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If You Can Keep Your Head

Keep Your Head
Keep Your Head

Keep Your Head (Image:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on the child,
If you can give confidence to children and staff when all doubt them,
Make provision for their needs to ensure they achieve;
If you persevere and forge partnerships and not be tired by waiting:
If you can support your colleagues and establish teaching provision to meet their needs
Yet not lose patience when time and resources are unpredictable,
If you can prioritise and organise demands from many
Remaining unwearied and positive;
If you can lead by example and show consistently excellent teaching,
Remaining focused on achievement and exciting learning
Yours is the Earth and the power to make a difference,
And-what is more– you’ll be our School Improvement Adviser for SEND my friend!

I came across the above job ad (not the picture) on the website. A different time and a different place, I might have applied for it. Why? Because it says so much about the vision and values of the organisation who wrote (or commissioned) the ad. Clearly a job interview would confirm my initial feelings about the prospective employer but, if this is integral with their mission and purpose, they must be an exciting organisation to work for.

What is your school or setting like as a workplace? Does it buzz with the excitement of purpose – or is it burdened with just trying to tick boxes and look good in the eyes of inspectors? Is there a clear vision or goal? Do its values underpin everything that happens there? Is there a clear sense of mission and purpose – or is it just existing to serve the purposes of those who should know better but probably don’t?

I want to be part of something that is much bigger than the organisation I serve – part of an exciting vision to change things for the better for children. That’s what inspires the large majority of the teaching profession – that’s what makes them get out of bed every morning and want to go to work.

That’s what made me wish I was in a position to apply for this job…

It’s not about making a point but about making a difference

Success Ladder
Success Ladder


When I first started climbing the primary school leadership ladder – first as an Early Years Leader then as a Deputy Head – I thought I had a point to make, namely, I thought I knew how to do the job, that I could do it better than some others I saw doing it and – and I wanted to prove it. I loved teaching but I also loved being in a position of influence – orchestrating and making things happen.

I eventually succeeded to headship but, along the way, I’m glad to say I learned some very important lessons about why I did what I did.

To start with, leaders aren’t there to make a point: they’re there to ‘know the way and show the way’ – to lead by example.

Secondly, leaders aren’t there to be served but to serve. I discovered that the more I tried to help people do their job better, the more I enjoyed my job.

Thirdly, leaders don’t know all the answers – I had to rely on people more qualified than I, more skilled than I and more knowledgeable than I. It was  a humbling lesson but it probably saved me from burnout and abject failure (although failure is not such a bad thing – the most successful people on Earth learnt their best lessons from their worst failures).

Finally, leaders delegate. There was no way on this planet I was going to be able to achieve all that was expected of me. I had to ask others to take on some of the roles. And I had to allow them to do things their way – not to interfere at every stage or to tell them how to do things (unless they asked or it was obviously necessary for me to intervene). I had to learn to ‘only do what only you can do’.

All of this made me realise that, as a leader, I was there to make a difference. Making a point was way down the list. In fact, making a point needn’t be on my list at all – it didn’t fit; it wasn’t appropriate.

And, actually, it’s a whole lot more satisfying to know that you’ve made a difference than to have the gratification that you’ve made your point…