..

Tolerance

Be careful what you tolerate. You are teaching people how to treat ...

When I saw the title of today’s #DailyWritingChallenge my eyes lit up….and then they reverted back and my face sported a frown. It’s ok – I’ve stopped frowning, but it’s definitely given me food for thought. Writing about them may allow me to make sense of my musings – and maybe it will be the provocation for yours.

Tolerance, on first glance, appears to be a passive word. “I tolerated her bad attitude”; “Peace begins with tolerance and respect for everyone”; “The highest result of education is tolerance” – Helen Keller. On reflection – it’s not passive, is it? It can be seen as requiring the receiver to ‘not react or take action.’ Is that easy? No. Maybe this is why tolerance is seen as a value worth aspiring to. However….

Inspirational Quotes Image & Photo (Free Trial) | Bigstock

Now this quote has managed to sum up my ‘uneasy’ feelings and thoughts about tolerance. It also brings to mind the #DiverseEd conference that took place on Twitter on 13th June where the subtitle was: ‘Be Where You Are Celebrated, Not Tolerated’. I remember, as part of a question posed by a participant, during the session that I was on the panel on, advising that if you felt that you were being tolerated, then you shouldn’t be and that you should question whether this was the setting for you.

As I reflect on this, it’s enabled me to feel justified in the major life decisions that I have made in my life – some of them have been very tricky – and I guess that it’s a truly personal decision that only you can answer. For example – and this is especially for my black sisters although everyone will have their equivalent situation – when I was younger I used to get my hair relaxed. Relaxing Afro hair is actually a mad thing to do – putting active chemical on your hair to enable it to be more manageable. The active chemical HURTS as it affects the hair and there are recommended timings on how long it needs to remain on the hair before it is washed off. In comparison to my sisters who could often keep the relaxer on for ages (and again, bizarrely, there was a badge of honour in keeping it on for a long time) I was a wuss. A proper scaredy cat. Could not tolerate it AT ALL. I tried but failed to keep it on for the minimum time. I burnt my scalp on a number of occasions!!! You won’t be surprised to know that I don’t relax my hair anymore.

I struggled to keep the chemical on my hair but I went through with it for the hope of having more manageable hair. Did I feel better during the process? No. Did I persevere? Yes. I believe that in the struggle, the end result was the prize and that sense of sacrifice was the cost. Can we get hooked on the struggle? Let me unpack the two graphic quotations and contextualise them for further probing.

“Be careful what you tolerate. You are teaching people how to treat you.”

I like this quote – for me it sums up the conflict I have of the word tolerance and its definition. I made reference earlier to what we will each tolerate and the differences that we all have. One thing that has become apparent to me as I get older is my lack of tolerance! Or am I less tolerant? I believe that rather than being less tolerant, I think that I have a stronger idea of what I will accept and what I won’t accept. I also feel that my sense of self worth is high so I am not prepared to lower my ‘price’. I want this to be known, so articulating this is important to me and this also shows in the way I present myself to others. Do you sometimes ‘allow’ stuff to happen that you know that you shouldn’t? Yep, me too! But does this mean that I cannot learn or change because I am so ‘fixed’?

“Tolerance of intolerance is cowardice”.

Now – this quote is more controversial but is also true to me – from a more collective viewpoint. It states – to me – that if you do not challenge others with an opposing view to your own then you are a coward. Very strong!!!! It very much ties in with where we are on the #BlackLivesMatters issue and one that I have personally struggled with. The death of George Floyd has opened the floodgates for all black people in the UK and across the world. We feel that we have been silent and have – for YEARS – tolerated the micro aggressions, the lack of opportunities in our life chances, the police oppressions, the systemic racism. This time round, we want to talk about it. We NEED to talk about it. All of it. And we want and need it to change but we aren’t the ones to change it. This is where the controversy kicks in – as we don’t want to be confrontational, but the ‘silence is violence’ statement makes the rest of us uncomfortable. We are still navigating our way through this, but what is encouraging is the emerging willingness to listen and learn. Who wants to be told that you are part of the problem because you haven’t acknowledged that your pacifism is adding to the problem?

