Over the summer, I was contacted by Remi, an ex-pupil who wanted to tell me some good news. Before I share what it was, let me tell you about him (he knows that I will be doing this). He was a pupil at my last school who I felt had great potential, not because he immediately demonstrated significant aptitude, but because he was determined to make the most of the opportunities he encountered. He faced challenges along the way: he struggled with areas of his learning and with some relationships. He will forgive me for mentioning how indecipherable his handwriting sometimes was! I remember an occasion when he was upset about an issue with a boy in his year group and I chatted to him in my office about how the situation could be improved. What stood out was how intently he listened to the advice I gave and then how he tried to act upon it. The same can be said of the way he responded to advice I gave when he wrote history essays when I taught him in Y8: he always considered the teaching points given in lessons and comments made in previous essays I had marked which resulted in great progress.
Remi has contacted me three times since moving to senior school and has cited something I used to challenge boys to aspire to do: to ‘set the bar high’. The second time he contacted me, he mentioned his aspiration to join the diplomatic service. The good news he wished to share, in his most recent email, was the fantastic results he achieved in the International Baccalaureate in Year 13, scoring 43 out of a possible 45 points. He is off to university to study Politics and International Studies, no doubt to pave the way to an interesting career.
As a teacher and Head, it is a great privilege to be able to support the development of young learners. As part of helping me to do this, I seek out as many opportunities as possible to learn myself. One pleasure I particularly enjoy over the summer is reading. My diet is varied. It includes some books designed to challenge me personally and professionally.
Andy Buck’s ‘Leadership Matters’ made me reflect further on my role as ‘coach’ to those within my sphere of responsibility, be it pupils, staff or parents, or for that matter, to others who I know within my personal life. As with the ex-pupil referred to in this blog, you can never be sure of the impact of advice and support you might give, unless you receive feedback over time. It is humbling and motivating when you know it has had a positive impact. Reading ‘Leadership Matters’ has also made me consider approaching one or two coaches, from outside the world of education, to develop and challenge my leadership skills set further.
I would thoroughly recommend reading another book I read over the summer: ‘Grit’ by Angela Duckworth, a book I believe was recommended to me by a BPS parent. Duckworth identifies four psychological assets that underpin success in life:
- Interest: identifying, over time, what it is you are passionate about and what you intrinsically enjoy doing, with the acceptance that every area of life and work has less enjoyable aspects.
- Practice: devoting yourself to the sort of ‘focused, full-hearted, challenge-exceeding-skill practice that leads to mastery’.
- Purpose: having the conviction that what you are doing matters not just to yourself, but is ‘integrally connected to the well-being of others’.
- Hope: Hope inspires someone to ‘keep going even when things are difficult, even when we have doubts’.
I am sure that Remi will be well served by the grit he has shown through his schooling which will, no doubt, bring him riches and rewards, as an adult, on his life journey. I will look forward to following this journey and feel a certain sense of reward that, in a small way, I have provided him with some sign posts.