3 Japanese Concepts to influence your Headship

As many of you know, I'm an avid traveler, as well as a dedicated advocate for intentional well-being. In my coaching circles, I frequently stress the significance of changing your environment (and booking holidays!) to enhance well-being. Currently, I'm eagerly researching a future trip to Japan. You might be familiar with my discussions on Ikigai, the Japanese concept of 'core purpose,' promoting fulfilment and purposeful living. Its popularity in the West aligns with the pursuit of work-life balance and well-being, mirroring growing self-help trends. Beyond Ikigai, there are other Japanese philosophies worth exploring for enhancing leadership values and personal well-being. Here are three lesser known Japanese concepts to delve into further, which I think are particularly helpful for navigating a values -led headship:

1. Wabi-Sabi 侘び寂び
Wabi-Sabi, a Japanese concept, celebrates imperfection, impermanence, and simplicity's beauty. Integrating it into well-being practices promotes self-acceptance and appreciating the present moment. In headship, embracing Wabi-Sabi involves recognizing unique strengths and imperfections within a team, fostering an environment aligned with the school’s core values for acceptance and growth.

2. Kaizen カイゼン
Rooted in continuous improvement, Kaizen emphasises making small, incremental changes for improvement, or a preferable term, ‘betterment’. Applied to well-being, it encourages consistent, positive habits for long-term improvement. In leadership, Kaizen supports a culture of continuous learning. For school leaders, incorporating Kaizen means nurturing an environment where small, positive changes align with the school’s vision and values, promoting sustained growth and the well-being of the team, including happy teachers!

3. Omotenashi おもてなし
Omotenashi, translated as 'hospitality,' goes beyond mere service, involving anticipating needs and providing heartfelt care. Integrating it into leadership emphasises empathy; genuine concern for team members, and creating an inclusive, supportive work environment. Embracing Omotenashi fosters a culture where hospitality extends to authentically understanding and meeting unique needs, promoting a sense of belonging and well-being among team members, much like our own ideal of inclusive and equitable education.

I hope that sharing these concepts from the Far East will prompt positive reflections on how they can influence your perspective and values-led leadership.


Identifying your Saboteurs

We are all familiar with the concept of Imposter Syndrome. Saboteurs and imposter syndrome share a deep connection as both involve negative thought patterns and self-limiting beliefs. Saboteurs can intensify imposter syndrome by reinforcing feelings of inadequacy and fear of being exposed as a fraud, perpetuating a cycle of self-doubt and anxiety. Sound familiar?!

The impact of the saboteurs on professional and personal growth can be significant. In the professional realm, they can undermine confidence, stifle creativity and lead to missed opportunities and unfulfilled potential. In your personal life, they can affect relationships, diminish self-esteem, and limit your ability to pursue meaningful goals and experiences. None of this is great if you’re pursuing a fulfilling and meaningful lifestyle. 

Identifying the saboteurs is crucial for releasing self-limiting beliefs and thriving, in work and in life! By recognising your inner critics, you can raise self-awareness and understand how these thought patterns have been holding you back. Through coaching and intentional personal development, you can challenge these saboteurs, reframe negative thoughts, and cultivate a more positive and empowering mindset. This process allows you to build resilience, embrace your strengths, foster self-compassion and enable you to overcome imposter syndrome and other self-limiting beliefs.

We identify and discuss strategies for slaying these saboteurs in The Life Story Coaching Programme and in the Slay your Saboteurs Programme Slay your Saboteurs Programme. These strategies and techniques help you empower you to ‘slay the saboteurs’ by reframing negative thoughts, embracing self-compassion and applying particular techniques to particular circumstances; whether that’s the dilemmas you’re facing at work, challenges with your self-esteem, or struggles in relationships.

Developing your own toolkit of these strategies enhances your mental resilience, supports personal and professional growth, and helps you to thrive in the face of whatever life throws at you! Whatever comes your way, you’ll know which saboteurs is at play and which strategy to implement to slay it.

You can read more about each saboteur below and take the assessment to discover your own dominant saboteurs here. Each saboteur possesses its distinct charm, tempting us with promises of protection and control, but beneath their allure lies a web of self-limiting beliefs, woven intricately to hold us back from unleashing our true potential….

