“Tribe of Mentors” Questions

After finishing a “must read” in ‘Tribe of Mentors’ by Tim Ferris, I decided I wanted to take on the 11 questions that largely underpin the entire book. They are cleverly structured, and he uses them to draw inspiration, advice and experiences from a host of people in various sectors. The first thing that happens is a small profile of the person being interviewed, but I will not do it on the scale he does – simply:

@pairupinthrees is a PE teacher who has worked in Scotland, the Middle East, Kazakhstan and will shortly be relocating to Hong Kong. After graduating from the University of Edinburgh, he has had the opportunity to work in some large international schools, and has experience as Head of Department. He hosted the U13 BSME Games 3 years ago, and also has been involved in opening 2 CrossFit gyms in his previous 2 schools.

Here goes with the questions:

What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?

Chasing Excellence – Ben Bergeron. I follow the majority of Ben’s work (podcast, programming, reading) and have really bought into the philosophy he shares. This book has a CrossFit bias, but the principles that are the driving force in the book are transferrable to life. I have gifted this to a few people and I only read it for the first time last summer – it is the first book in years I have gone back to read repeatedly in quick succession.

How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie. Old but one of the best self help books on the market. The title isn’t one that will lure people in, but the content and message should.

Black Box Thinking – Matthew Syed. Marginal gains, focusing on the small things – this really sparked my own thinking about teaching, life and progressing in general. If you are someone driven by the finer details, this is a must read.

I blogged about my most recent reads (the last 12 months or so) about 3 months ago.

What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)? My readers love specifics like brand and model, where you found it, etc.

The Habit Bull app on my phone (£5 I think). The most I have ever spent on an app, so I gambled! I use it all the time, tracking the essentials in my day so that I do not forget them. It has also really improved my commitment to things like contacting my parents and family, as living so far away means I can lose track of what is going on. I pick up the phone to my folks once a week – this was something I was okay at before, but now I am fully accountable via the app as I am uncomfortable when a habit is not checked off! I also track things like blog reading, listening to podcasts, doing my pre-hab etc – there can be a lot going on in a day, and this is a good visual way of me tracking progress.

Along the same theme, a nice lined Moleskine notepad – it goes nearly everywhere with me, as I love a good scribbled note. A5 with lined or plain paper if you are buying.

How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?

I have had a significant amount of these in my time! One that stands out –  as a youngster, I was released from a professional football club. I was heartbroken, and I also struggled to find the lessons in being released, but over the years I finally started to connect with some of them – I wish had worked them out sooner. This happened probably 17 years ago and I still remember it well – it has certainly been a pivotal “failure” in my time.

At work, I nearly got my P45 for forwarding an email from a Principal to an outside agency (the email was very short and informal – also the content had some contentious politics in there) – I nearly got hung for that! I had to take it on the chin and move on, and what followed was one of the most significant additions to my CV since I started teaching (hosting the BSME Games). It wasn’t a pleasant learning curve, but one that stood me in stead. That same Principal has a lot of time for me as he knows I was always prepared to put myself out there and try to improve things for the children – with that came the potential to mess things up. I learned my lesson, and know that I can always go back to him for a strong reference as he appreciated my work capacity and passion for the subject (despite my tendency to push some buttons!).

If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it — metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why? It could be a few words or a paragraph. (If helpful, it can be someone else’s quote: Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?)

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” Muhammad Ali – I have this as a tattoo in Arabic – I have a lot of time for Ali and what he stood for.

“Hard work pays off”. Enough said.

What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)

Money – the investment I made to move abroad in my teaching career. I was paid back immediately in terms of finances and more importantly, I was given fantastic opportunities to develop as a young man and in my career. It also gave me the chance to meet my other half which would have been worth it in itself.

