Despite rough seas, the occasional bleak landscape and, on more than a few occasions this year, icy stares across the kitchen table, 2016 has gone pretty well.
The over-riding learning has been recognising that, not only can I not do it all, that I don’t want to do it all, not only can I not do it alone, I similarly don’t want to! Collaboration at home and at work have been the big themes of the year and learning to collaborate as a perfectionist has been hard but felt like the good stuff.
Looking back on 2016 then…
1. The team at Steiner Academy Bristol continued to flourish. In great big dollops of glorious colour they made themselves across the canvas in ways that were ever more spectacular than I could have hoped for. This year I really felt that, as a Principal, I weathered unimaginable storms. The second full year in the life of a brand a new school was always going to be a tough one and my epiphany came in the local park (not in the staff room).
A member of staff had just told me she was moving away from Bristol and her news came third in a line of unfortunate and difficult resignations. I held myself together during her resignation (just) but then, as tears streamed down my face during an AWOL 30 minutes in the park, I said aloud, (in front of a depressing wintry ice cream van) I can’t do this on my own. Gosh – thank goodness I realised that. Since then I have been wide open to fallibility, failure and unknowing and this (much like travelling the road less travelled) has made all the difference.
2. Not being a good mum featured big this year. I have felt the guilt of not being there for my son when trying to put in the endless hours required of being the Principal of a new school. I have realised that the attempt to do it all is ridiculous and this realisation has forced me to work out what I need to do for the health of my family and for the health of my soul. It turns out that I love work and yet I feel a selfishness about this which I am still finding words for. I have been at the hard end of some considerable criticism for this position but I am learning to find my way alongside my beautiful family, confident that it will work out just fine.
3. I have been planning a ‘Nourished Teacher’ event mentally for years, and this year I finally hosted and curated a lovely evening in Bristol. It was filled with talented women educators, delicious conversation and tasty food. The evening was a great example of progress not perfection and I am so glad to have kick-started this area of my work, about which I am passionate.
4. Certifying as a Women’s Leadership Coach brought me so much learning and much more confidence in the skills that I have felt have been latent for a while. I met a great community of women during the training and was mentored and coached by the formidable Elizabeth Cronise McGlaughlin. Elizabeth is known to say ‘Thank-you more please’ and in terms of the gratitude I feel for this community I would like to say the same.
5. Speaking of communities of women and women who have been part of supporting my growth and development this year, I have to shout out to and about Miss Hannah Wilson. Another formidable uplifter of women and a professional connector of people. She has encouraged me to join and participate in @WomenEd, which has introduced me to a host of awesome women educators, many of whom I have grown instantly fond of. 2016 saw me initiate collaborations and capitalise on opportunities more so than ever. Thanks for my 10% braver nudges dear Hannah!
And looking forward to 2017…
1. Having been lucky enough to be pushed a little more into the world of blogging (yes - thanks dear Hannah) and having properly gotten involved with Twitter this year. I am definitely going to make 2017 the year in which I write more and get my voice out there in print and online. I hope, in this way, I can give a little more to the wider education community, in sharing whatever insights I have had in a bid to support and encourage wherever possible.
2. Next year I have already pledged to be guided more by inspiration and intuition and make these aspects of my leadership sing. I am braving my inner voice (the doubter) and vowing to speak on this aspect of leadership more publicly, and at as many opportunities as possible. This will mean braving new and unfamiliar territories within which to talk about leadership and I am both terrified and excited by the prospect!
3. The plan for Nourished Teacher events was always to host a retreat. In 2017 under the moniker #nourishEd Retreat I am excited to be partnering with Amanda Pearce-Burton and Samantha Wheeler in the curation of a super stunning retreat. This has been a dream of mine for about 8 years now and I am sooo looking forward to bringing this dream to life.
4. I am hoping to keep on a healthy stream of coaching clients this year. Working alongside and supporting colleagues in leadership makes my leadership of my school ever stronger. This work gives me such a valuable insight to how lucky our schools are to have great teachers and leaders. It also gives me endless ideas about just how much we can do in our schools to support colleagues to grow.
5. Lastly an area that has always been more difficult for me to find alignment with and to give voice to, has been my role as a BAME educator. This year I am committed to exploring issues of diversity, reflecting on how they have shaped me as a leader and supporting others on a similar journey of discovery. I am delighted to be part of the @BAMEedNetwork as well as offering coaching to participants in the @DiverseLeaderEd Programme.
Ooooh, now I am getting excited! Roll on 2017!