The Hyper-Achiever Saboteur, driven by relentless ambition, can ensnare us in the shackles of perfectionism and the fear of failure. Its alluring facade of success blinds us to the beauty of imperfection and stifles our creativity, suffocating self-esteem under the weight of unattainable standards. The Hyper-Achiever saboteur instills a fear of failure and an insatiable need for success, leading individuals to doubt their abilities and relentlessly pursue perfection.

The Pleaser Saboteur persuades us that our worth is tied to the approval of others. In its clutches, we surrender our authenticity, tiptoeing around truth, and suppressing our genuine desires to keep the peace, losing ourselves in the process. Suppressing our authentic selves and fostering a constant need for external validation becomes exhausting and we loose a sense of self. 

The Hyper-Rational Saboteur, wearing the guise of logic, seeks to sever us from the depths of our emotions. Its denies us the richness of emotional connections and self-compassion. The Hyper-Rational saboteur denies the significance of emotions, often leading to emotional detachment and a sense of disconnection.

The Restless Saboteur beckons us to an unquenchable pursuit of more, leaving us parched with perpetual dissatisfaction. It whispers illusions of fulfilment through external achievements, blinding us to the oasis of contentment. Always seeking more, The Restless saboteur leaves you feeling perpetually unsatisfied and unable to appreciate the present moment.

The Controller Saboteur, with its iron grip, convinces us that control is the only path to security. It tightens its hold with the fear of uncertainty, stunting our ability to embrace the unknown and robbing us of the thrill of life's unpredictable adventures. The Controller saboteur demands absolute control over almost every situation, stifling adaptability and impeding personal growth.

The Avoider Saboteur, a master of evasion, artfully dodges challenges, shielding us from discomfort and growth. Its deceptive promises of temporary relief often blind us to procrastination, leaving our potential untapped and dreams unrealised. The Avoider saboteur traps us in a cycle of avoidance and missed opportunities.

The Victim Saboteur engulfs us in a sea of self-pity and learned helplessness. Its convincing narrative of powerlessness keeps us trapped in the depths of despair, preventing us from seizing control of our lives and owning our own narrative. The Victim saboteur fosters feelings of helplessness and prevents us from taking charge of our lives.

Lastly, the Hyper-Vigilant Saboteur, an ever-watchful sentinel, feeds us a constant stream of anxiety, forecasting doom at every turn. Its incessant worry and anticipation of negative outcomes cripple our confidence and rob us of the peace we deserve.

 


Introverted Leadership

 

What do you think of these dictionary definitions of what it means to be introverted? Finding a sufficiently reasonable definition for what introversion is a challenge in itself. No wonder there is a stigma  around being introverted with all these negative and demeaning definitions!

 

In many societies, there is a very narrow view of this personality type. This leads to assumptions about what introverts are capable of; these limiting definitions can encourage negative perceptions about an introvert’s competence and confidence as a leader, particularly in a world which is more often geared up towards more extroverted personality types. 

 

Often, there’s an emphasis on ‘overcoming’ introversion and the need to learn skills to be more extroverted in order to survive in a forward-facing environment. I strongly disagree with this, and am fascinated by the research around introversion and on the narratives of those who, like me, own their introversion and are able to thrive authentically in leadership roles. 

 

Unlike the definitions above, which focus on personality traits (shy, quiet etc) I believe that whether you're an introvert or an extrovert all depends on how you process and interact in the world around you; where you naturally derive your energy from and where you prefer to spend your energy.

 

We know that the brains of the two personality types, introverts and extroverts, work a little differently from each other. Introvert brains react differently to dopamine than extrovert brains do. (Dopamine is a chemical that turns on the reward- and pleasure-seeking part of your brain.) Introverts and extroverts have the same amount of the chemical, but extrovert brains get an excited buzz from their reward center. Introverts, on the other hand, tend to just feel run-down by it. 

 

Also, introverts have a longer neural pathway for processing stimuli. In other words, it’s more complicated for introverts to process interactions and events, as we attending to personal thoughts and feelings at the same time.Introverts process everything in their surroundings and pay attention to all the sensory details in the environment, not just the people. This can mean that introverts are more easily over-stimulated.

 

 

As well as being introverted, I’m also what’s classed as a hyper sensitive person, which means that strong smells, bright lights, loud sounds can affect (ok, irritate) me in a way that most other people wouldn’t even notice. Not all introverts are sensitive in this way, but it’s worth noting that many are!

 

So, what does this tell us?

