People, Purpose

As a SENCO: is having passion enough?

By Jenny Bowers

This month I am going to be exploring passion.

As we head towards the end of half term one, I believe that this the perfect time to explore passion, as you reflect on your work over the last few months. Some of you may have initially struggled to answer the questions I posed last month about ambition, but I am sure if I asked you ‘What’s your passion?’ you would have an answer for me quite quickly. For the vast majority of you I would see a clear line between your passion and your purpose. I am sure that for a lot of you if I asked, ‘What’s a passion that isn’t related to work?’ you would also be able to answer that in short order.

However, what if I asked, ‘What impact does your passion have on your work and what impact does it have on your wellbeing?’ I wonder what you would say.

Passion is a good driver, quite often described as the fire in the belly, but what do we know about fire?

  • It provides heat and purifies.
  • It provides light and removes darkness.
  • It can create and/or destroy.

When controlled a fire can be used for cooking, as a gathering place to share with others and as a method for producing energy to be transformed into something else including tasty s’mores round a bonfire. However, a fire out of control, burns through fuel quickly and it can damage people and places. It can be destructive force. Fire can be extinguished suddenly or slowly. Equally, it can be effectively nurtured, so it is maintained gently and sustainably.

Thinking about this metaphor let’s go back to some reflective questions:

  • What impact does your passion have on your ability to do your job?
  • What impact does your passion have on your communication and your relationships?

Put another way, in your desire to drive your purpose and ambitions with passion are you dispensing with information quickly, giving large amounts out, using what you see as the ethical and emotional reasoning for why things should be done? Do staff appear confused, overwhelmed, unsure? Are they forgetting to do what you have asked (told) them? Are they asking the same questions over and over? Are you feeling frustrated and feeling like it would be easier to do it all yourself?

When I reflect on my time as a SENCO, I realise that there were seasons when, in my urgency and desire to do the right thing for the children, driven by my passion, I was placing too many demands on teachers and other staff at a great pace. They did generally share my passion, and my purpose, but because it was not exactly the same as theirs, and they had slightly different priorities in their roles or because of their level of experience, it was too much for us all.

It was another leader who said to me, ‘No-one doubts your passion, no one really disagrees with what you want to achieve, but they’re struggling with the how’. This was a lightbulb moment for me, yes, they need to know the ethical and emotional drivers behind what I was doing, but more importantly I needed to work collaboratively with them to ensure that the logical reasoning, the processes and skills were in place too. It was about tempering my passion, so that it smoldered and fueled the work, alongside their individual passions, not overpowering and consuming us all.

Other professionals and families do need to know your passion too.  You all need to find where it overlaps and interlinks with theirs. But passion alone will not get things done, and if passions hinders effective collaboration, you will not achieve your purpose or ambition.

What about the effect passion has on your wellbeing?

Passion fuels the ‘getting out of bed in the morning’ feeling, but if it has been burning too hot or to fast then it will lead to exhaustion, and the getting out of bed will be a struggle. Think carefully about how you are fueling the fire. Does a successful meeting give you fuel? A SENCO meet up? Time working with a child? Feeding your other passions? How will you allow the fuel to be burnt? High heat quick burn, to get you through a particular thing, or a low heat low burn to sustain you over a month?

When your half term arrives, take some time to reflect on what your passion is and put safeguards in place to ensure it is a well-controlled fire. If you are a journal writer, then perhaps alongside your thoughts on ambition you could write about your passion and how to sustain it. On your vision board, consider how you harness your passion effectively in your work with others. As always, I welcome your thoughts and feedback.

Have a good half-term!