Coming together for leadership learning

06 December 2017 by Josie Whiteley
Top-level speakers made AMiE’s first conference a huge hit with members.

What better way to spend a Saturday than in the company of AMiE members? Throw in a handful of high-quality speakers, who are experts in their field, and you really do have the makings of an inspiring day.

Our recent AMiE conference, attended by more than 100 members, looked at the practicalities of leading in difficult times from a number of angles. We learned about leadership psychology from Dr Roger Bretherton. We heard how to overcome the many hurdles faced when turning around a seriously struggling school from executive head Marie-Claire Bretherton. And we also listened to a heartfelt talk by Steve Chalke MBE, who runs Oasis Charitable Trust and spoke about leading from who you are.

I found myself nodding. A lot. And many others did the same.

Parts of Marie-Claire’s story made me sad and angry, as she talked about taking on a primary school in special measures, where the children had been thrown on the rubbish dump aged four. No prospects and no future. Nobody cared, so why should she?

It reminded me of when I became manager of a college department with a 10% success rate on a particular course. When I asked if there was a zero missing off the figure I was told it was correct. I asked about the 90% of students who are failing. What if your child was in that group? My question met with silence and it became clear that no-one seemed to care enough to question the poor results.

Clearly one thing we must do as managers and leaders is care. But we have to learn the skill of caring without becoming too emotionally involved, to stay strong so we are able to speak for and help those who need support. Although I’m not a psychology expert, I felt hugely reassured hearing from Roger that a lot of what I feel intuitively is actually backed by psychological studies. I know others in the audience felt this, too.

Many felt it would be a great help to them in working with and supporting their staff teams – not to mention being more aware of their own behaviours.

Feedback overall was overwhelmingly positive.  Delegates told us they enjoyed hearing stories from the heart, from leaders who had made a difference, overcoming significant obstacles to do so. They also said they had gathered practical advice and expertise that they would take back to workplaces and share.

During the afternoon, there were workshops on recruiting and retaining staff, working in partnership with your governing board, managing change and personal and organisational resilience. It was interesting that the resilience workshop was the most popular, clearly showing that resilience is key to leading and managing in education today – and that many of those attending wanted to find out how to develop this skill.

This made our first ever AMiE conference the perfect opportunity to launch our latest publication Resilience: surviving and thriving in education, a free copy of which was given to delegates. Download your own copy here.

For me the part which perhaps had the most impact was when Steve Chalke told us about the day he met New Zealand All Black Jonah Lomu. Discussing why a country with a population of well below 5 million consistently produced one of the best rugby teams in the world Lomu said that before putting on their All Black jersey every player spent time alone, quietly thinking about their role in the team, thinking about what it meant to wear that jersey and that particular number. Their task by the end of the game was to leave their jersey, their number and their team in a better place than they found it.

That's the short version, but it was powerful stuff.

Whatever kind of educational establishment we work in we are always part of a team whether we are a course leader, head of department, head teacher or college principal.

As part of that team we can all make a difference every year, every term, every month, every week and every single day. And every day we can leave our school, our college, every member of our staff team and every student in a better place.

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