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#senco5aday, People

Time well spent

by David Gumbrell (Guest Blogger)

Those of you familiar with the developments of SENCO wellbeing #senco5aday will recall how #TeamADL have distilled the 5 components of the Foresight (2008) study into three elements: People, Place & Purpose.  In exploring ‘people’ this term, we invited David Gumbrell to share his thoughts on communication. Enjoy!

Whether it be semaphore, pigeon post or coded messages sent between Enigma machines, we humans need to connect, we need to share, we need to communicate with each other. Resilience is not about rugged individualism; we are hardwired to connect to others. I guess that is why solitary confinement is often perceived as a punishment? The question therefore remains – how do we convey what we want to others in the most effective and, in the time-pressed world in which we live, in the most efficient way possible?

Resilience is not about rugged individualism; we are hardwired to connect to others

Do you remember back at school when you made the tin-can telephone – connecting them with string? The connecting cord needed to be tight, I recall, but you most likely just heard the person saying ‘hello’ regardless of the primitive connecting device. However, the principle of the tight cord is crucial – it is the most likely way that the sound can travel. So, maybe there is something to be learnt from that?

Modern communication is much more complex. More than ever we are communicating with each other in limited word counts in the Twittersphere, supported with a GIFF, or emoji to convey further meaning. The email is batted back to the sender with a cursory glance of the content of the message sent – keen just to get it out of our Inbox – after all, you have 20 others to bat back too. This brevity and speed is also potentially our downfall.

Most of us struggle with limited word counts to distil the crucial elements of what we want to tell others; emojis are so limiting in their ability to display the gamut of emotions that our face conveys to other people when we are genuinely connecting. With time pressing we don’t fully focus on either the input (listening to the other person) or output (what we say to the other person in response). These two factors alone ensure that we frequently get our wires crossed – and the time spent repairing that damage, worrying about the mis-understood message, or responding emotively to that email is time wasted.

More than ever we are communicating with each other in limited word counts

Maybe the key to communication is to take longer to connect, genuinely connect. To stop ourselves from being distracted and concentrate fully on the person we are connecting to.  We need to actively listen, not just listen. We need to be present in the moment, rather than presentism of being in the space.

Whatever your role in education, consider how you communicate with other staff, the pupils and the parents of those pupils. How much of the connections are by written word, how much is conveyed with genuinely connection, supported with empathy and engagement face-to-face. I believe that we would be better off spending the time investing in meeting with people than sweeping up the mess that poor electronic communication can create.

We are social creatures, driven by emotions, feelings and moods. We need to be with others to see if they care. Maybe in our hyper connected world, we are the least connected we ever have been? Try to focus this week on connecting live with others, rather than remotely connecting their computer with yours.

After all, time spent making sure that the string in your tin can telephone is taut, is time well spent. Time given over to putting your ear to the can and genuinely listening, is time well spent. Investing time with others, connecting through our communication, is time well spent . . .

 . . . isn’t it? 

We would love to hear from you about strategies that have worked not worked to improve your communication with others.

David Gumbrell is a ex-headteacher of a Junior school (as well as being in the classroom for over 20-years). In the later stages of this part of his working life, David realised that there was an issue in education that was calling him to address. With recruitment becoming such an issue, retention became ever more important. In wanting to keep good teachers in the profession, resilience becomes key. With this in mind, The Resilience Project began – a project, in conjunction with the local teacher training university, to write some materials to support NQTs in their first year of teaching. They looked at aspects of resilience on each of the four visits that they received. The success of this project was presented at a conference in Birmingham and has gone from strength to strength since then. David now presents and writes on this subject full time to NQTs mostly, but also to all other members of staff in schools. What is appropriate for an NQT’s resilience is also applicable to a SEND Leader’s resilience and a Headteacher’s resilience. Teaching is a tricky profession to be in at the moment, hence the publication of ‘LIFT! Going up if teaching gets you down’, David’s first book in this area. Feel free to connect to David on Twitter @auribins  or via email david@theresilience-project.co.uk … though he’d much prefer a face-to-face coffee-chat ☕🍩

If you would like a FREE 30 day management software trial to enhance the shared information and communication about the special educational needs and disability across your setting, do look up #SENDsdo

#senco5aday

Plan, Plan, Plan !

