This week I’ve looked back over posts I’ve enjoyed in recent months. The world of blogging moves fast, so for the benefit of those who might have missed them, here are four favourites.
Chris Chivers reflects on the place of the senses in the way we experience the world, and how important it is that we encourage children properly “to look, to listen, to feel”. He recounts his own experiences, his acute observations of his environment and his underpinning knowledge and understanding of it, and he recognises that his senses of smell and taste are diminishing with age. Teachers have the capacity to protect children from a different kind of sensory deprivation. I found this an uplifting and affirming post, and loved its final call to action: “Sometimes, there is no substitute for real experience. Put on a coat and go and find out.”
Mary Myatt talks of the principle of “humans first, professionals second” and suggests that, when organisations operate in this way, people are more receptive to, and less threatened by, accountability “because they want to do their best work and know that any aspect of their practice can be critiqued because it is not an attack on them as a human being”. She cites Kim Scott, who talks of the difference between “guidance” and “feedback”: “The single most important thing a boss can do is focus on guidance: giving it, receiving it and encouraging it. Guidance, which is fundamentally just praise and criticism, is usually called ‘feedback’, but feedback is screechy and makes us want to put our hands over our ears. Guidance is something most of us long for.”
Mary Myatt’s exploration of core values and positive relationships underpinning professional practice connects with my next choice, from Kev Bartle. He describes using the word “undergird” in a senior team discussion of how best to support staff, and explains how the principle of “undergirding”, with its connotations of strengthening foundations, bolstering or buttressing in a fundamental way, can “challenge us to get the foundations of staff happiness right, not tinker with the peripheral elements: deal with underlying causes and not merely the symptoms”.
However, he argues that we need to pay attention to symptoms too. He describes some of the pressures he has experienced during his time as a head, and the support needs that we all have. He connects this to his involvement with the Education Support Partnership, suggesting that both giving and receiving support is crucial for our effectiveness and healthy balance.
Julia Steward reflects on the #teacher5aday initiative and its success in raising awareness of the importance of giving priority to our own well-being. She links this to the New Education Framework’s emphasis on the value of connecting, being active, taking notice, keeping learning and giving.
Steward suggests that, in addition to these areas of focus, we need to think about the importance of sleep. Its restorative power is something to which we do not pay sufficient attention, and she connects this to her own experience: “As I became more tired last term, my resolve to continue my 5-a-day pledges weakened. Developing new habits means over-writing old ones, but like when you re-save something on your computer, the old version doesn’t go away. It’s just hidden. When I’m tired it’s easy to slip back into unhelpful habits.”
She taps into personal experiences, her reading and reflections and offers some practical advice. “We all need positive feedback. In leadership sometimes we have to give it to ourselves.”