Time – working with an Ethiopian charity (#projectbishoftu). While we have helped raise a lot of money, I have found after visiting 3 times in the past 5 years, it is the time you spend there that is the most valuable thing you can donate. I just love coaching the group of lads I have worked with in the last 5 years – to see the journey they have been on really is so special and is a constant reminder to me about why I do what I do – the chance to make a difference is incredible.

What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?

Not necessarily absurd, but I love hats – any type really. Irrelevant if others think it is ridiculous (which a few people including my dad have pointed out) – for example I will wear a beanie hat with shorts and t-shirts, even if it is way too hot for one. And beanie’s probably went out of fashion years ago, but I have loads of them! In general I might own around 40 or 50 different hats! My girlfriend would say I have loads of lots of “things” – I could probably be shortlisted as a hoarder – but I like to find the value in different things! All of these “things” stay in my man cupboard – I cannot wait to own a shed, like my late Papa whose shed was an epic array of “things”! I will be the only one with the keys!

In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?

I have always been a hard worker, but would have been influenced by peers and colleagues and maybe not shown my full capacity as it wasn’t the done thing. Over time (and as I have matured) I have cared less about what others think around me, and strived to be the hardest worker in the room, and always trying to better myself for the sake of the people I work with and for. My attitude at work and in life can sometimes be taken as out of the ordinary, but I think it is relatively simple and I find others who do not want to push themselves as the strange ones!

What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?

Specifically those graduating with a degree in PE teaching – don’t believe you cannot come back to Scotland/UK to teach if you go and teach internationally (or take time out of the profession completely). Do not be afraid to take on a new challenge or path just because it does not directly align with your qualification or experience. Go out there, work hard, listen and look to add value wherever you go and whatever you do. The rest will take care of itself.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

The focus on having students “pass” over having students walk out of school as better human beings. Having taught only core PE for the past 2 years it has been refreshing to find our departmental focus is directed towards the importance of developing the children and not necessarily improving their GCSE grades. If you help them become better people, the likelihood is their report cards will be better anyway. We are not in a job to help them become better sports people or athletes – we are there to help them become better at life.

In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to (distractions, invitations, etc.)? What new realizations and/or approaches helped? Any other tips?

Social events. I am 29 now, and the drive to go out and have a few drinks has certainly eased off. I actually went for a long period of time without drinking at all, while still socialising, and it was great. That was a constant cycle of saying “no” but eventually the answer started to have more weight over time. I still socialise (I am not a hermit!) but I have a better handle on my priorities.

I am also “slightly” better at saying no to management over some aspects that are not priorities in my eyes or that of our department. While I understand I answer to those above me (and often there are people above them) my priority is the students – and therefore their development is at the forefront of decisions that are made in the office.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do? (If helpful: What questions do you ask yourself?)

Earphones go in when at work – it is an indirect “do not disturb” to all of those in the office. I am not a regular for putting them in – but unfortunately sometimes a task needs your complete attention and in a PE office, there are a number of potential distractions. By only doing it for short windows and rarely, it has more effect with my colleagues (and any students who fancy popping down to ask a nonsensical question!)

I train regularly – that is my sanctuary from some of the negative aspects that you have to deal with in a day, and also my chance to prioritise “me” over anything else. I prefer to train in a group environment, but if not an option, getting out for a run/cycle/swim is great and provides all the meditation I need.

I had a lot of fun answering these questions – I would love to see others have a go!

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The What If Scenario…….

I recently listened to a podcast by Ben Bergeron, owner of CrossFit New England, and one of the topics of conversation was various “what if” scenarios and tactful conflict resolution. Ben has recently introduced this discussion in staff meetings in order to help his colleagues be better prepared for the various things that can occur in a day, both within the business but also the wider world.

It had me thinking about the various scenarios that have come up in the past 2 weeks in my current school. I would love to hear individual and departmental views on how they would deal with these – while I think either myself or the person involved dealt with some of these very well, there is always room for improvement (and another point of view).