 

It’s likely that introverts may become energetically depleted from some of the more forward-facing aspects of being a leader, for example, conferences, public speaking and networking.

 

Now, this isn’t to say that introverts aren’t good at these aspects of leadership. Not at all. It’s telling us that introverts may need alternative environments to thrive in, and that there needs to be carefully planned prep and decompression time in their working day in order to process, lead well, feel well and generally work to the best of their ability. A consideration for the working environment, frequency of outward facing events, and levels of noise and interaction with others should come into consideration. 

 

I thrive on the more intimate side of leadership; the relationships, the quality of the processes, products and interactions, the connection, the community communication. That’s not to say I’m not good at the forward-facing stuff though, because I am! I deliver workshops, peer support and even keynotes. I’m increasingly more confident with public speaking and I’m rooted in being my authentic self when I do. I don’t pretend to be someone else who is more extroverted (a common strategy employed by many introverts - becoming an alter-ego in order to appear more confident). Being introverted doesn’t hold me back, but it does mean I need to have a high level of self-awareness, awareness of my environment and the confidence to articulate any boundaries, expectations and sometimes support which I need in order to thrive, as opposed to just surviving the events. 



Here are three questions to consider if you are an introverted leader, or are working with introverted leaders. 



How can we ensure introverted leaders thrive?

 

Consider alternative ways to collate thoughts and ideas from introverts. Give them time to process. Don’t rush them, put them on the spot, or expect them to answer immediately if you want meaningful responses.

 

Don’t expect introverts to thrive if you’re asking them to pitch and present when there are alternative ways of communicating. Expecting people to perform in a way that doesn’t suit them or allow them to thrive isn’t going to get the best of out of them

 

How can we show up as authentic, introverted leaders?

 

Recognise your strengths in leadership. Consider how you can best utilise those skills and abilities to serve others/your community. Don’t feel pressured: own your authenticity. 

 

Plan in prep time and down-time leading up to and following energy depleting events. Ensure the time is scheduled into your diary.

 

Be confident in articulating what it is that you need to the people that you’re working with. If it doesn’t work for you, say so, and work to find an alternative. 

 

Are the systems and environments that we work in inclusive for introverted leaders?

 

Processing additional sensory stimuli can deplete your energy levels rapidly. If you have an open plan office where you can constantly hear your colleagues, ensure you take regular breaks.

 

Consider wearing noise reducing ear plugs to help with focus (I highly recommend Loops.)

 

If you have an open door culture, ensure you have boundaries in place to ensure that you are not constantly interrupted when you’re in the flow of working. 

 


Wellbeing Series: Switching Off

You need to learn to switch off!

Great advice right! And if it was that easy, we’d just flick a switch off in our minds every time we walked out of the office at the end of the day.

The reality is, its really bloody hard to ‘just switch off.’ Our minds are full of unfinished business; to do lists, conversations, actions arising form meetings etc and before the day is done, we are already thinking about what we need to tackle the next day.

Often, we underestimate the emotional impact of our work on our life outside of work.

Here’s a beautiful activity to help you begin to release your mind from your working day so that you can be more intentional about letting go of of what’s been and being more present in your evenings. Give it a try, you’ll only need a pen, paper and a timer on your mobile phone.

Gift yourself with 15 minutes before you intend to leave your workplace. Ensure you’re somewhere where you won’t be interrupted.

Sit with your pen and paper and set your phone timer for ten minutes.

Use a simple sentence starter for your writing such as ‘I am’ or ‘I feel’.

Start writing… get out everything that is going round and round in your mind and weighing heavy on your heart.. Don’t stop writing.. let it come.. let it flow … with no concern for spelling, grammar, handwriting… just keep going. And going. It doesn’t matter what comes out, this is for your eyes only. Let is be emotional, venting, angry, sweary…. Whatever it needs to be. Keep going until the timer stops.

Now, take a deep breath. And another, and another.

Set your timer for a further 5 minutes.

Re-read your writing with a rational brain now. What have you written that is of real concern? What can you let go of? What can wait? Can you label any sentences with the emotions attached to them?

Writing a stream of consciousness allows us to free up more space in our mind, and be more intentional about letting go and switching off each day. By getting those thoughts out of your head and onto paper, you’re doing something intentional and tangible to release and process the emotional baggage (any guilt, fear, resentment, anxiety, inner criticism) built up during the day, to help you switch off and bring you more peace.