So – as Coldplay sang, “let’s go back to the start”. Is tolerance a passive word? I guess it can be. It’s a personal choice on how much tolerance can be applied to specific situations where you have control, but when applied collectively it has weight and strength to move. Or not move, depending on the context. It makes me believe that tolerance is a value that is a bit like a skill – it needs to be applied judiciously for it to be effective.

Tolerance Quote: Tolerance isn't about not having beliefs. It's ...

Thoughts and Musings on….

Diversity

What does diversity mean to you? What about cultural diversity? Often mentioned, usually at interviews where the interview panel will want you to know that you “know” about diversity. I would put diversity in the same bag as equality and equal opportunities. When I was a teacher, these words scared me. Not because I didn’t know what they meant, but because I couldn’t be sure that I was applying them to my delivery of the subjects that I was teaching. As I reflect on those early years, I know that I loved promoting difference – probably because as a black women in a predominantly white world, I embraced difference. I have always loved any aspect of character that shows individuality in any shape or form and it may also answer why I love special educational needs pupils. I was a mainstream teacher before changing phase to SEND in 2008. I guess I thrive on the fact that despite difficulties, we can express our true selves; our true characters. Overcoming our difficulties is a strength and shows true resilience which is a value that I so admire. And we can bring this to any table we choose to come to.

I spoke at the last DiverseEd conference in Slough in January 2020 with @HeadsUp4HT and had really enjoyed the set up and the drive that came from meeting likeminded colleagues. There were a lot of groups and grass roots movements that I had not heard of before but there was something compelling about their missions and values that resonated with me. I came away from the conference pumped up and wondering how I could get more involved.

When lockdown took hold of our lives and all face-to-face meetings were on hold – I was informed me that DiverseEd would be a virtual event and asked if I would look at ‘Smashing Ceilings’. You may have heard of the ‘glass ceiling’ concept – defined as : “an unacknowledged barrier to advancement in a profession, especially affecting women and members of minorities” .  From my lens, I would go so far as to say that as black women in the work place we often have ‘concrete ceilings’ to contend with.  The main difference being that at least you can SEE through glass and aspire for more – with concrete – that’s it!! This has been my experience. I have been let down, as we all are as we aspire to leadership positions, but for me it’s been very difficult to work out whether I was the wrong fit, or just plain wrong. When you add ethnicity into the mix – we could be here for a while, trying to work it out.

Cultural diversity is a form of appreciating the differences in individuals. The differences can be based on gender, age, sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and social status. Schools have realized the value in acquiring a diverse workforce but what is not so well promoted or encouraged is the opportunity to rise and in turn, steer the culture to embrace ALL. The stereotyping and prejudices, if unchallenged, contribute to a culture that can promote sameness and prevent the celebration of skills, abilities and experiences.

My fellow speakers: Naomi Ward @naomi7444, Patrick Ottley-O’Connor @ottleyoconnor spoke of their approaches in how we can establish culture (see clip below). Hannah Jepson @Hannahjep also spoke in the same session (Session 3)

with me during Saturday’s virtual conference – #DiverseEd on Culture and Diversity – about Unconscious Bias: Recruitment and it really chimed with my own thoughts about how and why we recruit who we recruit. As a former Head of School, I was extensively involved in recruitment and always ensured that I fully considered candidates that weren’t anything like me – as Hannah stated “fit is important” – but it need not mean that I discounted potential employees that weren’t as I wanted. Like a jigsaw puzzle, we may have different shapes, but when we are placed together to make the bigger picture, no one worries about individual shapes, ONLY the bigger picture.