  1. What would you do if: One of the members of your department left the school (without informing any other staff or their line manager) for 3 hours to get a haircut?
  2. What would you do if: You walked into the boys changing room to find one student with boxing gloves punching another student in the head?
  3. What would you do if: A game of football you organised for your students had to be cancelled on the day of a game, due to a late issue with another whole school event?
  4. What would you do if: Your Headteacher did not appear at the end of year Sports Awards ceremony, and was due to give out an award at that ceremony?
  5. What would you do if: Challenged by a parent directly (in front of their child) regarding their PE report (and with no prior warning they were coming to meet you?)

These are only a handful of examples……. I am sure people have many more. I think it would be a valuable experience to share some of the more unique situations that arise in schools, to allow staff to be better prepared for what might happen!

In summary, for tactful conflict resolution, Ben’s advice was relatively simple:

-Your first reply should start with “Thank you”

-Listen intently

-Admit mistakes

-Allow them to take a role in creating the outcome

-Ensure the desired outcome can be met with immediate action

Happy conflict resolution!

 

 

Recent Reading List…..

In the past 12 months, I have made an active effort to increase my reading. It is always something I have enjoyed, and was actually a keen reader at school, but with work consuming my life and no energy left when I went to bed, my habit of reading for 15 minutes before sleeping slowly slipped away. After reintroducing a number of positive habits into my life (with the help of the app Habit-Bull) I have pushed myself to read more – and have covered lots of material in the past 12 months! I was motivated to list all of these courtesy of a fitness specialist called Marcus Smith (@mjd_smith) I follow on Instagram, who shared his reading last from the past 24 months.

Some books I have not included as they were “holiday books” (I like Crime fiction) and did not influence any part of my daily routine, my teaching or my lifestyle. All of the books listed below I took at least one aspect from and allowed to shape some aspects of my thinking. Some of these are really excellent books that I will certainly read again in a year or so.

2018:

Tribe of Mentors – Tim Ferris

The Greatest – Matthew Syed

Stronger – Jeff Bauman

The Learning Rainforest – Tom Sherrington (@teacherhead)

The Talent Code – Daniel Coyle

Relentless – Tim Grover

Black Box Thinking – Matthew Syed

Ali: A Life – Jonathon Eig

Bounce – Matthew Syed

2 Hours – Ed Caesar

The Chimp Paradox – Prof Steve Peters

Chasing Excellence – Ben Bergeron

Walking the Himalayas – Levison Wood

Above Head Height – James Brown

Losing My Virginity – Richard Branson

Run, Ride, Sink or Swim – Lucy Fry

Eat & Run – Scott Jurek

2017:

Running With the Kenyans – Adharanand Finn

The Way of the Runner – Adharanand Finn

5000-1 The Leicester City Story – Rob Tanner

Saban – The Making of a Coach – Monte Burke

100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers – Ross McGill (@teachertoolkit)

How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie

Inside Team Sky – David Walsh

Deskbound – Kelly Starrett

The 1997 Masters – My Story – Tiger Woods

The Killing School – Brandon Webb

Between a Rock and a Hard Place – Aron Ralston

On the bookshelf and hoping to read in the next couple of months:

Podium – Ben Oakley

Talent lab – Owen Slot

Rules of The red rubber ball – Kevin Carroll

Developing better athletes, better people – Jim Thompson

Elevating your game – Jim Thompson

Any recommendations? Would love to hear…….

The International School Sport Trip

As I return from my seventeenth (I think!) International School trip, I wanted to share some of the value I think it brings, as well as some of the lessons I have learned along the way as trip leader for most of these tours. Trips have been a mixture of international competitions (organized by a host School or company) for our hand picked and strongest teams, and some have been all inclusive sport trips accessible to those who can afford it (but as a result are run in term time holidays). Both have value in my opinion, although this post is focused on the all inclusive sport tours. Over the past 7 years I have run or been part of ski trips, football only trips and multi sport trips. We have gone to the UK, Spain, Switzerland and Dubai to name but a few!