Better still, try screwing up the paper and binning it before you leave work. It’s done, dusted, and left behind.


Wellbeing Series: Energetic boundaries

Here’s a reframe for you. Start thinking of tasks and experiences in terms of energy instead of time. If you think about the tasks you do and the interactions you have in terms of energy, you start to think more realistically about what you’ve got to give to that situation. The weight of the emotional energy you carry building up to, and coming down from a challenging task needs to be considered.

Here’s an example. If you think about the time that it takes to hold a transparent conversation with a team member (and note, I‘ve used the term transparent conversation as opposed to difficult/fierce - intentional vocabulary) you may be fooled into thinking about the length of time that conversation will take to hold. But the truth is, you’ll spend a lot of your energy before hand thinking about that conversation; imagining it, making assumptions about it, worrying about it, practicing it… whatever it is that you do in the lead up to that conversation. And what about the energy you spend after the conversation? Analysing it, overthinking it, actions that may arise from it, retelling it to others… We don’t always allow ourselves time for that, but it does take up time. It takes up energy.

When you think in terms of energy, you realise the real cost of the task and you can be more intentional about how you prepare and recover from it.

In every interaction you have, you commit yourself to an energetic exchange with another person and you open yourself up to the unknown consequences of those interactions.

If you’re aware of this commitment, you can consider whether you have the energy and capacity for the connection. Sometimes we do. And sometimes, we need to recognise that we may be depleted with little to offer. Knowing your own energetic boundaries and upholding them will serve you well.


Soulful Leadership

What do Soulful Leaders look like?

Soulful Leaders shine! These are the leaders whose presence and energy is felt, even when they aren’t in the room with you. They not only have a compelling and values-driven mission, they have an abundance of self awareness and the power to nourish themselves, and others, to be the best that they can be.

Soulful Leaders have the ability to harness their own wisdom and internal resources, including their emotional and spiritual intelligence, to navigate challenging contexts without losing themselves, their values and their authenticity in the process. Soulful Leaders know not only the power of being vulnerable, but they have the experience and the emotional intelligence to know when, and with who to be vulnerable with. A Soulful Leader, therefore, has a values aligned network around them, they are not an island.

What do Soulful Leaders do?

Soulful Leaders have a captivating leadership presence; their behaviours and actions support their own belief systems and values. They aren’t afraid to fight for what’s right, consistently evaluating their motives to ensure they align with their ethical code. They trust their inner compass. Soulful Leaders are at peace with the decisions they make because they are creative decision makers who carve out time to reflect on their experiences, evaluating them robustly so that they are always moving their teams forwards. They rest their heads on their pillows at night knowing they did their best and that what they did was right, not what was easy or expected. They have learned not to be afraid of change, because they know that change leads to new beginnings. You’ll find Soulful Leaders doing the inner work; reflecting, being intentional about their own wellbeing and eliminating distractions and negativity so that they can nourish themselves and nurture their teams and communities too.

What has been your experience of Soulful Leadership?

I strived to be a Soulful Leader in my role as a Headteacher and now as a network leader and coach. Integrity, self awareness, connection and authenticity are the core values underpinning my ethical leadership and soul mission. Part of my journey has been to work on my own Ikigai; my core purpose. This beautiful journey began after transitioning from Headship and into freelance coaching and consultancy in 2020. I continue to work on my ‘raison d’etre’, by recognising what it is that I am good at, what brings me joy, and what my community and clients need. After all, leadership is about taking people on a journey to a better place. This is no mean feat when you work in a particularly tumultuous and challenging system like the UK education system. There have been many times when I’ve felt my own values have been challenged or compromised, but being a soulful leader, I am deeply ambitious about being able to bring my authentic self to the table; my whole self with all the courage and vulnerability I can harness! With that comes the gracious ability to admit when things haven’t worked out or when I was out-right wrong! In essence, I believe Soulful Leadership is about developing our inner authority as a leader through raising awareness levels of ourselves holistically, and in others.

How relevant is it to be a Soulful leader today?

Entirely relevant and completely essential! The education sector in particular needs leaders, not managers, who can unify a community and lead with integrity, without becoming compliant and disconnected. Teams and communities thrive when there is harmony, and Soulful Leaders strive to provide the conditions where everyone, including themselves, can thrive and belong. As leaders, we have a responsibility to consider the social, emotional and environmental impact of our leadership on others and our environment. Soulful Leaders do this organically because of their strong moral compass and ethical values.


