Gratitude - a prayer for humans | 01.01.23
How do you wear yours? | 11.11.22
A few years ago I stepped in as an interim headteacher in the October half-term. Two weeks later, it was Remembrance Day. There was an assembly already planned, and it was led beautifully and with grace by the PSHE lead. He used the resources provided by the British Legion.
If you can talk about the white poppy with a spirit of curiosity and inquiry then there is little room for offence I think. We Quakers are all about how we do things, and how we live our life. We definitely do not seek to impose views. However, we do ask lots of questions. How will I wear my white poppy? Peacefully.
Viable | 6.10.22
Being a Senco is essentially impossible. There are too many things to do, too many stakeholders to please, and too many variables to navigate. You are dependent on so many other people as well for things that you are ultimately accountable for. And you also often (not always but often) have to pipe to a tune that does not allow you to sing your own true song - by which I mean a headteacher or a governing/trust board that does not have the knowledge and depth of understanding of what a truly inclusive setting might look like. There are structures that you have to function within (like a behaviour policy) that can be constrictive or diametrically opposed to what you are striving to achieve.
I have no silver bullet. But I think that one thing that is essential in staying alive as a Senco is systems - and viable systems at that. Stafford Beer developed the viable systems model and, whilst I do not precisely mean that in this context (although if only more school governance people knew about the VSM!), thinking about 'hands free' systems will keep your head above water.
One example could be record keeping by those delivering interventions. If an LSA has to find you for a copy of a template - then it's not a viable system. If a teacher as to ask you about where to find the equipment every two weeks because it keeps getting lost - then it's not a viable system. If you have to check in on a pupil every other day because their support is erratic - then it's not a viable system. If the nurture club that you have set up requires your regular attention because no one is in place to provide cover, and no one has the wherewithal to sort it when someone is off - then it's not a viable system.
Think of it like getting a family meal ready. If you are the meal-maker, you can only sit down and eat with everyone if - the sauces are there, there's water on the table, the cutlery is ready, the food is out of the oven. If not, you (or someone else) will constantly be jumping up out of your seat and that which should have been synched - eating and conversation - is disrupted. Now, if you can also train your children, or your other half, or have it as part of your culture that everyone is responsible for responding to a need (e.g. more water in the jug) then you are really talking. And if your fellow diners adapt and evolve over time, responding appropriately to things as they arise (the holy grail of parenting and senco-ing perhaps) then you are actually looking at something very viable indeed.
So, planning in advance, enabling initiative and setting things up properly in a way that does not require you to be present are what will keep you swimming. They are choppy waters out there. You need all the help you can get.
Taper | 24.8.22
The summer holidays are deceptive. Those of us that work in the more operational side of schools have a lot of work to do in July and August. Whilst there might be a different energy about the place, schools are beehives of activity in the summer. It is very difficult to get things done when children are in the way and so the end of July sees many things swing into action. The painters move in, often immediately, and it can be a race against time to finish things in time for end of August INSETs and classroom set-ups.
Alongside the busy-ness of the summer where I have been liaising with contractors, re-writing entire policy toolkits and laying the groundwork for a refreshed distributed leadership model for the Trust, I have also been building up to (another) marathon. This time it is the Dunstable Challenge which apparently holds in store for me 5750 ft of elevation. To put that in context, the London Marathon has about 120 ft in it.
Training for a marathon is a funny old thing. You can't actually do the thing you are training for, because it would break you. So you do all sorts of things that aren't the marathon at all. I'm (kind of) grateful for Alton Water which is a slightly mad, hilly 8 mile circular dash. That has been keeping me occupied amongst some hill repeats elsewhere and some lovely long slow runs to different train stations where I then catch the train back home.
As we near the start of term, and the marathon, I am having to slow down. In running terms, this is called a taper. As you get closer to the race, you actually start doing less. It's pretty counter-intuitive, especially for someone who gets twitchy if they don't run or work for more than about 24 hours.
However, it is foolish to push yourself when you are about to launch into the thing you have been waiting for and preparing for, which for us school types, is that thing called the autumn term. It's long, it's challenging, the days get darker and the commitments tend to stack up as you get to Christmas.
I recommend a complete taper as you turn your attention to the start of term. It is absolutely right and correct to take complete rest. If you are teaching for the first time, trust me - a few days off will be exactly what you need.
Furthermore, don't burn out too early. Inexperienced runners (me) go too fast at the start of long races. Slow down, even if it feels mad. This is, after all, a marathon, not a sprint.