Disclaimer* this is written based on the fact I have worked with very affluent students who are paying a hefty fee for these trips.

Overall, I think the trips allow for the chance to:

-meet different students and staff of different cultures or ethnicity.

-teaches students to prepare for sport independently (eg. what they choose to eat at the buffet, how many hours of sleep they think is important, not drinking enough water giving them the now standard headache on day 3 of the trip etc).

-develops your relationships with parents, students and traveling staff. Touch wood, all trips so far have gone to plan (on the most part!) and this builds trust in your department and what you are offering. If you have a poor level trip, even if its not your fault, it will directly effect your reputation as a PE department.

-gives a greater sense of reality to kids. For example, on the ski trip, the accommodation was basic which was exactly what we were after, it got kids making beds and looking after their space.

-overall, just adds value to your PE programme. The chances students get on these trips (especially some of the weaker students) to play in competitive matches is really good, not just for you, but some of the schools you visit (who may not play many games themselves).

Some items to consider:

-hard to convince good staff to join you (even though it’s a financially free week/long weekend for them, some wish to spend holidays away from school related things, which I can see why).

-pick strong staff (linked to above), a lesson I learned from the International Award Coordinator at my last school who had to take 80 students plus 10 staff (he didn’t hand pick all the staff). Long story short, there was a major incident where one member of staff had to be flown home due to one too many shandies. He really emphasised the need to take staff that you completely trust, because you as trip leader will always be thrown under the bus should anything go wrong (and he was on that occasion!). I always hand pick my staff or else I do not run the trip (it was suggested once who I should take, and I pulled the plug on the trip – as trip leader you always hold the cards).

-hard to get even level games if doing team sports against schools in the area – you may have some of your team players and some of your lower ability students – finding even games is hard! And making teams is hard! Using a good tour agent makes this a lot easier – I have my recommendations which I will share should anyone wish to have them

-use a parent WhatsApp group; but distance yourself from too many questions by giving them the answers first (ie share the itinerary and communicate changes ASAP). Emphasise the group is for questions and your number is only to be called in EMERGENCY situations (checking why someone hasn’t answered their phone does not constitute an emergency). When you do a parent meeting before the trip, really drive this message home.

-communicate small issues to parents ASAP – don’t let students do it first or else it gives off the perception of not being in control (ie if a student came to you with a headache, mention it to the parent and clarify it is under control!).

-build a reward system (ie rooms get points for being on time to gatherings/dinner etc and build towards a prize at the end of the tour). I did not do this on my last trip as I felt the students behaved really well at the start, but then I had no ability to create a system while 4 days into the trip (which I needed to do as the behaviour deteriorated!)

-feedback to parents about students at the end of the trip (you are bound to get feedback on your performance believe me!) so make sure you talk to parents about any major concerns or issues

-always, always, check the rooms first. I had a mini bar related incident as I had checked some rooms and they were empty – evidently one room still had a full mini bar – never assume the hotel have listened to all requests – check them yourself in the first instance!

-get the hotel to put your rooms close together, and get in the habit of setting a firm lights out time. Sit in the corridor of the hotel and make sure students do not leave their rooms after this time – first few nights you might be sitting for a while! (this is easier to control with a rewards/sanctions system however). You will always get complaints from other members of the hotel at some point – but try to minimise these by setting clear expectations.

-always have Panadol + Strepils.

-name badges. Give students one, and have your name and number on the back for emergencies. Not been needed yet, but I am predicting their usefulness in case someone gets lost in a shopping centre/mall in the future.

-if flying, always check in online (use your tour agent to help you). Ensure all adults sit behind the students (and have all of them sitting together). You do not want to be sitting in front of your students (mainly because they will repeatedly kick your seat!) – but on a serious note, anything happens with another member of the paying public, it is best to be able to see it first hand

Plenty more things I have forgotten I am sure (not a student on a trip yet though!) but this is just some advice on maximising trips and hopefully keeping you motivated to run them! They are mainly common sense, and some forward planning tactics to ensure you reduce any potential problems or situations.