I believe that there is a lack of:

  • comfortable, trusted strategic relationships
  • positive strategic feedback
  • opportunities to showcase breadth of skills and experience

If we don’t increase the amount of black and minority ethnic voices seen and heard at leadership and strategic levels, then how do we expect things to change?  How do we smash those ceilings, glass or otherwise? Change means being uncomfortable – and the challenge doesn’t need to be aggressive but there needs to be clarity in the outcome with a plan and milestones to ensure that we are on the way to achieving that plan. 

I am a big believer in action and we all have agency to make things happen. We are privileged in that respect – all of us. I’ve currently got the same excitement and passion bubbling up that I felt after the DiverseEd conference in January 2020. What I am aware of, in these post #BlackLivesMatters post #Covid-19 days, is that this is a REAL opportunity for change. A chance to do things differently. For too long we have said that same things and nothing has changed. We need allies, we need authenticity, we need curriculum reviews, we need visible leadership, we need programmes that enable our up-and-coming talent to remain in education and be the leaders of tomorrow, not become disillusioned as they are under-represented or oppressed again and again! We need the systems that already exist to be challenged to enable that change to take place. Yes – the conversations will be uncomfortable – but no one needs to get hurt! Let us LEARN from one another.

And….. my biggest take away from my session and indeed the conference itself, is that I would welcome a genuine level playing field.   Merit is the only currency that we should be utilising to enable us to progress.   Remember – “its difficult to be what you cannot see”.   

I have focused on diversity from my own lens but the beauty of #DiversityEd conferences is the inclusion of LGBT, disability, gender, allyship viewpoints, as well as ethnic minorities. It’s such an important conversation – and in the current climate we MUST keep talking; and turning our words into actions. #MyDiversityEdPledge is: to use my voice to lead from where I am and to support others so that they can challenge their understanding of diversity and Black perspectives. What’s yours?

Quotes About Cultural Differences: Understand and Respect ...

Thoughts and Musings on….

Communication

Communication let me down

But I’m left here…

Communication let me down

But I’m left here, I’m left here, I, I, I…”

Communication – Spandau Ballet (c) Gary Kemp 1983

I love the game Chinese Whispers – I loved it as a child and as an adult it has become something that has both amazed me and frustrated me in equal measure! I am mystified how a word or a phrase can be miscommunicated and create a whole heap of trouble – and I would go as far to say that its quite possibly the essence of all conflict in the world! But enough of the world philosophy for now……

How many times have you misinterpreted a message? How many times have you unintentionally miscommunicated a message? I believe that we ALL want our messages/thoughts/ideas to be shared but we all have the potential – a bit like the car analogy of it being a deadly weapon if utilised badly – to be just as ‘deadly’. We could end up, through misuse, of hurting others. I am focusing on the use of words – but equally the LACK of words can create the same effect alongside the lack of ACTION – a smile, a wave, a gesture. Not phoning someone, emailing, texting, writing – it’s incredible when you think about it. Spend just twenty seconds thinking about your most recent conflicts – what were they based on? That’s right…..a lack of communication.

We are finally attuned to communicate with one another and as an educator who has worked with children and young people who have learning difficulties, it is at the basis of everything that we wish them to be independently able to do. We spend an inordinate amount of time developing and teaching skills of communication that are personalised to that young person to successfully communicate. It’s not easy – and we, as educators, make mistakes. However, we continue because of its importance to the self esteem of the learner. Making your wants and needs known is a vital component of human life. Without the clarity of intentional communication then we assume, we guess, we think that we know what others want to express. It never ends well when we get it wrong.