Ethical Curriculum Series: A Life on This Planet

Like so many, I was deeply moved by David Attenborough’s A Life on This Planet, and, with my heart and head in #ethicalcurriculum mode, I couldn’t help but wonder how we can use this as a teaching tool to develop more awareness in education around critical environmental issues.

‘The True Tragedy of our Time is still Unfolding. The Natural World is fading.’

Attenborough, who uses this documentary as a powerful witness statement, gravely articulated the decline seen in his lifetime alone. How human error, bad planning and our current indulgent and ignorant lifestyles are leading to a catastrophic global decline, already fully in progress.

I watched this with my daughters, aged 7 and 9, who were moved to tears by watching the film. I was too. I felt frustrated that we have evolved to live our life in such a selfish and consumerist way and this both disgusts and saddens me. Whilst I’m satisfied that the documentary evoked sympathy and empathy, I feel that it has more potential than to just lie dormant in Netflix territory. The issued raised should be interwoven into the curriculum, into an #ethicalcurriculum, to initiate deep and purposeful learning around global awareness. This is a tool with an opportunity for raising awareness, for agency and for changing mindsets.

What we really want to activate, through the education of the moral and ethical issues associated with this incredible documentary, is children and young people’s compassionate empathy. Compassionate empathy is empathy in action, not the tearful emotional empathy that we experienced when we watched the documentary, but the highest level of empathy we can experiences as human beings. The kind of empathy that results in real change and action. The kind of empathy that ignites our eco warriors, our young environmental protagonists, out climate change champions. 

‘We are bound by, and reliant upon the natural world around us.’

Attenborough talked us through the impact of climate change and human intervention on the natural world. The catastrophic species loss due to global warming and deforestation; the decline of pollinating insects, a global food crisis due to over farmed land, unpredictable weather and an almost uninhabitable earth. This impact, Attenborough described, is ‘a blind assault on our planet, fundamentally altering the foundations of our living world.’ I think this is the hook we need to use in educating our future Gretas. This isn’t about saving wildlife, it is about saving OUR lives.

So what is it we need to educate our children on to avoid this one way journey to irreversible change? Some of the issues highlighted in the programme will arise naturally in the National Curriculum, such as learning about habitats in KS1, and eco systems in KS2. BUT we need to make explicit links to the moral consequences of human action on our planet, and we can start this from a young age – after all – children develop the value of empathy as young as 2 years old!

Whilst watching the documentary, my curriculum designer brain went into overdrive! SO MANY ethical themes to explore, so many projects to initiate, so much work to do! During the film, I made a note of all the themes that I think could be interwoven into teaching, based on the information and images in the documentary. There are probably more, but I will list mine here and explore a few of them with you:

Animal welfare and rights

Biodiversity

Campaigns

Charities

Climate Crisis

Conservation

Corporate Responsibility

Deforestation

Disasters

Drought

Energy

Environment

Fair trade

Farming

Fishing

Food

Fossil Fuels

Global citizenship

Globalisation

Interdependence

International Development

Landfill

Natural resources

Plastic Pollution

Population

Rainforests

Singapore Eco Systems

Sustainability

Sustainable Development Goals

Tourism

Transport

UN & International organisations

Waste

Water

UNESCO

Quite a few ideas, right? But each one worthy and each one a potential game changer in educating our future environmentalists. 

 

Just like teaching any SMSC themes, it’s important to be aware of how emotionally charged these themes are. Climate anxiety is real. Our young people are literally loosing sleep over the future of the planet.

 

Think about this Attenborough quote in terms of a values based curriculum;

 

‘Nature is our ally – a species grows when everything around it thrives too.’

 

So what do we do now? Attenborough spoke of the need to re-wild the earth. To rest and re create the Holocene. We can educate children to be kind to each other and to the environment. To respect it. We can educate children on how to live more sustainable lifestyles. We can educate them about the impact that human behaviour has on the planet, and of the consequences that will affect them and future generations to come. Let’s teach them about the content above – and empower them to be the humans we need them to be. Let’s connect them with global changemakers and explore their emotional responses to climate change. Let’s learn to move from anxiety to empowerment. From sympathy to compassionate empathy. Let’s start having conversations about the issues that really matter and get them into the curriculum!

This is not about saving wild life – it is about saving ourselves.