 

 

Guest Post: Parents Day

Guest Post (@fayej1)

As a PE teacher, Parent’s Day is the dreaded day when we have to get suited and booted.  A rare occasion and one that means uncomfortable clothing for the day.  I do like how it provides some form of disguise though, with student’s double taking and finally realising, yes that is my teacher.

After looking at the very short list of negatives (wearing a suit) the positives are huge.  I genuinely love meeting the parents and having the opportunity to explain and discuss how their child is performing in their PE lessons.

I always start with asking my students a question about what they like about PE and what they find difficult.  This, I find is a great way to start the conversation as the student gets the chance to express how they feel, which sometimes in a lesson can get overlooked as we focus on developing skills.  PE is limited for some in our school, Year 4, 5, 6, 12 and 13 only receive one hour of PE per week, with each other age group getting two hours per week.  As a PE teacher we want to maximise that time to encourage movement, enjoyment and an understanding of how and why physical activity is good for us.

Formalities of the conversation aside, in a world where it seems we are yo-yoing between PE and physical activity being the best thing for our children and students, to cutting PE time to make room for more academic studies, being allowed a day to highlight exceptional performers, talented individuals and those who are brimming with self-confidence provides a PE teacher with a sense of value and importance.  This is rare and should be embraced by any PE teacher.  Yes, before you start saying, not all students are going to get a brilliant report I know that, I still have some battles to face mainly with disengaged Y11 students who have a back log of poor experiences in PE and are using exams as a scapegoat. In fact scratch that, they don’t use exams as an excuse, its plain old laziness.

Being allowed 5 minutes with a parent is plenty of time to cement your importance in your student’s life.  I have had parents cry during a meeting because they have been so shocked and surprised by the information they are hearing about their son or daughter (all positive comments – be assured).  It is in these moments that I myself, feel like a proud parent, instead I am a proud teacher.  I am proud of all the hours of planning and research I have done to ensure each of my lessons is different, interesting and meets the needs of my students.  I am proud of the relationships I have built with my students, they know they can have fun and express themselves in my lesson, yet when we need to focus and get down to work they are on task and completing work to the best of their ability. I am proud of how hard I work and honestly how emotionally invested I am in my work.

After a few rocky moments in the last few weeks, when I have questioned my importance in my current school and after reading numerous tweets about SLT reducing or cutting PE for more academic studies I generally thought “what’s the point?”  What’s the point of working so hard and investing so much time and energy into my lessons when it’s not important?  Parent’s day has changed that opinion I have been carrying with me recently.  I am a worthwhile member of staff, I do have a valuable subject and I am making a difference.  It may not be to every child, but to the majority they like PE and like being challenged physically, mentally and socially.

My message to all PE teachers out there, in fact all teachers in general; we are valuable and we are making a difference.  May be not to everyone but even if you change one student’s outlook on your subject, you have won.  Don’t give up the fight, keep post it notes of positive comments students, parents and other teachers have made about you; keep a teacher journal where you can reflect on the good and not so good days but most importantly don’t give up. Happy Wednesday!