By Anita Devi

Last month, as the busy end of term drew near, we intentionally invited SENCOs and SEND Leaders to celebrate.  As a team, we also did something unusual in the last week of term … we set aside time to plan!

During the last week of term, I made time to strategically plan with SENCOs from two medium sized trusts and with my own team.  In one trust, head teachers were invited to join us for part of the final afternoon, so SENCOs could present their ideas to their line managers, one-to-one.

The feedback was insightful:

“I usually leave this to the holidays.  I do some planning in the holidays, but then I feel bad, because it’s my time, but if I don’t do it, I start the year in a panic and feeling guilty.  Having planning time, at the end of term has been so refreshing.  I was able to liaise with other SENCOs, who were also planning AND I’m going into the holidays knowing it’s done … so really able to switch off and take some me time.  Thank you SO much.” SENCO

“Having some time with my SENCO at the end of the year was useful.  It’s clear she had reflected on the year just gone and was able to use key learning points to plan the year ahead. Hearing her ideas, also gave me an opportunity to ask questions and reflect on how this could link into wider development areas of the school.  It was useful for us to spend time thinking through the implications for SEND of EIF2019.  Really great idea, let’s do it again next year!” Headteacher

We are all different and how we approach tasks also differs.  For example, imagine you had three tasks to do.  Do you do the easy tasks first and get them out of the way OR do you complete the difficult tasks first and leave the easy ones till last?  There is no right or wrong answer.  It’s about finding what works for you.

Too often I see SENCOs focus on the operational and yet we know making time for the strategic helps to accelerate the operational.  It also enables SENCOs to make time for their own #wellbeing as well as engage the wider team.

So, what planning did we undertake at the end of term?

We focussed on three main tools:

  1. Strategic priorities. It is not possible to undertake more that three strategic priorities a year and still contribute to wider school development areas.  The three focus areas need to be thought-through, so strategically they act as catalysts and impact several areas.  The Pareto Principle of 80/20 rule suggests 80% results emerge from 20% input.  The priorities need to be clearly defined, with clear outcomes and measurements for success.  It helps to be clear on ‘who’ will make this happen, when and how plus what resources are required to make the priorities successful.

Let me give you a practical example from 2018-19.  One primary school was very aware the paper trail system they had in place for SEND pupils was cumbersome and teaching staff did not take ownership due to the complexity.  Working with the team across the school, the SENCO reduced three forms into one; which the staff all took on board and actively engaged with. Success meant better outcomes for the children and improved dialogue with parents/carers.  An effective example of  the Pareto Principle being applied.

To make choices about your time management, download the FREE SENCO Time Management Book entitled ‘Take control of your time’ #senco5aday

2. Continuous professional development (CPD) planner. A core part of the SENCO role is to train others.  The best CPD model for SEND is a drip-feed approach.  Planning this, as fully as possible before the year begins, gives SENCOS time and space to create a standard template, ensure there is breadth / depth and opportunities to delegate.  It also means you can build in gap-tasks to measure impact.  Many teachers deliver good practice in their classrooms and well thought-through CPD Plan gives others the opportunity to share what they do too.

3. Monthly key milestone plan. This is about plotting onto an accessible format, what’s coming up on the horizon and in which month.  This includes annual reviews, data collection points, parents’ meetings etc.  A good plan helps to identify time / pressure bottlenecks and when SENCOs need additional support.  This is a vital communication tool for SENCOs and headteachers.

These are just three of the strategic planning tools, SENCO can use to enhance provision, practice and their leadership of SEND.   There are others.  Maybe that’s for another time!

The SENCO role is about very much about handling Plan B, C, D … Z, but it all starts with a plan!

Plan

If schools, multi-academy trusts or federations would like to find out more about how #TeamADL can facilitate SEND Planning Days for you, do get in touch www.AnitaDevi.com

… our new website with more info will be published in September 2019!  We’ve already planned it 😊

Finally, we’ve been amazed by how many settings have bought into using the 2019-2020 SEND Leader Planner may be this can of use to you too.  Happy holidays!

