Liberty to lead

At the end of 2017 I found myself looking at the Statue of Liberty. Such an iconic monument on a grey day which stood brightly shining a torch for freedom and democracy. It made me think about my place and role in education. I have the liberty to lead but at the start of 2017 I wasn't making use of that liberty.  A change of role and a change of school means I am ending 2017 helping to create a new school with liberty and democracy as part of our school community entitlement. Starting a new job can be filled with days of self doubt yet using values to help make leadership decisions has been enlightening. A values based secondary school - liberty to lead in a new way is a freedom I am learning about. 

The Statue of Liberty enlightening the world. The gift from the French reminds us of the Enlightenment ideals (the belief that people have natural rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness). At the start of 2017 I was a school leader implementing systems which were not making students very happy. I was concerned about their mental wellbeing and I did not feel I had the liberty to change the system. 


Facing the impending ratings from OFSTED had changed the systems in my leadership environment to build an academic machine. The clear message was to toe the line or be trampled by the system. Being part of WomenEd had given me a community of school leaders to talk to about different school leadership roles, environments and courageous leaders who were looking at building school where students were flourishing. A network I could contact and talk to that were non judgemental, supportive and helpful. Free coaching was exactly what I needed to place me in a position to be outward looking. 2017 started with the promise of finding a role with liberty to lead a school for students to be happy.

Starting a new role can be challenging. A power pose really does seem to release much a can do state of mind when needed. Being part of a team with a can do attitude is a liberating way to lead in education. This girl can make a stand and question educational tradition. If we build a new school following the academic and pastoral systems which have been in play for decades, or even a century, then there will be no change to society. Being a pioneering leader in our new school brings responsibility, liberty and democracy. There is a freedom and a need to say when we disagree with systems. Educating the whole child and considering their wellbeing is essential for them to grow into well rounded citizens of planet earth. 

Looking at skyscrapers from the top of the rock gives a different perspective at day and night. During the day the tallest stand out. At night the brightest and most intricate call for our attention. Schools, academy chains and leaders are all like skyscrapers vying for attention. When I was looking for a new school, a new role and a new challenge there were the big chains, the bright outstanding schools and schools with intricate stories of success as well as failure. Looking at job descriptions from different viewpoints helped me decide where to apply. 

2017 started reading #teacher5aday blogs and tweets wondering how these leaders managed to get wellbeing into the fibre of their school offer. Looking at art in the Guggenheim made me giggle. Laughter is a great way to connect and to notice how others are coping at work. I am ending 2017 being able to laugh again. I hurt my foot in September and after struggling with trainers I gave in. Bouncy Air soles and pink DMs have helped me walk the new corridors with a sense of humour intact. Black shoes to pink ones - 2017 has become colourful again. Wellbeing is a decision for each of us to consider. Oxford University outreach once said to a group of students "how hard could you work if you knew you had a holiday every 6 weeks?" Well that has been my mantra since September. It's not ideal but 2018 can take another look. 2017 is ending with 30 minutes of mindfulness every day with y7s and has been a welcome addition to my working day. 

After visiting the United Nations and seeing how disgusted my daughter was with 2030 being the date for gender equality, I am looking forward to my next WomenEd regional event. 2017 sees me in a STEAM school where all students get to see different future roles for themselves. In 2018 I need to make sure that all students see how they can be leaders and make a difference to the world they wish to inherit. They have liberty and democracy to create a fairer world. I have the liberty to lead and to help them make a difference.