A Headteacher’s Wonderings; Two Years in! by @susanwalter99

Building on Strengths: I wondered how we would change

Now I could write a whole lot about how we have together almost completely rewritten our entire curriculum, introduced new, and unique assessment and reporting systems and developed our approach to teaching and learning through a concept based approach, but that is an entire blog in its own right, and one I’ll consider for the future.

It is the process of change that I want to reflect on here. I am driven to make everything I do a success, but am always acutely aware that I can never do that best if I try to go it alone. I believe passionately that our kids in school get one chance, so ensuring that every student gets their very bestchance is my main driver. To achieve this, I believe developing and sustaining a culture of high performance is critical; I want to lead a school full of high performing learners and teachers in order to achieve high performance outcomes for all. And to do that we need to constantly be building on our strengths.

I refer a lot to Sir David Brailsford, (see a great video of why HERE) who has had an enormous impact on the world of British cycling, and on my approach to what I do. He advocates that by creating small, marginal improvements, giving individuals ownership of their own performance, and by being ‘compassionately ruthless’, sharing clear expectations with those in his team and following up on every tiny detail in order to improve their performance, he has created a hugely successful, high performance team in the worlds of both amateur and professional cycling.

His view of sport is similar to mine on education:

Sport is about continuous improvement, it’s about getting better… It’s about being better next year than you are this year. It’s a bit like Formula One. You have a car and the designers might say ‘we can’t think how we’re going to make this any better’. But ultimately you can. And that’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to keep looking, researching and working – trying things. And that’s what it’s all about.

Replace ‘sport’ with ‘education’ and his theory holds. Building on the many areas of strength we had as a school, and each individual teacher had as a professional was the best starting point for change. Perhaps this was initially about ‘giving individuals ownership of their own performance’ in the classroom, and about agreeing and sharing clear expectations with everyone, staff and students alike. Small steps to start, led to much bigger ones as we rewrote our curriculum. That was pretty huge!

The Mushroom Field: I wondered what we would learn?

From my very first day as Head of Primary, I was truly excited about my role. My enthusiasm was genuine, and so seeing the positives was easy for me. I just had to project that to the rest of the teaching team at DBIS and the wider school community.  Well, that was two years ago, and what I have not addressed from my initial wonderings yet, is what I have learned.

Well to answer that I would be here all day. I have learned so much about the amazing community I am now part of; about the young people I spend every day with and about the resilience and positivity of our teaching team. But, you know, I expected to learn these things.

What I did not expect to learn is that schools are rather like mushroom fields!

I know the analogy is odd, but stay with me here…replace ’school’ with ‘mushroom field’ and ‘Head of Primary’ with ‘Head Farmer’ and I think you will see what I mean.

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About Susan Walter 6 Articles
I believe passionately in education; making learning relevant, challenging and exciting for all learners, and in many ways follow the mantra of Dr. Seuss’s Cat In The Hat: “It’s fun to have fun but you’ve got to know how!”

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