Sales 25th July 2019

#senco5aday, Uncategorized

Time to celebrate🎉

By Anita Devi

It’s that busy time of the year when SENCOs / SEND Leaders are coordinating access arrangements in examinations, planning for next year, managing in, out and up transitions, as well as finalising their SEN Information Report 2019.  This is all on top of the day-to-day stuff, that carries on as usual.

Therefore, we decided to focus this month’s #senco5aday blog on making time to celebrate and celebrate how much each of you shine!

“Diamonds are nothing more than chunks of coal that stuck to their jobs.” ―Malcolm Forbes

Three good reasons!

Celebrating your accomplishments is critical to your own on-going success.  So here are three reasons why you need to celebrate:

#1 Celebrating changes your physiology and strengthens your psychology

Positively acknowledging progress releases chemicals of joy in your body, which makes you feel physically good, as well as psychologically in a good place.

I regularly receive motivational emails from Michael Hyatt. Contributing to Micheal’s blog, Erin Wildermuth writes the following:

“Endorphins are the chemical searing through your body when you finish a run. That giddy feeling of being on top of the world? That is endorphins in action. Dopamine is your own personal motivation machine. It is the secret to getting pumped and hitting goals. Serotonin regulates mood. Depression is linked to deficits in serotonin, and healthy levels keep you happy. Endorphins can be triggered by laughter, dopamine by reward, and serotonin by community.  Celebration is a medley of all three triggers.”

Isn’t it time you drank the cocktail of laughter, reward and community?

Happiness

Consider the adverse: denying yourself the opportunity to celebrate is robbing yourself of joy!

#2 Celebrating empowers your team and grows your network

How you celebrate is a personal choice.  However, celebrating with others and sharing the fun factor accelerates growth and deepens a sense of belonging.

Many of you may have heard me speak on ‘The SEND Team’ – it is the largest team in any setting! So, when celebrating becomes everyone’s celebration, we renew the message of teamwork.

lego-poster-team-celebration-all-support-all

Consider the adverse: celebrating on your own isn’t fun & doesn’t help to build teams.

#3 Celebrating attracts further success

“Perception becomes reality. As you celebrate your wins, others look for ways to participate in what you have successfully built.” – Bill Carmody

Everyone thrives on being part of a successful team. It helps to build relationships and memories, both incredibly valuable when the tough times hit.  The reality is, our lives will be full of ups and downs, but we have a choice to celebrate the ups to get us through the down times.

Successful people

Consider the adverse: if a SEND Leader is always complaining, why would anyone want to support them?

In summary, collective celebration enhances team buy-in and loyalty to your vision.

Making ‘celebration’ part of your lifestyle choice!

It’s great to look back at the end of the year and celebrate all the things that have goneABC well, but how can we make ‘celebration moments’ part of the everyday?  Here are a couple of things I did/do as a SENCO / Leader:

#A Create a ‘Win’ Folder

One of the folders in my email Inbox is labelled ‘Win’.  Every time I receive a positive email or kind feedback, I file the email in that folder. This enables me to access celebration moments easily and share them in a timely way with others.

With my current team, #FeedbackFriday is how we share.

#B Drip feed the joy!

I am a great advocate of ‘Bitesize regular SEND CPD’.  As part of the strategic planning for this, I encourage SENCOs to include sessions, where team members share ‘impact stories’ i.e. I did – this was the impact.  This helps create and sustain a ‘can-do’ culture.

With my current team, I use technology to make sure we continue to share impact stories.

#C Notice

This is one of the #senco5aday pillars for welbeing.  As a SENCO, I would regularly leave a post-it-note with a glass gem for staff, thanking them for going that extra mile.  The day I left the school, a staff member told me, how they had kept all the notes and gems and whenever they were having rubbish day, they would use them to lift the mood.

Other variations I have seen in schools include ‘Staff celebration board’ – staff members post Gratitude Notes to thank colleagues for their support, encouragement and creativity.  Imagine the face and joy of a colleague reading a positive note about something they did, that made a difference.  #Priceless

With my current team, part of our weekly updates include team celebrations.