I would state that at the moment we can see communication being utilised in a variety of ways that would indicate that we are ‘at odds’ – a definite legacy of a post Coronavirus world still sore from the battering that we have collectively endured across the world. I have a real sense that we are emerging from the pandemic questioning all that we have been told; and subsequently dismantling or refiguring what went before. In the UK, there appears to be an air of less deference to our politicians and leaders – Dominic Cummings did not assist in this regard(!) – and with specific reference to the daily communication briefing sessions that were central at the beginning of the lockdown, they have now lost their poignancy. Why? I would suggest that the message – and subsequent messages – have been lost in a variety of ways. The manipulation of facts, the way they have been delivered and, at times, the lack of communication has contributed to this view. However, its not just this. For years, I have lived my life as a black woman experiencing subtle, yet fairly blatant racial micro aggressions that I have had to ‘suck up’. It was part of my experience so I continued to live, knowing that this was the case. I spoke to my dual heritage son about the realities of my existence and soon-to-be-his adult existence when he was a young adolescent. It didn’t even occur to me NOT to communicate the realities of this aspect of our lives because I didn’t want him to be underprepared. We continued to live, expecting resistance and periodically receiving it. George Floyd’s senseless murder in the US at the end of May 2020 was the tipping point for black people – ALL black people. We are now communicating what needs to change. Clearly. Succinctly. There are no assumptions being made – but its surprising that clarity in communication is often perceived as aggression. It depends on the receiver I guess.

Lockdown has been a revelation to me. It has enabled me – through knowing others and learning about new approaches – how to develop my own voice. Its also enabled me hear those who I would not ordinarily hear and to realise what they have to say – and that we have more in common than I would have ordinarily thought. The written word carries so much – and every comma, or ending of a letter or email or text message/WhatsApp message use of emoji (what did we do without emojis???) can be pored over and analysed again and again and again! I am married so do not do this anymore, but when I was single, the speed at which a potential love interest texted back was forensically scrutinised. One of the lockdown phenomena of communication etiquette has been the use of electronic platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Facebook Live, Google hangouts, FaceTime, Faceparty, YouTube and Zoom. We need non verbal cues – and we have embraced the electronic platforms available – but technology prevents the human touch so we can misinterpret the intention. Phone calls have become popular again haven’t they – there’s only one major sense to interpret at any one time which prevents the fatigue of trying too hard to analyse everything! And why are trying to hard? We want to be seen. We want to be heard. We want to be understood.

There are now so many ways to communicate but what I believe we are ALL missing are the non-verbal methods – the hug, the handshake, the cuddle, the linking of arms, the high-five, the kiss. They will return – and the value that they hold will be sky-high! I doubt that we will take it for granted again! I’ve yet to hug my son – he went travelling in November 2019 and returned in March 2020. I’ve seen him but not given him a squeeze or a kiss. I’m his only parent (his father passed away nearly five years ago) so we need our non verbal connection, now more than ever. There is no substitute for physical communication. There is no real excuse for miscommunication but we do, everyday. I guess that all we can do is to aspire to be better and to be more forgiving when it goes wrong, as it can and does do. We’re only human.

Thoughts and Musings on….

Resourcefulness

I’m not sure if any of you are familiar with Professor Guy Claxton’s Building Learning Power and his approach to developing a more holistic view of learning to learn? The 4 R’s that he promoted – Resilience, Reciprocity, Reflectiveness and Resourcefulness – have stayed with me ever since I came across them way back in 2005. I always liked the 4 R’s and resourcefulness has been a part of my life and career.

I’ve often thought that if you don’t have something, then it’s just a matter of ‘thinking around the obstacle’ and re-approach the challenge! Sounds easy but as we all know the human spirit can only stand so much before we can feel deflated. This happened to me when, just before the opening of the new school that I was leading, a member of staff alerted me to the fact that we had NO tables and chairs for the first cohort of children joining the brand new school. This happened on a Friday and we were opening on a Monday! What did we do? We begged, borrowed and (legally) stole and we were fine!

I once led a residential trip and we had meticulously packed everything that we thought that we would need as we were travelling with SEND pupils, some of whom had complex feeding regimes. When we arrived we unpacked and then realised that we had left behind one of the most important pieces of equipment! What were we going to do? We had to think quickly and improvise – and we managed to solve the problem and the impact on the relevant pupils was negligible. It took us longer to carry out the relevant task, but that was on us and normal service ensued.