Hurdles, barriers and reflections

It has been over 6 months since I blogged. I am not sure where the time has gone, but I imagine a lot of it has gone into my new HOD position along with acclimatizing to a new country.  Overall, I think this is the greatest culture change (not quite enough to call it a culture shock) I have experienced.  Reflections have largely happened in my head.  Now is the time for putting pen to paper. 
I was brought to post to deliver stability to a PE department that had no permanent HOD the year before due to the original HOD leaving post 2 months into the year. As a result, the PE department largely survived on fumes, and while they did an amazing job given the issues, there were repercussions. Having identified the main items for development, I could see it was raising the standards across the department again and striving for consistency when we got there. Furthermore, a personal area for development was bringing together a team of 6 with me being the youngest, and having not recruited any of them – a job I probably underestimated. 
An additional role I was given was developing a new inter school league. Our students were going from very little competitive sport to a fully fledged football campaign with 7 teams and 92 fixtures before mid November. We had to alter the culture of students who didn’t understand the concept of multiple practice sessions and games in a single week (this is something that has slowly started to change). This required an unthinkable amount of time (I knew it was coming but wasn’t quite aware of the scale of the task). 
As the term wore on, the more I understood the real priority. Having watched more lessons, got my head around the characters in the office and understood the culture of the school, I could pin point the things that need to develop. 
I have been frustrated by a number of things in the post this year – none more so than resistance to change. Changing classes, changing facilities, changing routines, changing storage arrangements, changing uniform, changing lane ropes in the pool – all have come with some level of resistance. All have been implemented now with success, and were discussed as a group before actually happening, but still it had issues. One of the biggest changes has been teaching approaches – observations were almost shelved the previous year due to the issues with the HOD. Now, we are in a position to develop staff. 

I only say this now as I have reflected on it. Ask me 5 weeks ago, and I would have been happy to replace some staff with new teachers. However, a conversation I have just read in Shoe Dog (a memoir by Phil Knight, founder of Nike) in relation to his frustrations about management not being at his standard really resonates with me:

Phil- “We are having a terrible time getting managers who can seize those opportunities”

Mr Hayami (his Japenese contact): “see those bamboo trees up there?”

“yes”

“Next year when you come….. they will be one foot higher”

It is now my responsibility to oversee that growth, irrelevant of the obstacles and the barriers in the way. Growth might be sudden, gradual or rapid. Only if growth doesn’t happen, then I plant another tree. 

New year, new approach to this leadership thing. 

Case for reflection #2 – Lessons Learned

Having lived nearly 20% of my life in my current country, five of my six years teaching in this particular school (and all of my teaching since my NQT year), held roles as a PE teacher, Head of House, Assistant Director of Sport and Head of Secondary PE, it would be fair to say I have learned some lessons about teaching, management and schools in general. Here is my top 9:

