School Leadership Consistency – resignation or resilience?

resilienceHow do you maintain emotional resilience as an educational leader? 

I guess we all have days where it seems everything is going our way and then suddenly WHAM! we seem to be dealing with one problem after the other.  There’s a big difference isn’t there between a consistently motivated school team and a range of good outcomes that inject momentary bursts of joy.  

Many school leaders I am working with seem to be coming across the same issues again and again.  Behaviour, teaching and learning challenges, staff not stepping up, the need to check the quality of staff performance and that huge workload that seems never ending.  And of course all these challenges affect what it’s all about: quality of teaching.

How do some school leaders maintain a state of positivity and not others?  How do you remain optimistic about the future when there are so many challenges in the present?  And that’s without even looking at longer-term school improvements, what about if you are just about managing to cope with the day to day?!

I suggest there is a regular practice to notice when you are moving from a motivated, purposeful state into a state of ‘not again’, ‘this shouldn’t have happen’, ‘this or they should have of improved by now’ and sometimes the most damning one ‘I should have known or seen it coming’.   

This reminds me of what I experienced a while back when I was doing my volunteer role as a community youth panellist.  I was talking to someone after a particularly challenging panel and they were complaining about young people, how some are beyond help, trapped into bad behaviour, there is no helping some young people etc.  At the time I thought I’m not sure what to do here.  Do I collude with them, go into panel already convinced that it’s a foregone conclusion – that it has been too many times I’ve heard the same things?  Is it too many times I’ve seen the same bad behaviour, lack of self responsibility, lack of consequential thinking?

The thing is though, who decides how many times is too many?  Yes it may be frustrating, sad, tragic even – but how do I – or indeed how does anyone else know what is ‘too many’?  Second chance, how about 200th?

And what’s the alternative?  Don’t bother?  Right them off?  

The thing that really got me here is, even if I’m sad and disappointed that I see the same things a lot – would I really not want to have a go one more time? 

If I’m in resignation when I walk into that room – the way I see it, I would be totally doing any young person I see a disservice.  How can I possibly encourage them to be positive, want to change to their lives and move on if what they get from me is resignation and defeat? 

What’s the alternative?  For me I would not want to be in that room if I ever went in there not willing to reach out, not willing to stretch myself to support them.  I always will look for the light in them and give any young person another chance AGAIN and AGAIN.    That’s what I want them to see, that’s the attitude I want them to be inspired by.  Because actually that attitude supports me too.

One more time and practice, practice.  I’d much rather see leaders in school role modelling resilience than resignation. 

Thoughts or feedback?  Do comment and let me know…

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