I think that I once said to a colleague “there aren’t problems, just solutions we don’t know about yet” – which, when I said was extremely naive of me – but I’ve never shaken this belief off! I have always believed that this is the case, even when it all looks extremely bleak. We may well be living in times of relative bleakness currently – but I do believe that it’s an opportunity for growth. We are seeing collaborations and the use of technology to see an explosion of quality professional development that would not ordinarily be available to us in such plentiful amounts! We are seeing festivals and conferences that would necessitate travel and expense taking place in the comfort of our own homes. And while there is no denying that face to face is more desirable, we are beginning to reconcile that there is another way to communicate!!

In these difficult days I am learning that resourcefulness is a strategy that has to be grasped and utilised firmly. We cannot be hesitant if we want to move forward. The adage ‘if you do what you always do, you’ll get what you always got” comes to my mind – and I tell myself this when I am in transition from one job to the next, or one project to the next. As a leader, I can remember that when one of my team wanted to bring in a new approach or idea, I was always enthusiastic – because new ideas bring growth and innovation. They can equally bring failure – but the process is where the learning happens!

Resourceful Quotes & Sayings | Resourceful Picture Quotes

So – what am I saying about developing a resourceful mindset? I have a few pointers that are helping me to strengthen my resourcefulness:

  • Being open minded – use everything and anything – what I have learned is that if it pricks your interest, then there’s something there. If it comes to nothing – fine. However, it might be the chance meeting/thought/email/tweet/phone call that takes you somewhere else!
  • Self -assured – you CAN do whatever you THINK you can do! Start it! Finish it!
  • Imaginative – give it a go as anything goes! Creativity is how we find out where are limitations are – and someone is going to believe in what you are thinking if you believe in it too
  • Proactive – life gives you lemons, make lemonade!
  • Persistent – keep going…. you may be thinking that you can’t keep this going, but you can, as you maybe just about to ‘breakthrough’ – how sick would you be if you stop just as it became what you thought was too hard…
  • Hopeful – and we need lots of hope in these difficult days. I know that better days are coming and this keeps me going but it’s not easy.

I like this quote by William C. Menninger who founded the Menninger Foundation, a centre of treatment of behavioural disorders in Kansas in the early 20th century. I am mindful that we need to ensure that we – and, thinking ahead for our children – need to think about how we develop this approach in our education offer if we want well-rounded and resilient citizens. We should be re-thinking our offer to our children and young people.

TOP 9 QUOTES BY WILLIAM C. MENNINGER | A-Z Quotes

Thoughts and Musings on….

The Emotional Cycle of Change

I don’t know about you – but I am tired. I am absolutely jiggered. And I have not been in work since Monday 23rd March so naturally you may wonder what has caused my fatigue – but I have a strong suspension that you know of or may be able to empathise with my symptoms! Times of change demand so much in the way of energy – and this makes sense doesn’t it? Everything is different – what we thought we knew we now have to re-think. All of this requires energy (so it’s perfectly fine to go and get that snack/crisps/chocolate). The brain is an energy allocation machine and its been pretty busy, even if we have been physically still. If you are in school leadership then its been manic – assessing, processing, reflecting, pacifying – and that’s all in one day! No time to reflect on what is needed for your own needs – plus your family’s needs too. It’s been relentless.

I’ve always known that if you do the same things then you invariably get the same results. That’s previously been a good thing – yes? Of course it is – if you save money you will have money to spend in the future; if you eat too much you will put on weight. Actually that’s bad if that’s not your intention! But we can’t do the same things. Well – I guess we can, but with so much risk attached – to us and to others – we HAVE to amend our behaviours. This requires effort – and thus we utilise excessive energy in a way that we haven’t required to do before. The uncertainty demands another withdrawal from the emotional energy bank. It’s very easy to be overdrawn.

