A lot of the issues I was to explore in various posts were ones which school leaders, teachers and researchers were grappling with across many education systems. Curriculum, learning, teaching, leadership, accountability, professional development, cultures, GERM agendas, testing, PISA, structures, assessment, community, hierarchies, partnerships, collaboration, values, principles, planning, politics, and so much more that I have covered, remain high on the agendas of school leaders, teachers and systems not only here in Scotland but across the globe. I have written about all of these over the last four years and, in doing so, have developed my own thinking and understanding, through collaboration and responses from various readers of my musings. I have been supported to develop my thinking in order to improve my practice, with the ultimate aim of benefitting learners not only in the schools I led, but also in my system leadership role. I shall remain eternally grateful to the wonderful people who have taken the time to read, then respond, because this has what has helped shape, and re-shape, my thinking and my practice.
When I look back at my earliest posts, I find myself disagreeing with some of what I was writing at that time. This is how it should be. Our thinking, like our practice, should be continually moving on and developing and often the best way to achieve this is through dialogue and reading with others who have experienced or researched similar issues. Amongst the few things that have remained fixed are my values and principles, my determination to improve and get better, and my belief in our ability as a profession to make a difference for so many. I remain a steadfast defender of teachers and the profession, whilst recognising there is still much that we have to do, to produce an educational culture that meets the needs of all and which supports deep organic growth and development at its heart.
I like to think I have supported others to think about their own practice, and to help them identify a way forward that works for them and their context. I never set out to tell people what to do, or how to get better. What I have tried to do is to encourage people to have the conversations they needed to have, with themselves and others, in order to reach their own conclusions and solutions to some of the dilemmas and issues that have confronted them and others. Whilst the issues can be common, the solutions, or the way forward, have to be shaped by personal and professional contexts. We can use the experience and research of others to help inform our thinking, but we have to interpret and shape this ourselves to match our context.
I know I have encouraged a few people to start blogging themselves, or to blog more. 'If he can do it, why shouldn't I be able to?' seems to have been a motivation for many. I am so pleased and proud when I see more colleagues engaging through their own blogs, or through Twitter, as they discover their own 'voice' and contribute to the general discourse. But, I am sure all of these would say that they, like myself, have gained most from their blogging and the people they have developed relationships with, real or virtual. As a result we have all grown as individuals and, I believe, as a profession. I used to be asked 'how do you find the time for all that reading and writing?' My response was always that we should always be able to find time for the things that make a difference. If you cut out all the things that take up your professional time, that have no impact on your thinking or practice, and therefore learners, you can immediately free up time to help you develop, and have greater positive impacts for those learners. I realised a long time ago that this is a 'no-brainer' in terms of prioritising your time and being leaderly, rather than simply reactive, your actions being determined by whatever the latest 'thing' was that was taking up so much of your time.
To lead effectively, requires you to get your head up and out of your immediate concerns. Leadership requires an ability to think and plan for the future, as much as dealing with the present. You have a vision of what you are trying to achieve, and can identify the steps you may need to take to head towards that vision. This will have impacts for those you lead, your establishment and the learners you have in front of you presently, as well as those your establishments and staff will face in the future, when you are no longer in post. To do all this, requires curious and inquisitive leaders, who collaborate and talk with as many others as possible, in whatever ways they can, so that all can focus on strategies and steps that will really make deep embedded change more likely and successful.
Thank you to everyone who has engaged with this blog, which has had over 100,000 views, and has helped me shape my thinking and my practice. Whilst I write a lot of stuff mainly for myself, and to provoke debate in others, as a writer you do write in the expectation that someone is going to read your writing. Once you put something into a public domain or forum, you are exposing yourself and your thinking to scrutiny and criticism. But the more you do it, the more confident you get, especially if you use helpful feedback to improve your writing. My blog has given me the confidence to write for other blogs, as a guest writer, for professional magazines and web-sites, as well as contributing to books like Flip The System UK, which was published recently. I had written some of my thoughts on educational leadership in 2011, the title of that book providing the title for this blog, and I have another book out in January. Whilst my blogging has shaped so much of my practice, it also provided me with the confidence to write more, and I now have the time to develop this further.
My aim is to keep blogging, writing and commentating on educational issues in 2018. If you haven't had the confidence to dip your toe into writing, or Twitter, why not make this a target for the year ahead. Such a commitment will help you personally and professionally, and you will be helping to shape the profession we are all proud to be a small part of. Lets not wait to be told what to do by others, but collaborate with colleagues to take actions which are informed, and help us all to improve our impact for all our learners.