Aside from incorporating these themes into an ethical curriculum, you can start by educating yourselves. Learn about what Climate action really is, about the Sustainable Development Goals, about what happens when our waste goes into landfill, or which products contain palm oil.

You can sign up to the Eco-Schools programme: as well as linking to the curriculum, this involves the whole school, local community and makeslinks with other schools in the UK and across the globe.

Consider whether your own school is a sustainable school. What can you do to ensure your practice and policy reflects your vision for a sustainable future? Create an Eco Warriors Club, an ethical school council, or a social and environmental action plan with the community.

Will you reduce the amount of plastic you use?

Will you celebrate World Oceans Day?

Will you ensure you have plenty of meat free days on your school menu?

Will you provide a space for teachers to discuss and reflect on these issues?

Life On This Planet has got me thinking. I hope it has got you thinking too. I hope this documentary inspires you to think about how your school curriculum can impact on your children, your community and the future of the planet. And remember:

‘Nature will take care of us is we take care of it. We need to find that balance in order to thrive.’


Ethical Curriculum Series: An introduction to an Ethical Curriculum

Ethical Curriculum: A curriculum that ensures all pupils develop holistically; allows them to deeply understand, celebrate and empathise with others, and empowers them to become global citizens, changing their attitudes and actions to make the world a kinder, more sustainable place to live.

I feel so passionately about all of the above. I want to share a short blog about the importance in schools delivering an #ethicalcurriculum, what this is (and why it’s so relevant now,) and also how it’s linked closely to VbE philosophy which is based on valuing self, others and the environment through a dedication to teaching particular themes within the curriculum.

So firstly, an ethical curriculum is a holistic curriculum, It’s an incredibly altruistic, often charitable curriculum, with exposure to real, authentic and often quite emotionally provocative themes which in turn help to promote the development of collective and core personal values in children, and in staff too.

Why we need to teach an #ethicalcurriculum?

Well, want to ensure that we are teaching a diverse and colourful curriculum that promotes equity and inclusion for all, and by all I’m referring specifically to those within the Protected Characteristics Groups

We want to be educating our young people on issues around sustainable living, and the importance of becoming globally minded citizens in order to make the world sustainable; a kinder and more equitable place.

We want our young people to know and live their core values, to know their purpose in the world, so deeply, that they develop an authentic self esteem with the potential to become future change makers.

As a values based practitioner teaching a curriculum in this way is naturally intrinsic to us, but the challenges lie in implementing it within the constraints of the educational climate and the pressures of the current educational system. Now is such a critical time for reform: we need to rethink our curriculums and ask ourselves;

How well is my curriculum serving my pupils and my community? How will what I teach in my school make the world a better place?

There are certain subjects in the curriculum that are naturally easier to use as a platform for teaching more ethical topics, such as teaching about climate change through geography, or LGBT relationships through RSE or PSHCE, however, we need think carefully about how we interweave relevant themes into the subjects we already teach, to help with usualising these ethical issues

When I refer to themes, I am referring to teaching ethical issues that are relevant, contextual and necessary to teach in schools. Themes which have a moral backbone and help pupils to develop themselves, others and their environment. I’m talking about teaching anti racism, I’m talking about teaching about equity, I’m talking about teaching about poverty, about social justice, about climate change, about sustainable living, about conflict management, about love, about sustainable living…. about all the topics that if we choose to ignore to teach, then we potentially allow our children to grow up with misconceptions, with narrow minds, with ignorant viewpoints by default. We have the responsibility to ensure that that doesn’t happen, that we empower children to want to make the world a better place.

Teaching through values and teaching the inner curriculum is beautifully aligned with an #ethicalcurriculum.

A first step in thinking about an ethical curriculum is to consider how meaningful your content is to your young people. It’s important for children to see the relevance of what they are being taught. So we need to be aware of what’s going on Globally, Nationally and Locally to inspire us to incorporate moral themes into our teaching.

As a quick example, just think specifically about teaching Equity. There are so many themes here to be addressed; gender pay gap, global inequality in education, stereotyping, rights for LGBTQI+, racism, social mobility, the justice system, poverty, ableism, the protected characteristics… There are so many imperative topics to be interwoven in the curriculum in just one area. Learning to focus on themes like this helps develop the values of self respect, involvement, empathy and advocacy to name a few.