During lockdown I have thought a lot about what I used to do and what I will be doing in the future. This is still in progress – the benefit of time!! I’ve read a lot about change and learned that there are five hindrances to Self-Mastery according to Shaolin Masters and they are:

  • restlessness and agitation
  • aversion and ill-will
  • sensory pleasure
  • sloth and torpor
  • doubt
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A Shaolin Master – he is on the way to Self-Mastery – but I bet that he’s had some setbacks.

I think that I can safely say that these hindrances are part of my lockdown experience. All of these states are challenging our mental health and from someone who has not normally had much in the way of MH challenges – it has definitely been a struggle. I have gone from one to the other – sometimes remaining in one state for far longer than I would have wanted or even realised – but like a caterpillar metamorphosing into a butterfly, it is a creative process and the end result will be a stronger me – ready to be of service to those that need support in navigating our post Covid 19 educational landscape.

A question for you…..would you recognise when and if you needed to change? Is it the case that sometimes we know that we need to make changes but we ‘bury our heads in the sand’? What stops us from facing our fears? Lockdown has made it happen – well it has for me! I have begun to embrace change in a way that I used to think that I was ok with. It’s change that makes you feel uncomfortable, question yourself and what you believed, change that digs into the areas that you’d prefer to keep quiet, change that forces confrontation, that enables your voice to be heard. I am encouraged that in this new self dialogue that I am cultivating, that I am open to myself and others, I am kind to myself and others and I am focused in getting tasks – big or small completed to the best of my ability. Self care is key in these unprecedented times (that’s the only time I am going to use the word ‘unprecedented’).

As we collectively work our way through this new landscape – I am aware of the internal transactions taking place. As I shield at home – I contemplate whether I would have had the space – head space – to have reflected on where I am. Education – and with specific reference to school leadership – takes no prisoners! Once that train starts, hang on to your hats….. before you know where you are its half term and then as staff are looking forward to the end of term, as a leader you are juggling time available versus tasks to be completed! However – this period of enforced incarceration has been a blessing. This is a period of growth. Refining. We are jewels that just need to know that we all shine – the rubble or mud that surrounds us just needs to be placed to one side. We mustn’t let the rubble or mud define us.

Talespin Consultancy Ltd

Talespin Consultancy works with schools and organisations that want to re-purpose – looking at their values to be alive in all that they think and do across the entire community. The Spinning Tale discusses thoughts and articles that pertain to this way of thinking….

Talespin Consultancy aims to be a bridge – the bridge of rope that enables change, step by step, with belief, growth and authencity that creates a connection of energy and humanity that will form solid foundations for the future.

How do we do this?

We work in partnership with leaders, staff, pupils and parents to assist in the re-framing of the organisations visions and values post Covid 19. Priorities have very clearly changed for all – and the road to recovery is an opportunity to re-set and re-think what is important to the organisation. We listen to you and facilitate change at YOUR pace, taking into consideration your needs and wants, leaving you with a framework that you can roll out at your pace. An objective viewpoint can enable clarity and vision. We believe that everyone has something to contribute and utilising values ensures that the vision of the organisation is visible, authentic and tangible in everything that is said and done from all members.

Our blogs will give more insight into our thinking and will, no doubt, offer more questions than answers! They will lean on values based education strategies and philosophies and they will contain some personal insights and reflections.

thespinningtale is Audrey Pantelis – Director of Talespin Consultancy Ltd. My background reflects a twenty nine year career in education in secondary mainstream and Special Educational Needs and disabilities phases as teacher, middle leader, senior leader and head of school. I gained my NPQH in 2007 and am about to embark on training as a Resilient Leadership Elements consultant. I have worked in partnership with DiverseEd, HeadsUp and Visions and Values and would welcome the opportunity to connect with like minded individuals and organisations who have a desire to develop coherence in this new world of possibilities. We don’t have to do things that same way. Do leave a comment – be kind!