The famous Stoic, Marcus Aurelius, once said “Never shirk the proper dispatch of your duty, no matter if you are freezing or hot, groggy or well-rested, vilified or praised, not even if dying or pressed by other demands.” Basically he was saying do your duty and do it as best you can with the resources that you have. 

I’m picking that each and everyone of you who has been leading a school during the last Term has been doing just this. It’s been your duty to lead and you have done so with great energy and passion!

But now, as we head into the break between Terms, you have the choice to change your duty – even if it’s only for the two week break, and so do it. Go on! Change your duty. Change it from being a leader, to being a full on “you”. Put yourself first over the next couple of weeks. You know that you deserve it, so go ahead, make this time yours. Change your duty and have a fantastic holiday!


Photo by Lan Gao

This week I’m writing from the top of the gondola in Queenstown, watching the group of kids that I’m with zooming down the luge.

It’s hardly tropical as I watch, and the wind chill must be less than zero.

Yet the kids are all happily zooming past… most in shorts, a couple in tee shirts. We told them to dress warmly but they’ve somehow missed the memo. It’s not stopping them from taking each and every one of their 5 allotted runs.

Around us there are AJ Hackett signs saying things like Live More, Fear Less. And I’m wondering where and when, we, as adults, lost this impulse. The students in front of me appear to not even know that living more and fearing less is even a thing. They’re doing it already, in spades, and relishing and thriving as a result of it.

At the same time I’m wondering what The Science of Learning would make of all this. I’ve just read Megan Gallagher’s excellent blog, The Science.

In it she bemoans this monolithic like culture shift that has suddenly become a “thing” in our world of education. It suggests there is a silver bullet called THE Science of learning – a one size fits all approach even – and that it will be the answer to all our education woes.

There’s nothing wrong with a solid and robust science approach to education. But I do wonder what governments will say as they get the bill for the cost of it all. I’m pretty sure The Science of Learning will be expensive. Not only will it require major investment in teacher training, but also in class sizes, physical infrastructure, social housing, access to cheap and equitable health systems, healthy foods, the well being of all, the resolving of years of cultural trauma – the list goes on. You know, all that stuff that needs to be sorted so that all of our kids get educated on an equal and equitable footing from day one.

In the meantime, as the kids from my school whizz pass me, oblivious to this thing called the Science of Learning, I wonder again if AJ Hackett and his marketing team have got it right; Live More, Fear Less.

Maybe this is what “the science” will actually say once all the research is done, and analysed, and the findings have tried to be implemented on a shoe string, because that’s what governments do. And we find that the science of Learning isn’t just found in the four walls of a building and a strict curriculum, but in everything that we touch around us. Maybe we’ll find that if we provide more opportunities to live more and fear less that everything will be just fine. Maybe.

I wonder how long it’ll take for the science to say this? And then I wonder what we’ll do with this information?


Photo by Jan Kahánek

We do so much writing in our professional lives that whenever I hear the word “journaling” my mind kind of freezes over. We write reports, newsletters, strategic plans, opinions, instructions, curriculum documents, more reports – we’re constantly writing.

Turns out though that “journaling” is one of those things that can really help us with our well-being at work. Studies show that journaling can be a powerful tool for enhancing well-being by promoting emotional expression, self-reflection, stress reduction, problem-solving, goal setting, and gratitude. 

It has a versatility and adaptability about it that means you can almost do it anywhere and at any time.

I reckon we should make time to journal our thoughts at school – during our professional day.

Tapping away on your keyboard, or writing longhand into a book, no-one needs to know. Journaling has the advantage of making you appear to be “busy” to anyone who might poke their head through the door and make some sort of judgement about how you’re using your time!

Making time, just for you, to get your thoughts, concerns, wonders and ideas down daily sounds easy. You just need to make that time, and then get on to it.

So what could you write about? The great thing about journaling is that you don’t need to follow the same theme every day. Just getting your thoughts down onto paper is immensely beneficial to your well-being.

In fact I’m getting benefit from just writing about journaling – it’s helping me clarify my own thinking as my fingers bounce across the keyboard finding ways to turn words into ideas. 