Using your values within the curriculum authentically and deeply is the key. Whilst values are completely universal, the values you choose to focus on can still be specifically relevant to your school context too. So take a look at your holistic strengths and areas for developments. You may work in a school with a large refugee community, therefore, you need to nourish the values of empathy and humanity. Perhaps you’re in a school which is lacking in diversity, and consequently, your values need to promote respect and equality. On the contrary, if you are a school which is doing great work on climate change, or celebrating diversity, then you might want to strengthen your #ethicalcurriculum through a focus on the values of Leadership or Service.

Finally, Renaming and reframing the titles and outcomes of your topics or schemes of work can be incredibly powerful in helping you shift your mindset and focus onto the ethical and moral aspects of a topic. As an example, if you’re looking at teaching a unit of work on design in DT in KS2, then why not reframe the focus onto the Effect of Fast Fashion and the impact on child labour, therefore developing the value of empathy and agency. If you are teaching history in KS3 then how are you ensuring you’re teaching black history, and not omitting it from the curriculum, so that you are explicitly focusing on racial and ethnic diversity and promoting values of humanity and collective responsibility.

Curriculum development is a long haul task, but a beautiful one, and an ethically focused curriculum, carefully crafted, will mean the children, and the staff and families and the planet, will reap the benefits for years to come.

The 5 year-olds we teach now are going to be our future activists, our future humanitarians, our future engineers, our future environmentalists, our future policy makers. The curriculum we teach today is about ensuring that our children and young people thrive in five years, in ten years, in 30 years time. That’s why we have to teach children about mental health, about looking after the environment, and we support them in developing values so that they have desire for social change NOW. In doing so, we will all play our part in creating a kinder, more sustainable world.


Wellbeing Series: Boundaries

Boundaries are personal limits that we set around ourselves, the responsibility of enforcing that boundary will fall on us. Boundaries keep us aligned with our core values and our own personal choices around the way we choose to live our lives and conduct ourselves both personally and professionally.

Boundaries help to keep you safe, in control and can empower you to make healthy choices and take personal responsibility.

Consciously appreciating your own personal and professional boundaries can help to support your wellbeing, physically and mentally, from day one. Setting boundaries requires a deep understanding of your personal and professional needs and expectations; knowing what serves you well in order that you can thrive in the role.

Ask yourself:

What are your boundaries when it comes to professional relationships?

To workload?

In responding to the expectations of the professionals that you work with?

In ensuring that your personal life has value equal to (minimum!) or above that of your professional life?

Essentially, setting yourself boundaries is a way of actively respecting your own wellbeing and keeping you safe, so get familiar with them and bring them to life. Consider how you will articulate these to those you work with, and your family and friends too and how you’ll hold yourself accountable. 

It’s important to remember that boundaries can change too, so it’s important to revisit them and make adjustments to ensure they serve you. You can never ‘over’ communicate your boundaries to others either, clear and consistent communication is key.


Wellbeing Series: Balance

Half term should be a time to be able to rest and recover from the challenges of the first term and to rejuvenate ready for the busy autumn term ahead. But for many leaders, it’s not easy to switch off, mentally or emotionally. By the time we’ve wound down, it can feel like it’s time to wind up again, and the events of the term can play on our minds and interfere with the time we’ve put by for ourselves, our families and friends. You know you’ve got work to do, but hold yourself accountable for putting boundaries in place to keep the balance.

Are you aware of what has triggered you this term? 

Talking to someone trusted, who ‘gets it’, or writing down some of the more meaningful and pertinent events of the term can help to process the experiences. Make notes of your feelings and behaviours around each circumstance – you’ll gain insights into your feelings and tendencies. In addition, don’t be afraid to put pen to paper and write a stream of consciousness for 5-10 minutes. No editing and no censoring. Just let it flow. You’ll may be surprised by how cathartic that can be.

Are you aware of what needs to be celebrated and may have gone unnoticed? 

When we’re busy leading in school it’s easy to let the inspirational moments pass us by without the recognition or celebration they deserve. Reflect on all the wonderful things that have happened this term. Let them make you smile! Let them remind you of why you do what you do, and be grateful for them too. 

Balance allows you to lead a fulfilled life, and those already in headship will know that the job can become all-consuming, impacting on other areas of your life such as family, relationships and mental health. Being respectful and grateful for your life beyond headship can help keep things in perspective. Take time during half term to celebrate your life holistically, and gently remind yourself that your identity is more than just your job title.