  1. At times, bite your tongue: Not a skill I am blessed with, and still one of my biggest weaknesses. However, in a job like this, where you are pulled from pillar to post and then some, as well as the sheer volume of workload, students and pressure, you need to have some form of “pause” button, or you won’t last the year. I can have a hot head and a sharp mouth, but over the years, I have learned to control it (to a degree). Key lesson:
    When you hear someone say something that has the potential to rile you, ask them to repeat themselves. This gives you a cooling down window and a chance to reconsider your first answer (which may have been to jump down their throat!). It also gives them a chance to re-word what they said, and maybe consider the tone it was delivered in! Endless examples over the 5 years with SMT, parents, students and colleagues – and I wasn’t always wise enough to use this approach.
  2. Don’t drop your standards: for anyone. One thing I have noticed in a PE team that has grown from 7 members to 12 is that some people have varying standards. If you are the leader of that group, do not drop them for anyone. If you set a certain level of work, it stays as the minimum requirement, irrelevant of resistance. Key lesson:
    Some people are okay with being okay – do not let that effect the whole group or team. Continually push them and if they still deliver quality that is sub standard, call them out. They will soon get the message that you are striving for quality across the board, not just from a percentage of the team. In a large team, this approach means the “passengers” are highlighted instead of blending in behind the people that are grafting.
  3. Lead by example. Old school maybe, but I am not that old….. In fact I am one of the youngest in the office. But if you are one of the leaders, you need to maintain standards. One of the first in the door, one of the last out. First and foremost, be a good teacher – plan well, deliver quality, meet deadlines well in advance, be proactive. Be a role model (see #4) – let the students see you bleed a little. Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself, in front of the kids, the parents and the staff. No one likes the knowall who is never wrong – yes, these teachers are considered “nobs” just like knowalls in other walks of life. In a leadership role, constantly strive for the chance to push people to do more than they are comfortable doing – especially in a school of this size, the jobs are endless. Delegate when needed, but always give the person something to work with, and be the point of contact as they complete the task. Key lesson:
    Try not the delegate all the “crap” jobs to members of the team. If you are prepared to do them, others will be willing to take jobs off your plate over time. Create an environment where people want to help the team become better, and if that means completing some smaller scale medial tasks, them so be it. Sometimes if you need a job done, the best/most appropriate person is you.
  4. Get your work/life balance in check. You cannot save the world, or completely change the culture of a school, no matter how passionate and committed you are. You can influence people however, but to do that well, you need to be firing on all cylinders. For me, this means working out twice a day (most days), before and after school. Let the kids see you sometimes – let them know you are practicing what you preach. As a result, my body is being looked after, and my mind is engaged. At weekends, I spend at least some time partially vegetating – sometimes the brain needs to simply have nonsensical conversations with people about anything apart from school and teaching. Believe me – it is incredibly refreshing. You cannot constantly immerse yourself in work related items. Key lesson:
    Even when there are deadlines looming and pressure building, always always always allocate time for yourself – you are far more likely to produce the goods on time. It may seem like reverse logic – almost doing something else in a limited time frame – but for me working out clears the fog in front of me, and means my quality is much higher for the task in hand.
  5. Prioritise students over staff all the time: when making selections on who coaches teams, or teaches certificated PE, or who takes set 5 – consider the students, not the potential backlash from a member of the team. Where we have got the PE team to now is pretty transparent – people know their role, and why they have it. If they want more, they need to do X, Y and Z to potentially be in the running for that in the future. Key lesson:
    There is a big difference between a friend and a colleague. You cannot be everyone’s friend, especially when you have multiple people to accommodate. But you also may have thousands of students to consider – and they always will come first.
  6. You can polish a turd, but ultimately, it’s still a turd: only a certain amount of papering of cracks can truly cover something that is not built to last. Lay the foundations, build on them, strengthen them, then maintain it. Do not always try to add layer after layer – all structures have a limit. Key lesson:
    A balloon can only be blown up so far – find the optimum capacity, then focus on quality over quantity.
  7. In private, money making schools, the team is never your own: even if you have a vision, unfortunately there will always be decisions above your head that will dampen that view. Remain as positive as possible (once you have had a good rant, but in the style of #1) then try to reshape the vision, always considering the students first. Key lesson:
    The job is never truly complete – there will always be something waiting for you around the corner to challenge or change the system you have in place. Learn to predict what is coming – get someone high up the chain on your side, so you know of any top down decisions well in advance so you are somewhat prepared.
  8. Do not accept the first answer you get: from anyone. If you have an idea, and they say no, ask why. Once you have the why, reshape the proposal (if you are truly passionate about it and know it will make a difference). You pester enough, and you will get at least a part of what you want. Time your pitch wisely however. Key lesson:
    If you want something, do not be afraid to ask. However, timing is critical – do not approach a colleague (of any level) with something the minute you come into contact with them. Approach it in the correct manner, and pitch it minus the bulls**t – clear, concise and to the point. Don’t like the answer you get? See it from their side, and meet them half way with a compromise.
  9. Be completely crystal clear in your instructions to people: I mean, literal. Just verbally set someone a task? Send a follow up email. Want something done within a specific time frame? Set it on your weekly meeting agenda, and minute the date and task for all to see. Have everything in writing so it is easier to follow up. Key lesson:
    When setting group tasks, send a group email so everyone in the chain can see everyone’s job – it means all are accountable to each other. One person’s job might lead into another – make that clear in the email. Put deadlines in bold. Chase up a before the deadline – be relentless.

 

While the journey has certainly had some bumps, I would not change the final destination, which I think overall highlights a successful 5 years. I would definitely change some of the routes on the way, but not the experience itself. Over and out.