So, as I said, what could you write about? Well, how about these ideas for a start: 

  • Gratitude Journaling: Keeping a gratitude journal, where you regularly write about things that you are thankful for. This has been linked to increased happiness, reduced depression, and improved overall life satisfaction.
  • Structured Thinking: Writing down your problems and finding potential solutions can help you greatly in building up problem-solving skills. By doing this it allows you to organise your thoughts logically and approach your professional challenges more systematically.
  • Cathartic Release: How about just writing as a process to release pent-up emotions and stress. Write down exactly what you’re feeling – no-one else will ever read this. Go-to-town with how you’re feeling.  This act of releasing stress can lower physiological stress markers like cortisol levels .
  • Cognitive Restructuring: Write about  the challenging situations that you find yourself in. By doing this you can help yourself  reframe negative thoughts and develop a more positive outlook, which in turn contributes to better mental health and resilience .
  • Positive Emotion Amplification: How about focusing on some of the positive experiences and accomplishments that you’ve been through recently. Amplify these positive emotions and it’ll help you to foster a more optimistic outlook on what you’re going through.

As I said, there doesn’t need to be any rhyme or reason to your writing in terms of what you write about, it’s all up to you. But studies do show that regular journaling will make you feel better and will promote resilience, so why wouldn’t you find time in your “busy” day at work to put pen to paper?

All you need to do is start. Close the door of your office, set your timer for twenty minutes and write. Go on, do it! You won’t regret it.



Photo by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash

Last week David wrote a powerful piece called 4am. It’s well worth reading if you haven’t already done so! It reminded me a lot of the sleep pattern/habit that I’m currently in and which I find really annoying!

Most mornings I find myself lying awake in bed, about an hour before I’m meant to get up. This happens a lot, and as I said, I find it very annoying; primarily because instead of enjoying the last hour of sleep that I need, I lie there scanning the day ahead of me looking for dangers.

I’m not sure why my brain does this, but I suspect that I’m probably not alone. The dangers that my brain is looking for are most probably rooted in the mists of time, well before I was even born. It’s an evolutionary thing that modern brains have held onto and into the modern age, God only knows why.

The dangers that my mind is scanning for aren’t found on the savannah, behind some bushes, or in a cave. Yet you’d think the way that my mind works at this time of the morning, here in the 21st century, that these dangers still exist.

That unwritten board report – it’s a sabre toothed tiger.

That maths lesson with the class from 3G – it’s a Haast Eagle.

That talk that I need to present at a staff meeting – it’s an empty food basket.

I really should just get up out of bed and shut these thoughts off. I always feel better once I’m moving and the light of the day shows itself. But yet I lie there, in the dark, hoping that I can find that last hour of sleep before the alarm goes off.

It’s a bit like I’m at the start line for a race. I’m waiting for the starting gun to explode, a whole hour before but my brain has already begun the run. I’m lying there trying to train my mind not to start the run until the starting gun goes, but my brain doesn’t want to listen. 

You’ve got to wonder – who is in control of these thoughts?

So, I’ve turned to Chat GTP3.5 and I’ve asked for a list of mindfulness techniques that I can use in bed. I’m going to give these a go over the next few days. I’m hopeful that I can train my mind over time to switch on for the big dangers only when I need it too.

What do you think of this list? Could these help you?

  1. Deep Breathing: Focus on your breath and engage in deep breathing exercises. Inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your abdomen to rise, and exhale slowly through your mouth, releasing tension with each breath. Counting your breaths or using a mantra can help keep your mind focused.
  2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Start from your toes and work your way up to your head, tensing and then relaxing each muscle group in your body. Pay attention to the sensations of tension melting away as you consciously release each muscle.
  3. Body Scan Meditation: Bring your awareness to different parts of your body, starting from your toes and moving up to your head. Notice any areas of tension or discomfort, and consciously release the tension as you focus on relaxing each part of your body.
  4. Mindful Observation: Use your senses to observe your surroundings from your bed. Notice the feeling of your sheets against your skin, the sounds of the night, and any subtle scents in the air. Allow yourself to fully experience the present moment without judgment.
  5. Guided Imagery: Visualize yourself in a peaceful, calming place such as a beach, forest, or mountaintop. Imagine the sights, sounds, and sensations of this tranquil environment, allowing yourself to become fully immersed in the experience.
  6. Gratitude Practice: Shift your focus away from worries or stressors by practicing gratitude. Reflect on three things you’re grateful for, no matter how small they may seem. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude can help promote feelings of peace and contentment.
  7. Mindful Listening: Tune in to any sounds you hear in your environment, whether it’s the hum of a fan, the rustling of leaves outside your window, or the sound of your own breath. Allow the sounds to wash over you without trying to change or analyze them.
  8. Relaxing Visualization: Picture yourself in a calming scenario, such as floating on a cloud or drifting in a peaceful stream. Imagine all your worries and concerns melting away as you immerse yourself in this serene visualization.


It’s the beginning of a new Term. 

You find yourself standing in the staffroom looking at the Term planner. It’s full of rows and columns, numbers and days. 

