I had planned to blog earlier in the month than this but somehow January has escaped me. There are lots of things that we can say about January but one thing I think that everyone can agree on is that, at times, January can feel like a long month that is hard work. It’s not unusual to hear people use the words dark or depressing to describe it or to hear people talk at length about Blue Monday (not the great song by New Order but the Monday where everyone apparently feels sad).
January at Coupals has been like nothing described above. Instead, the month has been a positive one and the pupils and staff have achieved so much already – not bad for a month that gets everyone down. So, I hear you ask, what is there to be positive about in January? Well…
Black Box Thinking:
As with every new term, we have tried new things at Coupals. Some of them worked and some of them didn’t (I explained this to a Headteacher colleague last week – for every idea we have that works we have tried at least 2 or 3 that haven’t). The thing that we get right as a school when we try new things is to realise that getting things wrong helps make what we do better. This is called Black Box Thinking and is explained excellently in the book (imaginatively titled) ‘Black Box Thinking’ by Matthew Syed – you might know him as the Ping Pong Guy if you listen to Radio 5 live. We have discovered over the last few years, and had reinforced this half term, just how important it is to learn from Black Box Thinking. And here’s the thing: When you learn from everything you do (the successes and the failures) you are always improving and it’s hard not to be positive when this is the case.
Be brave – be bold:
We live in a world where sometimes we interact more with other people online than in person. I’m quite private and have a small circle of friends and tend to be the same online. However it’s really easy, and I’m sure everyone has done it, to get sucked in to a negative thread on Twitter or Facebook (or whichever social media platform people use) and to add fuel to the fire about something which either isn’t important or that we don’t really care about. It’s always easier to say negative things behind a closed group or on a page of someone when, in reality, we wouldn’t say these things if the person was in front of us.
There was an interesting example of this earlier in the week when Sean Harford (Director of Schools for Ofsted), someone who has done amazing things in engaging with Heads and teachers on social media about Ofsted and their work, received some very pointed criticism which became personal. Me being me, I couldn’t help but interject and argue against this unfair criticism. It led to some fairly scathing criticism of myself from someone behind an anonymous account whom I have never met but I was at least satisfied that I had done something positive.
This positivity, boldness and bravery is characteristic of our staff. Teaching is much like I have just described and there are lots of teachers everywhere who engage in negative conversations and criticisms of policy, teaching philosophies or even their own schools and Leadership Teams online. Our teachers don’t operate like this and have a very positive outlook on things. Does that mean that they don’t raise problems or concerns? Of course not. Instead, what they do is deal with them positively by raising them and making a difference. It seems quite a counterintuitive thing to do in this day and age but raising a problem, being bold, and dealing with it generally leads to positivity.
What’s the most important thing to being positive? To be honest, it depends who you ask. There is however a strong argument that having something that you love to do or care about makes people positive. Whether that’s a job you love (like teaching for our staff), or a cause you want to fight for (e.g. human rights, animal welfare, world poverty) or even a favourite team to root for, these are all things that give people a sense of positivity. (Actually, come to think of it, as a Swindon Town and New York Jets fan I can’t claim that the last point has given me much positivity in the last 12 months). Some people call this a passion and some call it a calling. If you want an interesting perspective of this I would recommend reading ‘The Element’ by Sir Ken Robinson. It’s not coincidence that if you talk to someone who is passionate about something they generally project positivity. It can’t be chance…
You make the weather:
This is a phrase that a great Headteacher (Andrew Smith at Lyons Hall in Braintree) uses a lot, though it doesn’t actually have anything to do with weather. Teachers don’t literally make the weather, but they do set the mood for their classrooms and our school. Their positivity, their cheerfulness and their enthusiasm rubs off on pupils. We all have bad days (we’re only human) but the mood we set in school effects everyone in it. So if we come in to school with positivity, you’ve guessed it, the school fills with positivity. It’s a simple idea, but if you take it seriously and do it yourself it makes quite a difference to those around you.
Positivity is contagious and, fortunately for us, we have a school full of staff and pupils who spread it everyday. We never underestimate the importance or the impact that our positivity has but it’s very easy to. So go on, spread a little positivity. It feels good…