Leadership & Optimism

“I pray heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but the wise men ever rule under this roof” John Adams

When Founding Father and second US president, John Adams, entered the newly built but largely undecorated White House in 1801, it is alleged he said these words as he walked around the executive mansion of the very young republic that had come into being as the United States of America officially in 1787. It was a quote beloved by a lot of subsequent US presidents and it was President No 32, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had it inscribed on the fireplace in the state dining room of the White House. For many, it gave people not only something to think about in the caliber of their president but also the sense that the White House, unlike say a Head of State’s residence such as Buckingham Palace, was their “House”. Well, as with the British people with Brexit in the summer, earlier this week “We the people…” the American people had spoken as the Founders intended them to every four years. And very much like Brexit, at least sort of spoken. But did politicians understand what they had been trying to say? I fell asleep around 1am trying to stay up for the results on Tuesday into Wednesday and then my American friend started messaging and calling around 3am so we talked over the couple of hours as it became clear that the “blue firewall” was not holding and when Pennsylvania was called for Trump it was all over. I am sure it’s C17th Quaker founder, William Penn, would have loved the irony. People discuss the idea of “leadership” all the time in all sorts of contexts; business, political, educational, sports etc, but on Wednesday morning leadership was visible in all the major players involved and that is why there is also hope. There is always hope and every leadership theory has that in it as a component as well. “Reservoirs of optimism” I was once told, is a key element in the mindset of the school leader. You can say that again.

John Dunford, the pupil premium champion, has written a very timely helpful article in the TES on the back of the US Election results for educators; ‘In these troubling times, teachers have an essential role in countering prejudice and hate’. John is right. Part of our role as educators is not only developing understanding and reasoning alongside society’s liberal values in young people but it is also to allow a forum where dialogue with students allows them to make some sense of their World. This week we had the school being reviewed by a team of fellow school leaders as part of the improvement network we are a member of, Challenge Partners. It went really well, English Learning Area was rightly confirmed as an “Area of Excellence” and the reviewers validated the changes, the positive culture at Wyedean as well as the things we need to do to continue to be a high performing school moving to “outstanding”. On Wednesday morning a group of my Year 11 Critical Thinking group turned up at my door desperate to talk about the US Election and President Elect Trump. If I hadn’t been on my way with the lead reviewer to watch my colleague Julie Smith teach Year 12 English Literature I would have stayed and spent the morning analysing the results and the likely consequences. This is probably the most important event of their lives and they are ironically the generation sandwiched between 9/11 and 11/9. I was fortunate enough to be on a History trip to West Berlin as a student when the Wall came down and standing on the Wall by the Brandenburg Tor as the DDR crumbled and people hugged and cried as soon to be united Germans, The strength of that emotion has never left my mind. Will Trump turn back the clock and start building his Wall? When I did meet my Critical Thinking group officially on Thursday morning for discussion over tea we were finally able to let rip as they say. It’s interesting the significance of the 9th Nov in German History: the day the Kaiser abdicated in 1918; the Munich Putsch in 1923; Kristallnacht in 1938 and of course the Wall coming down in 1989. And now Trump. And his family is German on his father’s side. Make of that what you will.

Standing in the silence in Tutshill this morning with the local community as we all were remembering those who fought for our freedoms I did think about how events are caused as I questioned in my mind do we appreciate at the time of the consequence of the moments like the shot at Lexington “heard around the World” or the fateful one in Sarajevo 140 years later. Did the lads of Tutshill or Sedbury understand this when World events impacted their small corner of the Forest in 1914 or 1918 or 2001? Right now there are a fair few people wondering about the magnitude and potential consequences of the events of 2016. I know a number of people will be much happier when 2016 is over. With Halloween and Bonfire Night gone the run down to Christmas is certainly on and the cold and shorter days are definitely apparent. I’ll say it again, we should adopt “Thanksgiving” at the end of November in the UK. Even just for the cornbread. I have been very lucky to have spent a few Falls in North America and taken part in some very special Thanksgiving events with American friends. It’s the America I adore and is still in the Founders words “The shining city on the hill”.

Wyedean held its Academic Mentoring Days yesterday and today and it was a real pleasure to talk with parents and students about their progress and how to support students further in their learning and development. Year 11 Mocks are at the end of the month and our Sixth Form Open Evening is on the 1st December. I have my assembly ready for Monday on the theme of “Time” hopefully not to send Year 11 to sleep with. But first, after the week of Challenge Partners, Trump’s election, Wyedean Staff at Gloucester TeachMeet (Julie Smith doing a brilliant job), Beachley Barracks to close in 2027 and Academic Mentoring it’s time to at least enjoy a quiet weekend. Can I go weekend without reading/listening/watching the news? I blame the rise of social media. For a lot of things.


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