By Anita Devi
When I look at my engagement in all the SEND roles I have held over time (successes and failures), I see that it is my ‘purpose’ that drives me. What drives you? We started to unpack purpose in the previous #senco5aday blog. In this one, I want to home in a little deeper by asking, do you want to cluck or fly?
Dr. Steven Marboli, is a Behavioural Scientist and he makes the following point,
“If you hang out with chickens, you’re going to cluck and if you hang out with eagles, you’re going to fly.”
The quote speaks of making choices and accepting the consequences of said decisions.
How good are we, as leaders, at making choices? Do we follow the crowd, or do we go our own way, knowing we might stand out? Choices aren’t always binary and sometimes involve choosing options from multiple permutations. So, what factors define the complex choices we make. For me, it has always been my values.
I was approached by a well-known publishing house once to work with them. I requested a copy of their editorial values, before I would sign any contract. The editor smiled at me and said, “Of course we have editorial values, but you are the first author to ask for them before signing a contract”. Equally, I was asked by a training company some time ago to design a SEND Training course for them. I declined the offer politely. They pursued the discussion and many of my valued peers tried to encourage me to write for them. Again, politely, I said no, because I did not sign up to the values they advocated. Subsequently, some of my peers did write for them and later came to regret it, although lucratively it had been initially a good prospect for them. You might say, as a SEND Adviser and Consultant, I have the autonomy to do this. I would say, the same applied to my classroom practice. I was teaching when 9:11 happened. I did not wait for my senior leaders to ‘tell’ me to change my curriculum and invest time with the children. I came into school and decided for this period of time, I needed to give the children space to express how they were feeling in relation to world events. I invested time in redesigning my curriculum focus for a week to address community trust and cohesion. It paid off, after three days of not following the ‘prescriptive’ curriculum, the fear and prejudices the children had picked up through the news and others surfaced and we were able to address them, constructively. Another example, as a SENCO and senior leader, I made an intentional decision to engage with parents in my new school, when other staff members had given up on or misjudged them, due to previous incidents. So, we all make choices and where our values influence our choices, we usually walk in the right direction. It doesn’t mean, we won’t’ fail. Values-based decisions just means we walk with a sense of direction and peace.
Values are a set of established beliefs that influence our choices and behaviours.
For #TeamADL a national multi-agency team that I currently lead, our values are the 5Cs. This with our mission statement determine, not just what we do, but more importantly how. We have also made time to consider how these values and mission align to the Children & Families Act 2014.
Our values and mission:
When you hit a crossroads in your life (professionally or personally), how do you weigh up the options before you? Do you believe you have a choice and exercising that choice is key to empowerment?
Choices create boundaries not barriers.
I was a teaching SENCO; however, I intentionally chose not to work on weekdays after 5pm. I’m a morning person, so I wanted to optimise my efficiency ratio. It’s not possible to burn the candle at both ends. Equally, I have a ground rule for me and my team about not working over weekends, as part of a regular lifestyle habit. Of course, I’ve have had to put in time over the odd weekend … but it’s the exception, not the norm!
If we survey our options and we choose to use our values to define our decisions, then finding out the consequences of different possible actions becomes a natural step in our thinking. In the business world, this is referred to as ‘minimising risk’. Of course, there is always an element of the unknown. However, if we operate from a position of having considered the known, the unknown is easier to manage. Wouldn’t it be great if we could support children and young people with SEND, from a position of maximising opportunity and minimising risk, rather than just reacting to fear, failure and disappointment? The social worker on my team and others nationally are currently exploring this – turning dreams into reality!
Think of a recent decision you had to make; did you consider all the options? How did you decide on a course of action? What part did knowing some of the consequences make in taking that decision?
Is it that simple?
If I know my values and use them to make decisions and consider various options, in terms of possible outcomes, does everything fall into place? Of course not.