A few reflective questions for you to ponder:

  • Do you make time to celebrate?
  • Who can you share your achievements of 2018-19 with and how?
  • How can you make ‘celebration’ part of your everyday ABC?

Cheers everyone!

cocktail.jpg

 

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

About Anita

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

 

#senco5aday, Uncategorized

Do you want to cluck or fly?

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.

Choices

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:

TeamADL Values 2018 v2

Reflection:

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!

Accepting consequences

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!

Reflection:

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?

Education-Quotes-Nelson-Mandela-3

 

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

About Anita

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

 


 

#senco5aday, Uncategorized

SEND Environments: A Place to BE

By Anita Devi

I’m a firm believer that any environment which facilitates the learning of children and young people with special educational needs and disability (SEND) needs to be conducive for all.  In the last #senco5aday blog, I focused on people and leadership.  In this piece, I take a closer look at ‘place’ and how we take ‘notice’.

For any practitioner working with children, the assessment tool of observation is vital.  I have spoken elsewhere about the logistics of observation in relation to SEND.  Undertaking observations, particularly of children, to understand behaviours and see patterns requires an intense sense of presence.

Imagine the timeline:

Timeline Place.png

 

Most of us spend time thinking about the past, often with feelings of guilt or thoughts of ‘if only …’  We also invest time worrying and fearful of the future and unknowns ‘what if …’.  We cannot change the past. Worrying about the future won’t change it, either.  In fact, both these emotions drain us.  Far better to be in the ‘present’, fully aware of things around us, noticing change and newness and acknowledging what works – gratitude and trust.

 “Gratitude turns what we have into enough” – Melody Beattie

pause

Take a moment to celebrate all the things you have achieved this academic year.

Years ago, I read the book, “The Monk who sold his Ferrari” by Robin Sharma.  In it, Robin shares the following fictional story, that brings a real-life twist to the forefront.  I certainly spent some of my teens wanting to be older and part of my adult life, wanting to be younger!

Peter and the Golden Thread

Peter was a young boy who could never live in the moment. When he was in school, he dreamed of being outside playing. When he was outside playing, he dreamed of his summer vacation. Peter constantly daydreamed, never taking the time to savour the special moments that filled his days.

One morning, Peter was out walking in a forest near his home. Feeling tired, he decided to rest on a patch of grass and eventually dozed off. After only a few minutes of deep sleep, he heard someone calling his name. “Peter! Peter!” came the shrill voice from above. As he slowly opened his eyes, he was startled to see a striking woman standing above him.  She must have been over a hundred years old and her snow-white hair dangled well below her shoulders like a matted blanket of wool.

In this woman’s wrinkled hand was a magical little ball with a hole in the centre and out of the hole dangled a long, golden thread. “Peter,” she said, “this is the thread of your life.  If you pull the thread just a bit, an hour will pass in seconds.  If you pull harder, whole days will pass in minutes.  And if you pull with all your might, months – even years – will pass by in days.” Peter was very excited by this new discovery.

“I’d like to have it if I may?” he asked. The elderly woman quickly reached down and gave the ball with the magic thread to the young boy.

The next day, Peter was sitting in the classroom feeling restless and bored. Suddenly, he remembered his new toy.  As he pulled a little bit of the golden thread, he quickly found himself playing in his garden. Realising the power of the magic thread, Peter soon grew tired of being a schoolboy and longed to be a teenager, with all the excitement that phase of life would bring. So again, he held the ball and pulled hard on the golden thread.

Suddenly, he was a teenager with a very pretty girlfriend named Elise. But Peter still wasn’t content. He had never learned to enjoy the moment and to explore the simple wonders of every stage of his life. Instead, he dreamed of being an adult, so again he pulled hard on the thread and many years flew by in an instant. Now he found that he was transformed into a middle-aged adult.  Elise was now his wife and Peter was surrounded by a houseful of kids.

