This evening I had an urge to write. Since starting writing I get this from time to time. I always have a purpose and it nearly always tends to be something I have a) been commissioned to write or b) something that has bothered me. I do get bothered. A lot. Part and parcel for having a passion for, and a belief in what you do.
So this evening it was niggling me that I wanted to write, but I didn’t know what I wanted to write.
This directed me to a period of reflection. It’s Friday – I can afford do that! Oddly I nearly always write on a Friday evening. I reflected on the time since the start of term and over the last year, and all the new things that were happening for me and how they were helping me to develop leadership skills.
I have started a new position as Head of EYFS at Victoria Academies Trust. After teaching with the Trust for a few years now and moving from middle into senior leadership this was an amazing opportunity for me to pursue a leadership role around what drives me: early childhood education. I am surrounded by a wealth of great leaders at VAT, so have been very lucky to observe and learn from different leadership styles all within our shared common values, FIDES ( FIDES was the ancient Roman goddess of trust, faith and honesty). Each letter of FIDES stands for it’s own unique value and we all live and work within these embedded values, children and adult alike. Strong values and role-models within in the VAT ‘family’ are really helping me to develop my own leadership style and act as a safety net from what might otherwise be a bewildering period.
As a new senior leader with a set of values I believe in, I have also been privileged to be involved with some other brilliant professionals which has helped to shape my views on leadership. I have been involved with WomenEd for a couple of years which has been nothing short of inspirational, particularly in respect to the 10% Braver mantra. I have listened to the stories of other women leaders who have taken this path and cherry-picked from them ideas or strategies that I similarly believe in. You can hear Hannah Wilson, co-founder, talk about WomenEd here on this Teacher Toolkit podcast. As such, innovation is something I have developed a deep interest in and respect for.
Networking is one of the key crucial lessons I have learned about leadership through VAT and WomenEd. I had picked up Twitter through my work with the Trust and WomenEd introduced me to networking at a wider level. It was exactly this that led me to 6 really talented people within the early childhood education field. We united in our passion of early years over a flurry of messages on the back of what we felt were some rather spurious developments in the sector. Within months Firm Foundations was born and we held our first conference in April 2018. It really brought home to me what can be achieved with joint passion and values; another valuable lesson in leadership.
So onto my first few weeks in my new role. I have had to learn a new style of organisation.Working in different schools means organising myself and my time does not just impact on me anymore, it impacts on all the colleagues I am working with each day. I work with senior leaders, middle leaders, teachers, NQT’s and trainee teachers through our SCITT, CETT (Central England Teacher Training). If I am to become a role model for others and ‘pay it forward’ (the ‘D’ in FIDES is ‘Do good as you go’) I need to be prepared on a whole new level! I have had to let go of my beloved traditional diary which was just for me, and use technology often new to me to organise and share my time. I have had to start thinking really hard about the impact of what I am doing with colleagues which is very different to thinking about the impact I was having on childrens’ learning.
How to best use the time I have with colleagues for the most impact is very different from person to person and I am learning as I go along what works best and when. I am trying to juggle the work-life balance as ever and am learning to avoid procrastination as much as possible so that every minute of time I spend on tasks when I’m in schools means less to do at home. I do wish I had tried this 10 year ago…but as much as I am learning to adapt to new ways of working I am also conscious that I don’t want to fundamentally change who I am because who I am has served me well so far.
All of this will become even more important next month as I embark on a masters degree in education through the Centre for Research in Early Childhood – another new beginning. Somebody commented to me recently on hearing this, ‘You don’t do simple do you?!”. Well no, I don’t suppose I do. I have 4 children, the eldest of whom is starting university himself this month and the youngest of whom has just started Year 1. My organisational skills are going to have find a whole new level for this one! But I have wanted to do this for so long, and after some thought I decided go ‘10% Braver’ to try to develop a deeper understanding of the very subject that makes me want to get out of bed every day and inspire others.
I suppose I understand now why I wanted to write this evening. The reflection has been therapeutic and has helped me to organise my thinking about leadership and life. It has helped me to focus on what skills I need to further develop and how lucky I am to be in a position to do that. How lucky I am to be able to pursue what I love.
Here’s to new beginnings.