Accentuate the positive

One evening early last week I was sitting in my arm chair at home chatting with my wife about the day that I had experienced. After I had been speaking for a while, she responded along the lines that I had just spent the previous 15 minutes moaning about one thing or another. The reality was that none of the things I had been talking about was significant, indeed four days on I cannot even recall what they were. This got me thinking. I am sure that many, many people find themselves in a similar position on a regular basis. However, it made me reflect instead on what a great job I have and how much I do actually enjoy it all. As a result, I vowed to be much more positive for the rest of the week and to moan much less. Those of us fortunate enough to work in schools have so much to be positive about. In particular, the opportunity to work with such great students and colleagues.
About a year ago, I started this blog and signed up for Twitter. Reflecting back over the past year and all the people I follow, I am struck that despite them being a very diverse set of characters the one thing that they have in common is that they are excited by the process of education and finding ways of creatively teaching and managing their pupils. All through each day links are posted by people keen to share good practice, keen to share the fantastic blogs of their pupils or just simply to share in their successes. All this is just so positive.
It is easy for all of us to find things to complain about. We all get tired and have difficult issues to deal with on occasions but at heart working in a school gives us so many opportunities to work with inspiring people, to work with talented youngsters and to learn from each other. This is what I have learnt from reading the blogs and tweets of others – there is so much for us all to be proud of in what is going on in our schools. The willingness of fellow professionals to share good practice and examples of great ideas with each other shows how much can be achieved if we accentuate the positive. Being part of this worldwide network of educators has taught me a great deal and it is good to see more and more of our staff getting involved in blogging and on twitter as I am sure that they too will experience this positivity at work. Our pupils too are enjoying their blogging and love receiving comments from others on their work.
I think too that there are lessons for all in education to learn from this approach. Blog writers tend to focus on solutions to problems rather than the problems themselves. Little is to be gained by spending time just going over what has gone wrong in any situation but a great deal can be achieved by concentrating on how to make things better. So in the past few days I have tried to look at all the positives that we should be proud of at this time. I realise how lucky I am to be Headmaster of such a good school and in my role I am lucky enough to hear so much about success in so many areas. I am delighted that more of my colleagues are starting to blog, another way for the School community to share good ideas and innovative practice. Involvement in these areas means we can play our part in the wider educational community and thus as well as sharing we are learning. As someone said on twitter earlier today, if we want to promote lifelong learning we have to keep learning ourselves.
I have been meeting with parents in recent days as part of our entrance process for next year. Almost without exception I am told that the main reason for selecting our school is its reputation. I am delighted that they want their sons to join us. It confirms that people have such a positive view of our school, this is confirmed by the parental surveys we regularly undertake. We should be proud of this and continue to accentuate the positive rather than dwell on any negatives. Each problem is an opportunity for us to learn and grow and this mind-set is so much more productive than being on a spiral of negativity. We must celebrate all that is good about education as much as we possibly can. Naïve perhaps but how much better this is than spending so much of our energy concentrating on concerns.

Trust and Pride

Over the course of the past week we have had the first of the two stages of our school inspection. The results do not get reported back in full until after the inspectors have returned in February but I wanted to use this blog post to reflect back on the past week and in particular on how I have felt as it has progressed.
As the Head of a school you are very much aware of the responsibility that an inspection places on you. The Independent Schools regulations have some 400 or so requirements and many of these have various sub-sections as well. Over the past 18 months we have worked incredibly hard to check that all is in order. What has struck me most though with all this is how much of a team effort this has been and despite the complication of many of the regulations and the fact that not all of them are as clearly expressed as they might be we have had to work together to ensure that all has been in place. As Head the final responsibility lies with me but I certainly have had to trust those around me who have worked so hard to satisfy all the complexities of this regulation. Certainly I am sure that we will all welcome it if the government’s ‘bonfire of the regulations’ ever occurs!
As I wandered around the School the day before the inspection the sense of anticipation was noticeable. I was left with a huge feeling of pride with how all of the staff of the School were pulling together. Many were wishing me good luck with it all but above all each and every person I saw was doing all that they could to impress our visitors. All of these different contributions matter but above all else I was proud of the spirit that people were showing and their determination that we would get the report which we all believe we deserve.
This sense of pride was increased further when seeing various groups of pupils talking to our inspectors. They too were taking pride in their school and wanting to do all they could to impress. The same applied to those boys whose work was scrutinised; so many tidy files and again another cog in the wheel had been put in place. Parents too play their part by filling in the parental questionnaire and all pupils too have the opportunity to fill one in. All of this collective effort, none of it directly managed, but all of which leaves me with a huge sense of pride.
Then, the other really important feeling I have felt this week has been one of trust. As the Headmaster, I could rush around trying to tell everyone what to do and how to behave but this I believe would have been very counter-productive. I am surrounded by excellent teachers, impressive boys and a very supportive set of parents. Once the inspection started I have to stand back and trust them all to do what in effect they do every day of the week, every day of the year. This is not a time for micro-managing or panic but an opportunity for us to share with a wider audience what goes on all year round.
We receive our final report after the second visit of the inspectors next month. We have planned, prepared and without doubt all done our best. I am proud of all those staff (teaching and support), boys and parents who have played their part and have enjoyed just trusting people to do what I know that they are capable of. I look forward to finding out what our visitors think of it all but any powerful community like a school is should thrive on these qualities of working hard, trusting each other and taking a pride in what they achieve and this has certainly been my experience this week.