As an Assistant Headteacher, pastoral leader and English teacher for 14 years, I was an experienced learning designer and trainer, creating and delivering engaging resources, lessons, workshops and training sessions for students, parents, staff, and governors in everything from how to use a comma, to A Level textual analysis, tracking student progress, how to write a great UCAS application and the latest safeguarding advice and guidance.
A passionate believer in unlocking untapped potential and growing our own, I loved my work as a leader and line manager, supporting colleagues and young people to successfully navigate a wide range of opportunities and challenges both professional and personal, and I relished the opportunity to foster and develop talent, focusing particularly on building soft skills including confidence, emotional intelligence, strategic thinking and problem solving. I considered the progress and development of my teams, and my students, among my greatest achievements.
Four years ago, I returned to school after my first maternity leave and, in preparation for a new whole school pastoral role, I met with the school counsellor and asked her if there was a common thread to the issues that she dealt with. Her answer was simple: a lack of resilience.
That one conversation changed both my thinking and my next steps.
I immersed myself in research around resilience, learning about programmes in place both in this country and abroad, and the practical strategies that had real impact: mindfulness, self-care, and collaboration with all stakeholders. What struck me most was that in so much of our work, we were proactive, forward thinking, planning for months in advance for future events. But when it came to developing and supporting people, we were often far more reactive – a problem arose and we found the best way to reach the best outcome for each individual situation, often working time and time again on the same problem in different contexts. And when it came to actively addressing self-development and self-care, our work existed only in certain lessons, or targeted towards certain year groups or individuals.
What if we started sharing the tools and strategies for coping with challenging situations with everyone, not just those in the midst of sometimes overwhelming difficulties?
What if we created regular opportunities for self-development that would lead to improved performance?
What if we encouraged and recognised those who were demonstrating the skills that foster resilience and wellbeing?
What if we worked collaboratively, at an organisational level, to change mindsets and create a more positive ethos and culture?
We needed a different approach.
We needed to actively invest in prevention rather than having to invest in cures.
We needed an approach that blended our day to day business needs with the needs of all of our people.
We needed to make time for putting people first – there would always be a deadline to meet, a report to finish or a meeting to attend, but to support and develop our people, we needed to put them and their wellbeing at the centre of our business agenda.
Over the next year, and in the years that followed, I led my team to introduce and establish a school-wide programme focused on resilience and emotional wellbeing, making it part of our day-to-day language and experience.
Fast forward 4 years from that seismic shift in thinking and that very favourite part of my work is now all of my work and the focus of my entire business. I want to use my knowledge and experience as a leader, a learning designer and trainer, a coach, a colleague and a passionate believer in putting people first to facilitate positive change in you, your team, your leaders, your school or your workplace: building resilience.