I have written #nurture posts for the last few years, and love the opportunity to reflect on the year which is ending and anticipate what the year to come may hold.
So what can I say about 2017?
#MakingTheLeap came out at the end of 2016, but I have very much enjoyed writing about it, talking about it and promoting it this year. I love receiving occasional tweets (often from people I haven’t met) telling me that people have found it interesting/useful/motivating as they make their plans for the future. Schools need good leadership at all levels. If this book helps others prepare to step up and fulfil their leadership potential, it was very well worthwhile.
I have written, particularly about leadership, for a range of publications this year – online and print media. I was pleased to be asked to contribute to ‘What does this look like in the classroom? Bridging the gap between research and practice’ edited by Robin MacPherson and Carl Hendrick. I enjoy writing and find it an interesting challenge – especially when I’m addressing a professional audience.
Starting this blog is also something I feel proud of – I was sad to hear that @staffrm was closing, but that motivated me to start a blog of my own, transferring some of my early @staffrm pieces and beginning to add new posts. Thanks to those who have read what I have written! I read and respond to a fair number of blogs myself and it does feel good to think you are reaching an audience, however small!
2017 has offered me the opportunity to take on a range of interesting and rewarding work, again all leadership-related. I have very much enjoyed working with groups of Diverse Leaders (#WomenEd and #BAMEed), encouraging aspiring leaders at all levels to have self-belief, to prepare to succeed in the selection process and then to manage the transition positively in order to make the most productive beginning in their new role. It was also interesting carrying out research into the first two years of #WomenEd with Kay Fuller of the University of Nottingham.
On a consultancy basis I have worked with groups of Middle Leaders, supporting them as they fulfil a key role in their schools; helped to train those aspiring to Middle Leadership, Senior Leadership or headship; carried out senior leadership team-building work; led staff days on leadership (which recognise that we all have a leadership function, including teachers who lead learning within their classrooms); conducted head and senior leader appraisals, and supported governors appointing new headteachers. With Andrew Hampton I continue to co-facilitate our online course on Leading an Independent School, which is always satisfying and enjoyable. We have worked with 19 cohorts so far, many of whom are now leading their own schools. Further details are here, for anyone interested.
Whenever I travel for work, if my husband is able to come with me, we make a mini-break of it, and this year we have enjoyed time together in London, Cornwall, St Albans, Exeter, Jersey (the photo below) and Guernsey, among other places. It’s wonderful to be able to do satisfying and enjoyable work and to feel we have had a short holiday, too! Integrating my professional and personal lives has been one of the most positive aspects of #lifeafter full-time work – I will never take for granted the fact that I have more time, flexibility and choice now.
So the line between work and play is blurred in some ways. As those who know me will be well aware – I spend a significant amount of time engaging with other educators on Twitter. I love it, and it relates to my sense of professional purpose, but it feels like play, and many of those I have met through the world of Twitter and spin-off events I now count as good friends, and will meet for coffee, a drink, a meal, a chat. There has definitely been a social benefit to my Twitter engagement!
I have a significant network of friends from other periods of my life, too – school, university, my PGCE year, the six schools in which I have taught, plus my choral group and book club – whom I meet regularly, and this has continued to be enjoyable and affirming in 2017. I love spending time with my family, too, including my mum – 95 this year. And at May half term we had a get-together with my aunt, uncle, cousins and their families at Belton House, near Grantham – some of whom I had never met and several of whom I had not seen for a number of years. It was a brilliant day.
In addition, John and I have enjoyed holidays in Cadiz/Jerez in June, and in the Algarve in August. I have continued to gain great pleasure from the theatre and cinema (including several livestreamed performances), we have visited galleries to see special exhibitions and we saw ‘Elbow’ at Sherwood Pines. I enjoyed a spa day with friends and we have experienced several excellent tasting menus – food and drink, and the company of friends alongside whom we relish them, continue to give us great pleasure!
