Can taking a break help to reassess your values?
I have often taken a sort of mini-break from the online world. This helps me to take stock and re-evaluate what I think about teaching, leadership and all things education. It can reassess my values and views. I feel that edutwitter has become a very noisy and oftentimes negative space. I miss the days of genuine advice and the supportive nature of the tweets. Perhaps this was lurking in my subconscious?
July 2018 saw me finally graduate from the UCL Institute of Education with my MA in Leadership. Something that I did not think would happen. My research journey started back in 2013. At the time I was perhaps a little more focused, but less rounded in my approach to leadership and working in schools.
I really enjoyed the work that I did at the time. I helped me to find my niche in wanting to look at values and values-based leadership. However, I took some time out from studying because work was very busy. It took a long time for me to get started again as I stepped away from the classroom and at the end of 2016.
Values-based leadership as a research focus
So, in the New Year of 2017, I started to find some resolve and had a determination to complete my dissertation. My research focused on the values espoused by independent school leaders. Particularly the generation of aspirations and social/cultural capital. I completed the work and achieved a very good grade with excellent comments. So my graduation during the summer of 2018 meant a lot to me. My career got back on track, my focus and determination returned, and I am considering another research project. I don’t wish to dwell on the mistakes or crises of the past, but I am proud of what I have achieved. It is now spurring me on to take charge of my career and my life.
The graduation was personally very poignant. It made me think about my own values of hard work, honesty, dedication and doing the right thing. These are values that I live by, both inside and outside of my professional role. I see them as very important when working with people and if we don’t consider people, then why are we working in education? These core values form an integral part of how I work with my pupils and how I undertake my leadership role. However, it was research, study and a myriad of conversations that led me to consider the effect values have on a school, its culture and its pupils.
Further work on values in leadership
Therefore, I have been considering another research project, possibly a PhD which picks up on some of the themes of my MA dissertation. I have enjoyed the research process and the topic is very important to me. It has links to my own personal identity in education, one that is somewhat divided. I have worked primarily in the independent sector as a teacher and leader, yet I was educated and have taught in the maintained sector.
My research did draw briefly on this divide and it was not a question of which sector is better. But more about how leaders shape the minds and aspirations of their pupils. How do they generate social and cultural capital to give their pupils the confidence to become tomorrow’s leaders and experts in their fields? The question of what sector is better was asked. Yet, what is the relevance?
All of these questions are very exciting for me. I am beginning to draw up my research proposal and look for a supervisor, so watch this space! Also, I really love that my personal and professional experiences and interests are at the heart of what I do. We need to stay true to our core values if we are going to be effective in teaching and education in the longer term.
Are personal values significant?
So, back to where I started, my reflection on my online absence is based on doing what you can do, to the best of your ability. You should never feel shamed or that you are a bad teacher because of what you see or read online. Whilst it is a great source of inspiration, it cannot always take account of the individual context and style of a teacher and/or school.
Teaching is a highly personalised and demanding job, these two qualities need to be borne in mind. So to stay fresh, it is important to take time away from the job and trust your judgement. Avoid saying, oh if only slide 32 looked a bit better. Sometimes, we need to ask ourselves: is it worth it? Will it make a difference?