But Peter noticed something else. His once jet-black hair had started to turn grey and his once youthful mother, whom he loved so dearly had grown old and frail. Yet Peter still could not live in the moment. He had never learned to live in the now, so once again, he pulled on the magic thread and waited for the changes to appear.

Peter now found that he was a ninety-year-old man. His thick dark hair had turned white as snow and his beautiful young wife, Elise, had also grown old and had passed away a few years earlier. His wonderful children had grown up and left home to lead lives of their own. For the first time in his entire life, Peter realised that he had not taken the time to embrace the wonders of living. He had never gone fishing with his kids or taken a moonlight stroll with Elise. He had never planted a garden or read those wonderful books his mother had loved to read. Instead, he had hurried through life, never resting to see all that was good along the way.

Peter became very sad at this discovery.  He decided to go out to the forest where he used to walk as a boy to clear his head and warm his spirit. As he entered the forest, he noticed that the little saplings of his childhood had grown into mighty oaks. The forest itself had matured into a paradise of nature. He laid down on a small patch of grass and fell into a deep slumber.

After only a minute, he heard someone calling out to him. “Peter! Peter!” cried the voice. He looked up in astonishment to see that it was none other than the old woman who had given him the ball with the magic golden thread many years earlier. “How have you enjoyed my special gift?” she asked.

“At first it was fun, but now I hate it.” he responded bluntly, “My whole life has passed before my eyes without giving me the chance to enjoy it. Sure, there would have been sad times as well as great times, but I haven’t had the chance to experience either. I feel empty inside. I have missed the gift of living.”

“You are very ungrateful,” said the old woman. “Still, I will give you one last wish.”

“I’d like to go back to being a schoolboy and live my life over again,” Peter quickly responded. He then returned to his deep sleep.

Again, he heard someone calling his name and opened his eyes. “Who could it be this time?” he wondered. When he opened his eyes, he was absolutely delighted to see his mother standing over his bedside. She looked young, healthy and radiant.  Peter realised that the strange woman from the forest had indeed granted his wish and he had returned to his former life.

“Hurry up, Peter.  You sleep too much.  Your dreams will make you late for school if you don’t get up right this minute,” his mother admonished. Needless to say, Peter dashed out of bed and began to live the way he had hoped. He went on to live a full life, one rich with many delights, joys and triumphs, but it all started when he stopped sacrificing the present for the future and began to live in the moment.

  • Focusing on the future (or event past), are we letting time pass by that we forget to live the moment?
  • In doing so, are we missing out on the ‘Joy of Learning‘ children are experiencing now?
  • How can we shift our gaze from the golden thread to The Golden Circle advocated by Simon Sinek?

Golden Circle.png

Activation Activity

Over the next few days, make an intentional effort, for whatever time you can to walk around your learning environment.  Focus not on thoughts of the past (what should or could have been done) or even on the future (I need to do this or talk to).  Focus on the NOW.  Just BE.

  • What can you see?
  • What can you hear?
  • What can you smell?
  • What taste is on your tongue?
  • What textures can you feel against your skin?
  • Can you feel / hear yourself breathing?
  • Is there anything you notice that is new or different?
  • How can you authentically compliment colleagues on the learning environment they have created for their learners?

Remember, being is lost in becoming!

Further Reading:

  1. N. Donald, et al (2016) Daily stress and the benefits of mindfulness: Examining the daily and longitudinal relations between present-moment awareness and stress responses, Journal of Research in Personality, Volume 65, Pages 30-37, ISSN 0092-6566, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2016.09.002

About Anita

As a former SENCO, Senior Leader, School Improvement Advisor 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

#senco5aday: https://www.anitadevi.com/senco5aday.php

 

#senco5aday, Uncategorized

SENCO: It’s all about People!

By Anita Devi

In the last #senco5aday Blog Abigail Hawkins and I shared a framework for considering SENCO wellbeing on a day-to-day basis.  We chalked the evolving journey from the ‘5 a day’ approach to a pragmatic 3Ps: People, Place & Purpose.  In this blog, I begin to unravel further the focus on people.

