Wednesday, 1 January 2014

#Nurture 1314: Pace, challenge and progress

Being a bit of a twitter novice, I was fairly bemused and intrigued by the concept of #nurture1314 posts. I suspected that they might read like the Christmas round-robin letters, boasting achievements of remote family members. Or perhaps share unrealistic and overly personal Bridget Jones-esque New Year resolutions. However, after reading some I've become convinced that it's a valid concept for honest reflection and thoughtfulness, rather than a platform for self-promotion or schadenfreude.

Forcing myself to list 13 highlights/achievements from 2013 has been a worthwhile task. It's been a hectic year and the frenzied blur makes it difficult to recognise the significant milestones and events. I'm not a bucket-list kind of person and my life seems fairly routine and mundane to most; I don't have marathons, mountain climbing or exotic holidays to share from the year. However the process has made me realise was a challenging and significant year it has been for me, both personally and professionally. Taking stock and looking forward has provided me with some clarity and focus for the year ahead. Publishing my modest ambitions publicly may make them them more likely to happen, and may just inform and shape others' aims, as other #nurture1314 posts have done for me...

Having been the victim of Bridget-style goals in the past and being frustrated and disappointed with myself for not achieving them, this year I'm going to go easy on my self and commit to do more of the things that matter and less of the things that don't, rather than setting myself overly-ambitious targets to add further pressure or expectation.

My 2013 highlights and aims for 2014:

1. Juggling various roles: I returned from maternity leave in January 2013 to take on Acting Head of English in addition to my Assistant Principal responsibilties for the remainder of the academic year. Looking back now I can't quite believe how I survived those two terms with two small children. I also can't believe that I used my time in post to redesign the KS3 curriculum, refurbish the department and embed a new GCSE specification. I am very proud of the summer exam results, the improvements that I instigated during my tenure and in how I have helped the new HOD to settle into post. I'm looking forward to being able to concentrate on my senior leadership role in 2014; being MORE strategic and proactive.

2. Surviving Ofsted: Having spent the previous 18 months in waiting, we received 'the call' the first Tuesday back after October half term. My 'bring it on' optimism was slightly thwarted by the event; I'm afraid that it wasn't quite the positive and self-affirming two days that others seem to have experienced, but even though I have severe doubts about the credibility and value of the process and the judgements reached, it made me learn a huge about myself. My 'emotional maturity and reliance' leadership competency was well and truly tested by the inspection. I am going to spend LESS time and energy worrying about others' judgements and have MORE confidence and conviction in doing what I know to be the right thing. 

3. Filming myself teaching: Spurred on by @BMS_MrHarrold I put our new IRIS equipment to use and sharing my video with colleagues to role-model reflective practice was far less painful than I anticipated and has prompted others to to the same. I will make MORE use of IRIS to develop my own practice and embed as a CPD tool to support colleagues' development. 

4. Becoming an SLE: Without having any time or money attached to the role it felt like a slightly strange application process but it was nevertheless a challenging one. I'm looking forward to being involved in MORE school-to-school support in the coming months. 

5. Prioritising my own professional development: Being ultra busy and responsible for everyone else's CPD, I'm glad that I embarked on the NPQSL course for my own career progression in 2013. The face-to-face days, networking opportunities, readings and school-development projects have helped me to grow as a leader. I must dedicate MORE time to writing up my assessments in order to meet my submission deadline and successfully complete the course.

6. Visiting other schools: I organised an 'Observing Excellent Practice' training day in October in which all teachers spent the day at other secondary school. Co-ordinating 66 visits was no mean feat but I'm proud of pulling it off and have been gratified by colleagues' enthusiastic feedback from the day. My own day spent at Holland Park School with my Principal was truly inspirational and has sparked lots of school improvement ideas. I was equally inspired by the the Pedagogy Leaders day that I attended with a PE teacher colleague at Canons High School and have been motivated to introduce a similar bottom-up CPD structure and Teaching and Learning blog in my own school. I want use to be even MORE outward-looking in 2014; sharing with and learning from other successful schools rather than beavering away trying to solve problems in isolation. 

7. Participating in #SLT camp and Teachmeet: As noted in previous blog posts, attending the inaugural #SLTCamp was a big professional highlight of 2013. I really enjoyed and benefited from the format of this unique grass-roots CPD event and want to be even MORE involved in this kind of collaborative professional development next year, starting with the co-planning of Cambridge's first #SLTeachmeet on 7th March at the Faculty of Education. 

8. Instigating whole school practitioner research: With long-standing links and relationships with Cambridge University and a Masters in Educational research, it's been my goal from some time to create and establish a genuine research culture in schools. Having led small-scale research projects with individual teachers in the past I was aware of the potential that it has for enhancing teaching and learning so I was really pleased to be in a position in which all colleagues are engaged with a Teaching Excellence Project in order to reflect on and improve an aspect of their own practice. Introducing such an expectation, whole school, has not been without its challenges and teething issues, but I'm confident that it will be a useful means to getting all colleagues to take ownership of their own pedagogical developments by giving them time for 'systematic tinkering'. I'm also excited about the opportunities that our involvement with research and development projects through our Teaching Alliance will bring. Next year brings the challenge of being giving colleagues MORE autonomy and trust to lead their own professional development; moving away from a one-size-fits-all CPD and meeting structure. 

9. Becoming responsible for Performance Management: Taking over the appraisal process has been an interesting and intense experience; especially during the busiest part of the PM cycle. Meeting solo with an Ofsted inspector to explain our quality assurance and monitoring processes two months into this new role added an extra dimension of challenge and helped me to evaluate what works and what could be improved further. I'm going to spend time in the new year exploring how we can make MORE use of Blue Sky to provide a one-stop-shop for all PM and CPD processes and I want to start to properly audit support staff appraisal and professional development opportunities. 

10. Developing distributed leadership: I have enjoyed watching colleagues flourish in middle leadership and emerging leadership roles over the last year. Seeing the outcomes of the Developing Leaders Programme, a middle leadership course that I planned in partnership with a colleague and the Eastern Leadership Centre, has been really rewarding. Introducing a Futures Group and leading the Behaviour Working party to consult and inform school policy and strategy has been an enjoyable experience. I want to delegate MORE responsibility to colleagues and be able to step back from the immediate leadership of initiatives.

11. Being a good mum: Being a full time working mum with two children under the age of four has been tough this year. In addition to the exhaustion and challenges of balancing home and work commitments has been the added guilt, pressure and expectation that I have put upon myself. I need to spend LESS time worrying that I'm not a good enough Mum and have MORE acceptance of myself and the unique conjugal roles that we have in our household. Granted, I need to spend MORE quality time with my family, but I also need to spend LESS emotional energy beating myself up about the things that I don't do as a working mum and comparing myself to families with other arrangements. 

12. Heath and well being: Inspired by John TomsettI established a staff well being consultation at school this year and have worked hard to make changes to school life to respond to staff requests in the interests of well being, including better meeting refreshments, reviewing the communications policy, subsidised treatments and training day activities. In 2014 I need to pay MORE attention to my own health and well being; this postcard pretty much sums up what this should involve...

13. Enjoying the ride: Some of the best moments of 2013 have been times when I have stopped and allowed myself to be happy and count my blessings, rather than continually worrying about what needs to be better/improved. My most important goal for 2014, counting as 13 and 14 combined, is to give myself permission to rest and be: to relax more, make more time to do the things that I enjoy and get a better perspective on my life and what matters to me.