The #TeamADL logo is a tree with branches and roots. We believe strongly in ‘team’ and ADL means ‘justice’ in Arabic. Our branches are our values, mission, choices (and our services) – the how and what of what we provide. However, our roots are embedded in the why – our purpose.
My why, as I have shared previously, ‘I believe in the JOY of learning’. Hence, I am driven by ‘what enables people to learn’ and ‘what hinders them’? Learning for me, regardless of the age of the learner, is empowering. It’s transformational. It’s about experiencing new-ness daily. Therefore, whether an individual is intrinsically motivated (like me) or extrinsically – they experience joy! Expressed simply, my purpose is to maximise the learning-factor for all. Why? I’m a #Changemaker and a World Changer. I choose to fly and enable others to fly too. I choose to hang out with eagles … how about you?
Call to action … are you ready? Here are my questions for you:
- What’s your why / purpose?
- What get’s you out of bed in the morning, apart from earning money?
- How do you share your why with others?
- How do you live out your why through the work you do and the choices you make?
Permit me to conclude with a story by Dr. Aggrey (cited in The Nation, Nigeria 2014)
A certain man went into a forest, seeking any bird of interest he might find. He caught a young eagle and took it home; he put it among his fowls, ducks and turkeys and gave it chickens’ food, even though it was an eagle.
Five years later, a naturalist came to see the man, and after passing through his garden, the naturalist said: “That bird is an eagle, not a chicken.” “Yes,” the owner replied, adding: “I have trained it to be a chicken; it is no longer an eagle but a chicken even though it measures fifteen feet in height.
“No,” said the naturalist, “it is an eagle still; it has the heart of an eagle and I will make it soar high up to the heavens.” The owner said: “No, it is now a chicken and it will never fly.”
They agreed to test whether the eagle could fly or not. The naturalist held the eagle on his palm and said: “Eagle, thou art an eagle, thou dost not belong to the sky and not to this earth; stretch forth thy wings and fly.”
The eagle looked at him and turned the other way to see the chickens eating food. It jumped down from the naturalist palm.
Chuckling, the owner said: “I told you it is a chicken.” The naturalist disagreed. “It is an eagle,” he maintained, saying he would give it another chance the next day. He took it to the top of a house the next day and said: “Eagle, thou art an eagle; stretch forth thy wings and fly.” Again, the eagle saw chickens eating and jumped down to eat with them. The owner reminded the naturalist that the eagle was a chicken.
The next morning, the naturalist rose early and took the eagle outside the city to the top of a mountain. He picked up the eagle and said: “Eagle, thou art an eagle; thou dost belong to the sky and not to this earth; stretch forth thy wings and fly.”
The eagle looked around and trembled, but it did not fly. The naturalist then made it look straight at the sun. Suddenly, it stretched out its wings and flew away. It never returned. It was an eagle, though it had been kept and tamed as a chicken.
Enjoyed reading this blog? Then DO something different …
To make choices about your time management, download the FREE SENCO Time Management Book entitled ‘Take control of your time’ #senco5aday
Also, out for pre-order, 2019-2020 SEND Leader Planner
As a former SENCO, Senior Leader, School Improvement Adviser and local authority SEND Advisory Teacher, Anita Devi carries a wealth of experience in developing leaders of learning. Her own teaching career spans early years to post grad in the UK and overseas and Anita lives her why through her belief in the joy of learning. Anita served on local and national posts for the National Association of Special Needs (nasen) for 10 years (2004-2014). It is during this period; Anita started the dialogue around SENCO wellbeing at a nasen AGM. In 2016 wrote a SENCo Time Management Book and in Anita launched #senco5aday. The same year, Anita was awarded the prestigious international Influential Educational Leaders Award for her SEND Pipeline strategy developing professional from initial teacher training to advanced and experienced SENCOs. Currently a PT PhD student, Healthwatch Trustee and Changemaker Education Consultant #TeamADL Twitter: @Butterflycolour