Singing also makes me happy, and I sing regularly with a Choral Society, with which I have been involved this year in productions of Verdi Requiem (March), a dramatic Armed Man (Carl Jenkins – on Armistice Day) and an enjoyable Christmas concert. I even started a Gainsborough Choral Society Twitter account… In addition in 2017 I have attended a number of ‘Come and Sing’ events with choir friends, and this has been great fun – we have sung ‘Vivaldi Gloria’ in Southwell Minster, Faure’s Requiem in Lincoln Minster, different versions of Mozart’s Requiem in Belper and a selection of music led by the hugely talented, personable and humble John Rutter in the Chapel at Worksop College. Singing makes me feel both uplifted and calm – something to do with the breathing, I’m sure – and, again, I have made good friends through singing.
Finally, two of our goddaughters have married this year – a lovely summer wedding in Dorset for Lucy and Chris, and a magical snowy winter wedding in Staffordshire for Rose and Matt. It was wonderful to share these special days with friends whom we have known for most of our lives (John and I have known Lucy’s mum and Rose’s mum and dad since we were at school together in the seventies…), and their family members with whom we have also grown up.
And as the generation which follows us marries and starts to have children, inevitably the generation above us will pass on – John and I have attended three funerals this year: his uncle, a close friend of his father, and the father of one of our closest friends. But these funerals were also celebrations of the lives of people who have been important to us and who have made a special mark.
And what of 2018?
WRITE: I will continue to share insights about leadership, and especially the transition to headship, and hope that others find them useful. I shall keep contributing to this blog! I have also promised one of my EdD supervisors that I will work with him on a co-authored academic paper using one of my doctoral research case studies. I know that will be more of a challenge!
WORK: I look forward to the different professional commitments already in my diary, including #WomenEd in Birmingham on 20th January, #Pedagoo in Worcester on 3 February, sessions for the Scottish Council of Independent Schools in Edinburgh on 23 February, #ResearchEd in Blackpool on 24th March, the NAHT Conference for new and aspiring heads in Birmingham on 23rd May, the Teaching and Learning Conference at Hampshire Collegiate School on 29th June and further Diverse Leaders events for Harris Federation.
PLAY: I will continue working on achieving a positive and sustainable balance between work and play, and enjoy the company of family and friends, food and drink, reading, theatre, music, film, and all those things that refresh and reinvigorate me! We are planning our main holiday in the south of France for June (having rethought a proposed trip to Thailand in January/February – not sure I want to do long haul at the moment with a 95 year old mum…), but will take any opportunity for mini-breaks in the meantime.
SING: The Choral Society is performing Stainer’s ‘The Crucifixion’ in March, and joining with other choirs to stage a grand performance of Britten’s ‘War Requiem’ in Lincoln Minster in November to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War. In addition, I have signed up for a ‘Come and Sing’ event with The Sixteen (Vivaldi Gloria) in Lincoln, and we are considering a trip to Vienna in December to sing Mozart’s Requiem in Mozart’s church alongside the Vienna Boys’ Choir.
CELEBRATE: And, hard though it is for me to believe, I turn 60 in April 2018! John and I have planned a short holiday in Madrid – a city I haven’t yet visited, to celebrate this, and I’m looking forward to it already. Ageing isn’t something I feel anxious about (though it does seem amazing that I am entering my seventh decade!) I feel blessed that I am settled and happy, still finding fulfilment from the professional work I’m engaged in, but without the pressure (and exhaustion!) of full-time work. I know from reading my diaries (which I have kept since the early seventies and now enjoy revisiting) that I am, in fact, happier now than I have ever been. So, 60 – what’s not to like?!
Thank you for reading, if you have made it this far!
And very best wishes to you for a happy, healthy and rewarding 2018.
Photo credit: John Berry – with Alice, Jane and Janet (GSA Class of 2000!) at the GSA Conference in Manchester in November. Amazing to think it’s 18 years since I started my headship….