Leadership Teaching

#BrewEdHerts19 – A retrospective

Picture of #BrewEdHerts19 logo with date
#BrewEdHerts: Perspectives from Passionate and Engaged Educators

So why #BrewEdHerts2019?

#BrewEdHerts19 event was several weeks ago. But, with a busy half term in a new job, I’m only now finding time and space to reflect. It was the first grass roots edu event that I had been to in a long time. So why now?

I felt that it was time to get back out there and be around other who have a positive effect on our school communities. #BrewEdHerts enabled me to see effective and passionate arbiters of change, rather than getting caught up in negativity. I wanted to get back into some public speaking and to share my perspective about middle leadership and how we can be positive.

My perspective: Middle Leadership

I am a middle leader and have been for quite some time (this post is about finding my way as a middle leader). It’s an important role and one that I see as important in keeping good teachers in the classroom. We have a responsibility to make the job as manageable as possible, meaning that current and future generations have passionate and excited teachers in front of them. Otherwise, the alternative is a slew of burnt out, tired and irritable teachers.

I will come back to my presentation at #BrewEdHerts 2019 in another post, this post serves as some of my takeaways. As I stare at my scribbled notes, I didn’t always attribute them to the speaker or write coherently, so hopefully I’ll get some of it right!

Networks and Belonging

Hannah Wilson (@Ethical_Leader) gave a passionate talk about the need to network and that we should actively curate our professional networks. She encouraged the audience to seek out the people and ideas that we need to flourish. So, when we meet people, we should take a more active role in listening and understanding our sense of interconnectivity.

Whilst I don’t enjoy audience participation, the mixing with others was useful and fun. You discover interesting people and their perspectives to enrich your thinking. Similarly, Laura Knight (@asklauraknight) spoke of finding your tribe and a sense of belonging in your (school) community. Her call to arms was to say, “goodbye to the bland” and the safe, enjoy that which is different and enriching. The speakers at #BrewEdHerts19 were certainly enriching.

Leaders or managers?

This an interesting concept and it raises many questions into the nature or leadership. Jeremy Hannay (@HannayJeremy) was passionate with our reserve that our understanding of leadership in school is broken. Many will agree with his sentiments, school leaders have become managers, carrying out a range of tasks on a tick list. There are consequences for these behaviours.

The constant review in the name of consistency and quality assurance has left teachers feeling mistrusted and without agency for change. Jeremy argued that leaders need to influence and champion incredible practice. Then our school communities will be filled with empowered professionals striving for the very best. Is this just a utopian vision for our schools? Can other school leaders be as brave as Jeremy and free themselves from the shackles of performing for external monitoring bodies?

What are we producing?

We need to think of our core purpose in the school community and Alison Kriel (@AlisonKriel) asked the #BrewEdHerts19 audience the question: What are we producing? She stated that the current culture of suspicion and paranoia stifles the creativity and passion that should be omnipresent in our schools. Our fixation with management has, like Jeremy mentioned, taken away the ability for teachers to be the best they can be.

Alison said that she wanted the best teachers in her school and discussed how to identify a future employee’s values. Above all, it is values that make the school a great place to be and within the individual and not just associated with the fabric of the school building. Therefore, it is values that that will help transform a school community to be the best that it can be. All striving for a common goal rather than individual values and self-serving behaviours. Schools are in tough times; we need to have more joined up thinking.

Can leaders be vulnerable?

Emma Turner (@Emma_Turner75) believes that leaders should demonstrate their vulnerability. It helps with an awareness of errors in judgement and a holistic view when making leadership decisions. It seems like an odd concept to show vulnerability, but we are humans and others need to see this in a leader, not an automaton! We run the risk of suffering from imposter syndrome when we have no thermometer of our leadership. Then self-doubt about our abilities to lead can creep in. So, being a human in a position of leadership can help us to take a leadership pulse.

Emma was very clear, when addressing the #BrewEdHerts19 audience, that as a leader we need to seek help as a leader and that no man is an island, even when at the top of the leadership pyramid. We sometimes forget what is important to us and need someone to help us reconfigure our though process. Emma was passionate about looking toward children as leaders and how her own children have influenced her thoughts. In addition, she talked passionately that children always hold on to what is important to them and she encouraged us to do the same. This might not always be popular, but it can be the right thing to do as a leader.

Finally, …

#BrewEdHerts19 was a fiesta of focused and positive people willing to share their stories. Be it first time speakers or seasoned pros which made it a very welcoming event. Subsequently, I will look back at the notes I made for my talk about middle leadership and keeping good teachers in our classrooms. But for now, these takeaways are great food for thought.

There were other speakers that provided their perspectives on the conversation. For instance, Jaz Ampaw-Farr (@jazampawfarr) who gave a hugely passionate talk from a very personal point of view. I was genuinely touched by her words and her passion about how to make a difference and the need to be conscient of our actions and their impact. Also, listening to Amjad Ali (@ASTsupportAAli) discuss how his perspective on teaching has changed since becoming a father or Pran Patel’s (@MrPranPatel) focus on equity and equality was enlightening.

It was a great time for me to reflect on many of my thoughts having heard so many passionate teachers recount their perspective. Many thanks to Emma Kell (@thosethatcan) and Adrian Bethune (@AdrianBethune) for organising and letting me have my 5 minutes to share my thoughts. So that was #BrewEdHerts19 and here’s to 2020!

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