Rebirth and taking stock. The opportunities of being jobless.

Posted on Posted in leadership, Uncategorised

A poor life this if, full of care,     We have no time to stand and stare.

This post is written not for fanfare or for complements and platitudes. I’ve written it as a marker. A line in the sand. I’ve also hammered the keys because of the wonderful conversations I’ve had with inspiring and lovely people. Those that have had similar experiences but remained silent. Those that have acted with dignity and grace. You see, I may be deluded, but perhaps I have a responsibility to show that it’ll be ok. But first, some music:

You with the sad eyes
Don’t be discouraged
Oh I realize
Its hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
And the darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small
True Colours, Cyndi Lauper

I’ve got another confession my friend
I’m no fool
I’m getting tired of starting again
Somewhere new

Were you born to resist or be abused?

I swear I’ll never give in

I refuse

The Best Of You, Foo Fighters
And now an announcement:

Given the proposed restructure of Patcham High School David Rogers has decided to take the opportunity to pursue his professional career in other settings and at the same time reduce the impact upon his colleagues by removing some of the uncertainty around their futures.

David regards Patcham High as a wonderful, vibrant community and has loved working at the school for the past four years. He would like to thank fellow members of the leadership team and the staff, together with the Governing Body, for all the opportunities that will benefit his future career.

The Headteacher and Governing Body recognise and thank David for the hard work and positive impact that he has had at the Patcham High School and wish him every success in his future professional career.

This week, whilst running along a field full of cows somewhere within the South Downs National Park, a thought hit me. Hard. Since my first paper round at the age of 11 I’ve never really stopped. Even when on holiday or travelling, it’s been all go. As the thought wriggled and distilled, I understood that this is an opportunity. An opportunity to take stock. Evaluate. Reflect. Running along the seafront today, I was reminded by by a caving adventure in New Zealand.  Underneath the rolling landscape of Waitomo, I remembered getting through two tight squeezes. The first was nicknamed the ‘coat-hanger.’ It’s easy to imagine, just take a wire coat hanger and open it up a bit. Now, apart from lamenting the physical prowess of my 21 year-old self, I was also reminded of a second, smaller challenge: the ‘rebirth.’ The gap earned this moniker as, if one was successful at getting through, it was compared to being born again. The guide carried Vaseline and other rescue equipment and, I have to say I was nervous. I remember some scrapes and having to control the rising panic. But, I got through. Not only did this provide the opportunity of being a muddy, wet Welshman photographed in a wetsuit and wellies in a field full of sheep on emerging from the cave but, more recently, has reminded me that nothing good ever comes easy.

Whilst the process of restructuring and my decision to pursue other adventures is scary and I am left a little bruised and scared, I know that it will lead to other things. It will also lead to a rebalancing of my work-life balance, especially the opportunity to thrown my young son off a cliff more often. (attached to a rope of course).

The ‘bruises’ come from leaving behind a culture and vision that I still passionately believe in. Indeed, in fourteen years the leadership and vision I was part of was truly inspiring. The #GrowingGrit focus was, and is, going to change the life chances of young people and I’ve never worked with a more dedicated, skilled and devoted group of teachers.

Over the past few weeks I have been asked often about the next steps. The truthful answer is I don’t know. What I do know is that I aim to make a difference. That, deep down, my principles won’t allow me to make lots of money for myself or other people. I know that I am still committed to creating a climate where teachers are able to make teaching and learning better. I write this not for my own sense of self-worth or ego, but to hold myself to account as I look back and think. As I stop and stare.

The staff, leadership and governors at Patcham were fantastic and I wish them the very, very best for the future. They have the right vision. The right people in charge and, when the dust settles, the right group of dedicated professionals to make a real difference. Not only to the academic attainment and progress of young people, but to their life changes as they focus on qualities as well as qualifications.

The real demon here? Funding cuts. It’s difficult to miss the headlines about schools struggling to cope. I know that in developing countries schools struggle in classes of 50 or 60 and without buildings and sanitation. Indeed, I have visited and worked in slum schools in Goa where children are kidnapped and deformed by begging cartels and in township schools in South Africa where infant alcohol syndrome is rife and an absent teacher means combining two classes of 50 students. But, and here’s the thing, this is the UK. We are G8 country. The decision not to invest correctly in education is a mistake, not because I don’t have a job, but because we will fail a generation of young people who may not have the social capital or opportunities to change the direction of their lives.

Anyway, time to get off that soapbox apart from to say, don’t feel sorry for me. Get angry with the government. Get angry and make it an issue. Get involved with your union’s stance on funding. Write to your MP. Most of all so what my brother is doing (actions that make me humble, proud and awestruck): become an activist. Don’t be a passive passenger, drive the car.

The irony of driving #GrowingGrit is not lost on me. I know that I have the strength and resilience to rebound. Stronger. Better. Harder. I’ll do so not for me, but because it will make a difference to others. Indeed, with tighter budgets fewer people will have to do more. This flies in the face of the wellbeing tack-on. School will need to fundamentally address the question ‘what do we need to do less of?’ CPD will need to be better. Workload will need to be an intrinsic, integrated part of every decisions and evidence from various sources will need to be leveraged in order to make the right decisions. As schools become leaner, they could become even more focused on learning. Schools will have to turn outward and build alliances with other institutions, non-educational organisations and their communities in order to broker agreements and meet the needs of young people. After all, not everything can be stripped back (robust and well integrated PSCHE and Careers Education for example) and lost.

I find solace in the mountains, they often call me to go home. Recently, as I’ve stood and reflected I realise that I am not alone. We, those that have had to make difficult situations, are not alone. Support is just behind us. Life isn’t about the selfies, but the candid moments of reflection. It takes others to realise this.

For those facing a similar situation: Reach out. It’s tempting to see it as failure or that it was deserved. That is wrong. It is an opportunity. Seize it. You are not alone.

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