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Resilience

From inside the school gate the word ‘resilience’ sits alongside our other two r-values - respect and responsibility. The children always hear us talking about the importance of these three Rs and we often discuss in our assemblies and lessons how they can show the three Rs in their everyday lives, both in school and out in the local community.

Resilience is always associated with developing a growth mindset at our school. If you fail it is a great way to deepen your learning. The children talk about getting stuck in the 'pit of learning' which helps them eventually to move forward. The staff talk about children who are clearly resilient and look out especially for those who crumple when given a challenge or can’t deal with failing. These children who are not resilient when faced with adversity trouble us. They are the ones who may struggle in forming trusting relationships and developing self-belief as they travel through life. But what does resilience mean to those who lead from inside the school gate?

One source of insight on the topic for me comes from my work with Resilient Leaders Elements who work with leaders to develop an understanding of what resilient leadership can bring to their organisation. They have identified four elements that work together to help leaders understand who they are and what they do. These leaders grow to be even more effective under pressure and look for opportunities for growth, even when it feels like chaos. Their work also celebrates the leaders’ strengths as well as focuses on aspects to develop.

The RLE™ model 

Today, as we sit inside the school gates, we are all obviously taking time to consider the decisions we are making for those around us, despite the pressures to act quickly and decisively. Putting our staff first should be the highest priority in the current crisis in dealing with COVID-19 and trying to prevent it spreading far and wide. After all, if we were on an aeroplane in trouble, we would be advised to put our own masks on first. When the staff are resilient, those they support will benefit. Asking staff to be present in schools is currently not in line with government advice, but some staff need to be there to support the children of key workers or our most vulnerable children as you know.

As a head teacher, you decide how this is planned and how it works in practice.

The four aspects of Resilient Leaders Elements help us to focus on making these types of decisions. Within the 'Awareness' element, leaders learn how to take care of self, others and the environment by being aware of the motives and drivers of those people they lead and the pressures from external influences. And having at least some 'Clarity of Direction' where we are heading during the next twelve weeks, gives our followers the reassurance that there is a vision and a pathway to follow in uncertain times.

Leaders who have 'Presence' will be authentically living their values. The team will see these values shine like beacons of hope for the school and all those who belong to its community. Ultimately, these three elements all then lead to us engaging in 'Resilient Decision Making'. The leader who can take account of all external influences, the needs of those in their community and then make decisions robust enough to be flexible is the sort of resilient leader I want to follow. [ITL]

Julie Rees is a headteacher of a values-based school in Herefordshire. She is a long-time Independent Thinking Associate and the author of The Little Book of Values.

For more writing by Julie, check out her Independent Thinking Press page here.

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