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things” – Peter F. Drucker

#TeamSEND in any setting is the largest team.  It includes everyone from children, parents, staff, leadership, governance, external specialists and local area practitioners.  Everyone has a role to play and a responsibility.  Too often the SENCO is at the heart of co-ordinating different people on #TeamSEND, so that children, young people & their families can receive the support they need.  This raises the question, what are the interpersonal skills SENCOs need to ensure effective people management?

Broadly speaking, interpersonal skills involve the set of abilities that enable a person to interact positively and work effectively with others.  There are various ways of sub-grouping interpersonal skills (Klein et al., 2006).  However, these distil into three main subsets; the ability to motivate, communicate and build teams.  There is variance across England, as to whether SENCOs are positioned as middle management or in a senior leader role.  Khan & Ahmad (2012) researched the three attributes of interpersonal skills in relation to different levels of leadership.  Whilst their sample was relatively small, they conclude there isn’t a prevalence of any of the skills at different levels of leadership.  They are required at all levels.  However, they also state a need for top level managers and leaders to invest in building teams.  For the purposes of this blog, I assume SENCOs need all three skills of motivating others, communicating and building teams in equal measure, placing though a greater emphasis on ‘team-building’, due to the proportionate size of the team.  It is also helpful, I believe to see these three skills, as interdependent, not separate.

Ability to Motivate

From experience, if I was to define 7 steps to motivating others, they would be:

  1. Listen

A few years back, a new senior leader arrived at an educational organisation I was working at.  This leader made a choice to visit every faculty and deliver his vision speech.  He then took questions.  At one level, I appreciated his clarity and putting people at ease about his vision.  However, when asked a question about communication, he brushed it aside saying, “Communication, we can always improve on communication”.  I remember thinking, ‘What a missed opportunity?’ This was moment to listen.  In that one response, he communicated his leadership approach, much more than he realised.  It took a long time for colleagues to believe this leader was a listener.

  1. Ask open ended questions

I am naturally curious, so I ask a lot of questions.  Over time, though I’ve come to realise not everyone likes being asked questions.  That said, I have found asking open-ended questions does give the team freedom to express their views.  I guess it is also about timing, context and perceived depth of relationship.

  1. Encourage

How much better would the world be, if we made time to encourage each other.  I do not think encouragement is about ignoring issues we need to change but celebrating what’s working to sprinboard us further than we could imagine.  Success breeds success.

  1. Ask what they first step will be

The first step of a new or unfamiliar task is often the hardest.  Talking or walking people through this first step is great way to motivate them onto the next step and beyond.  Think about how computer games are programmed.  The first task is deliberately made easy to engage further participation.  Why should working in teams be any different?

  1. Dream

I’m a great advocate of Appreciative Inquiry, as a theory of change.  Two reasons; firstly, the positive core supports step 3 above.  My second reason is part of the process enables others to dream.  Not just dream, but dream BIG (open questions) and then find ways to make it happen.  Giving people space to dream is both empowering and enabling.

  1. Ask how you can help

We do this a lot in our family.  We have found it is a great way of acknowledging each other and where we are at, without over stepping boundaries and making assumptions.  It’s about more than respect or support.  It’s about honouring and giving people space to grow in a collective environment made of opposites.

  1. Follow-up

Over the years, I’ve met a few leaders who say the right things, but never follow through.  In the words of J.F. Kennedy, “Once is an accident, twice is a co-incidence and three times is a habit”.  When leaders don’t follow through, they lose respect and trust.  Authencity matters, if we want the team to give their best.

Motivation

Communicate

The SENCO role involves a phenomenal amount of communication, verbal and written.  I would argue the amount of information received from others far outweighs the amount of information they give out.  If you think differently, do let me know.  I’d love to hear your views.

Communication is fundamentally about the message.  It is possible to communicate but miss the message.  Five common barriers to effective communication:

  • Judging the other person,
  • Not paying attention to the person you are talking to,
  • Using technical language,
  • Giving solutions or unwanted advice, and
  • Avoiding the concerns of others.

