I was asked to present workshops at the 2011 COBIS conference. A huge privilege as I adore Prague. I think it might be my favourite city. Much better than “good” – it’s a “great” city! I gave a lot of thought to the conference theme as to what makes a school great. I chased a range of high ideas around, but in the end I think that anything that is truthful is simple and full of commonsense.
This is me in a Prague restaurant, which felt like I was inside a feverish imagination as there were strange paintings and sculptures everywhere!
What makes schools great is the quality of relationships within the school. Are people emotionally safe with each other? Do they feel respected and valued? Are they all able to respect all individual differences and allow people to shine in their different ways and not feel threatened? Do they see themselves as a team of leaders able to support each other?
The key to knowing whether you are a great school or not is as if you feel you can take risks and still be supported whatever happens! Good schools, for me, only say or do that which is safe to say or do. In great schools adults take risks, are creative, try out new things, give rein to their individuality ……safe in the knowledge that if things go wrong there will be no lashback from their staff – just understanding and support.
In the end, folks, in my great school I would see circles of staff sitting together without any agendas, at least once a half-term asking each other for help. This would be given with no judgement. People would not talk about each other behind their backs. Integrity would sparkle everywhere. People would look after themselves so they would have enough energy to look after others when life is throwing ambushes. In great schools there is great laughter. In great schools there is a lot of fun and joy. In great schools all the teachers have a life outside of their job – so they have more to give when it is needed.
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