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Getting our heads above the clouds

My drive to and from work each day is about 40 minutes each way. During that drive, on very quiet Scottish country roads, I often think about the working day ahead, or consider the working day that has just ended. I have always found it useful to mull over the up-coming events of the day, when I know what these are, and also to unwind and divest myself of the issues that have occupied my attention during the day. Both useful strategies for headteacher well-being and allowing me to switch off and unwind at the end of very busy days. The fact that the countryside I drive through each day is absolutely stunning in no small way helps me gather my thoughts and keep a perspective. The rolling hills of Southern Scotland one way, and the majesty of the Cumbrian Fells and Lake District the other, mark the skyline of my journey. I am a lucky person, with a dream job and a dream drive to and from it.

This week my journey has been marked by frost, ice and mist. The first bite of winter has seen temperatures plummet to a very chilly -7 degrees centigrade. Not always are my thoughts occupied by the immediacy of my own role, often they range further afield and today was one of those days.

As I drove home this afternoon the hills were shrouded in mist and fog, with the tops of some just managing to appear above the blanket of dense opaque water vapour. On this drive home, and in this scenery, I began to think of metaphors for where we are currently in Scottish education. Like my own immediate journey, we face a journey of ups and downs and twists and turns in education. Perhaps, like many a day on my trip, we may think this is very familiar and we have been here before. The sudden appearance of deer, sheep, badgers and foxes on the road ahead may represent some of  the personalities we might come across on our own journey?

The deer could be those fleet footed but flighty souls, who are a bit jumpy and don't stay in one place for very long. Then there are the blind followers of the sheep, who are always looking for someone else to take the lead, often following unthinking and plodding along behind the leader. We also may recognise colleagues who only appear at dawn or dusk and then disappear for the rest of the day, badger like. They can still can still give a a nasty bite to the unwary. Then there are the cunning, fox like, individuals, who know how to survive and make the most out of the system, always assuming they avoid the 'hounds' of QIOs, Inspectors and senior managers hell bent on holding them to account. Every day I see a whole host of birds, owls and buzzards in particular. The owls of course have seen it all before. They take their time before coming to a considered decision and are not renowned for fleetness of movement or high energy levels. They don't miss much though. The buzzards are the high fliers. They take to the skies and soar above everyone else. Often alone and aloof they look down on everyone else, as they scan the horizon for the next big, or little, thing.

Seeing the hills which were poking their heads above the cloud base made me think about the individuals in the system who are often invisible and unsung most of the time, but now and again manage to get their heads above the fog of everything they are told to do, as they try to have their voice heard. Such are the people you find on Twitter, and the people you who might attend Teechmeets and Pedagoo events on a Saturday. There, not because someone had told them or paid them to be there, but because they want to be there because of their passion and commitment to their role and the profession. They are using their voice to contribute to system leadership and development and are not there because their job title indicates that perhaps they should be. They care.

Such events on Saturdays, or after school, are a chance to engage with others who also need their fix of collaborative energy and to breathe the fresh air of unfettered and prescribed professional and personal development, shaped to match their own values and context and not somebody else's model of what education should look like. Recognise yourself or any of your colleagues in any of this? Tomorrow, I will be getting my fix of such collaborative energy as I attend an Enquiry meet in Edinburgh. Probably won't see any deer, sheep, foxes or badgers there. There will be plenty of colleagues, like myself, just trying to get our heads above the clouds of the day job to see the possibility of what could and can be. I might even see you there!


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