Focusing on learning conversations and ‘managing difficult conversations’ is vital.  This NCTL resource on Fierce Conversations is a good starting point to consider how to carry out unpleasant tasks.

communication-quote-bpc-1.jpg

Building Teams

Training SENCOs at various points in their career development, I regularly talk to them about how they build teams and use leadership language that promotes greater team identity.  Schools where this is emerging or embedded as an integral part of the school ethos, SENCOs are seeing a significant shift in the quality of teaching and provision in the classroom.  SEND becomes a team responsibility.

A team needs clear values and a purpose.  For me, Section 19 of the Children & Families Act 2014 defines the values and purpose of #TeamSEND.  Self-aware leadership, good relationships and clear roles and responsibilities are the foundation of successful teams.

success-quote-team-work

The role of the SENCO is often described as ‘isolated’, as within the setting they are the only one leading in this area.  As such, it become imperative for SENCOs to think about self-leadership.  In other words, how do you invest time in motivating yourself, communicating with yourself and intently seeking support from the wider team.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on self-leadership.

… till next time!  Stay focussed and keeping connecting.  The SENCO role, it’s all about people.

Self Leadership

References

Khan, A & Ahmad, W. (2012). Leader’s interpersonal skills and its effectiveness at different levels of management.

Klein C, DeRouin RE, Salas E. (2006). Uncovering workplace interpersonal skills: A review, framework, and research agenda. In Hodgkinson GP, Ford JK (Eds.), International Review of Industrial and Organizational Psychology (Vol. 21, pp. 80–126). New York, NY: Wiley & Sons, Ltd

About Anita

As a former SENCO, Senior Leader, School Improvement Advisor 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

#senco5aday: https://www.anitadevi.com/senco5aday.php

#senco5aday, Uncategorized

SENCO Wellbeing Matters!

Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to contribute to her or his community.  The positive dimension of mental health is stressed in WHO’s definition of health as contained in its constitution: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

The role of SENCO can be isolating; often the only one in the school dealing with a variety of stakeholders:

  • Parents and carers who may be stressed, confused and only focused (quite rightly) on the needs of their own child,
  • Teachers facing several challenges, as local and national systems evolve,
  • Support staff who need direction and reassurance to focus on what matters and has high impact,
  • Fellow in-house leaders with other responsibilities who need answers,
  • External specialists and practitioners, who are focused on their remit, not necessarily the wider picture, and, of course,
  • Pupils … who are keen to progress but face genuine barriers or difficulties.

 

In addition to this there are other pressures that are beyond a SENCO’s area of control:

  • Changes in access arrangements
  • Budgetary constraints
  • Local authority changes and inconsistencies
  • Conflicting advice from external professionals and local authority officials
  • Changing reporting procedures

 

Many SENCOs remain classroom teachers, so added to the pressures listed above, they may have the responsibility of teaching, being a departmental/subject (or key stage) member, or even a pastoral/form tutor role.  There are few SENCOs remaining whose sole remit is SEND, with many wearing multiple hats from the current collection: Pupil Premium, English as an Additional Language, Looked After Children, Safeguarding, First Aid, More Able, Inclusion and supporting medical needs

 

And that’s just in school!  Beyond the classroom SENCOs are individuals with families and a personal life, which have their own challenges and stresses to manage.

#SENCO5aDay

In 2014, The New Economics Foundation published research that suggested there were five things an individual need to do daily to enhance and sustain their wellbeing.  These are connecting with others, noticing something new, being active, giving or yourself and time and finally making an intentional effort to learn new things.  This ‘5 a day’ construct led to the #teacher5aday movement alongside other more generic titles for other professions.  In 2017, #senco5aday was launched.  SENCOs need to take heed of some of the suggestions, but rather than trying to focus on 5 things to do each day, #TeamADL have grouped these into three easy to remember focus areas: People, Place and Purpose.

Vision

We look forward to asking SENCOs, if they have P’d three times today!  We’re pretty sure a blog will follow with their responses.

Our next blog will be in November 2018 and we will be focussing on People … till then use the grid below to record your thoughts on the 3Ps of SENCO wellbeing.

People Place Purpose
What do you currently do to support your wellbeing?
Is it helpful?
What could be different?