At one point, very recently, the planner was pretty much empty. Now you look at it and you see the empty boxes made up by the intersecting lines (the days) filling up with stuff; special events, deadlines, meetings, discos, camps, school productions, more meetings, working bees, school reports and other meetings. 

Maybe it’s colour co-ordinated. Maybe you have a key to the side that tells everyone what the colours mean. Maybe there’s a friendly motivational quote adorning the top of the board just to soothe the busyness of it all. Maybe.

There’s something about the staffroom Term planner that seems to keep everyone on track. If it’s not on that planner then it may never ever happen. If you want something done, it needs to be somewhere on that piece of board.

If you’re lucky you’ll be looking at two or three weeks towards the end that aren’t quite filled in the same as the initial weeks. There’ll be a few blanks.

If you’re wise you’ll keep it that way.

If you want to help your team get through the term without feeling fried, frizzled, overworked, over stressed, burnt out, exhausted and crawling on all fours, then jealously guard over those blank spaces. And if you can’t do that, then write into the blanks imaginary “stuff” that only you know aren’t true – call them space savers. 

No one else needs to know.

Your future self will thank you.



Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona 

Ok, so I’m a bit of a slow learner. That’s probably no surprise to some of you, let alone me!

I’ve just come across OSHO’s wonderful quote. He says; “Creativity is the greatest rebellion in existence.”

Ooooh! I like that! I’ve always fancied a bit of rebellion, or at least the prospect of it – that feeling that you’re doing something out of the norm, out of the ordinary, pushing the boundaries, shaking the tree.

I like that a lot.

Osho, for those of you like me who didn’t/don’t know, is an Indian Spiritual Guru and this quote comes from his best selling book “Creativity, Unleashing The Forces Within”.

Google tells me that “Osho highlights the fact that creativity is much more than a simple act; it’s a profound form of rebellion against the conventional boundaries and the restrictive nature of our daily existence”.

I like that too! I like that a lot.

So, in this changing world impacted with the likes of AI, I wondered where in education the greatest rebellion might be currently found.

Unsurprisingly I found it where it always has been; in our Early Childhood Centres and Kindergartens.

In these places you walk through the door and you see un-abound creativity everywhere, and anywhere. 

I think you’d struggle to find anywhere on the planet where such unabashed creativity is produced in such an unrestrictive and supportive manner.

What’s more, these creative souls (yes it’s the 2-5 year olds I’m talking about) go about their acts of daily rebellion in a constant state of “I don’t care”. 

Yeah, sure, they’re learning to care – as they look for the acknowledgement like signs from their teachers, care-givers and parents. But on the whole I can’t imagine any three year old in the world who starts their finger painting masterpiece with the thoughts, “how will this be accepted? and is it acceptable?”

Around these three year olds is a lovely caring and supportive bubble wrap like layer of safety. It’s provided by the state, or the private institution and it comes in the form of the teacher. This layer of safety allows for our children to be almost as rebellious as they want as they go about making sense of their new world.

As I said, it’s hard to imagine a place on earth that is so free in regards to this creativity. 

As children get older and they move through our education systems, the significance of the safety bubble wrap and its use, becomes diluted.

This dilution, or constraint, is done on many different layers; by peer pressure; by family expectations; by societal “norms”; and by the institutions themselves who are also under the same constraints.

Creativity is inherently fueled by risk taking. Our three year olds are encouraged to take risks – in fact they often don’t even comprehend that a risk is even there. 

This is called play. And they learn about risks by doing stuff in their play.

By the time our kids find themselves further up the school system this risk taking/play aspect of creativity is often non-existent.

And to compound things more our teachers are often so risk-averse themselves that the creativity rebellion is well and truly about to be extinguished.

Enter AI stage left.

On first glance it appears that maybe, just maybe the rebellion is about to be reignited!

But on closer inspection I wonder if AI just gives us the opportunity to take risk taking out of the creative equation altogether.

I’ve always thought that the risk taking part of being creative is the part that makes us truly human. It’s the part that adds the spice to the process!! It’s like the wrapping on a present at Christmas time – until the wrapping is taken away there’s always the uncertainty left about what has been created; it’s an anticipation that is intoxicating.

Being creative has never been totally risk free – unless of course we’re all living in a kindergarten world – so why would we allow AI to take this away from us?

Surely, if we are going to embrace AI into the creative realm (and to be honest it looks like we have no choice), then the time is now to be actively encouraging our teachers to take real life risks in their classrooms.

This means looking at what “Being Creative” really looks like. It means celebrating this often – as in, getting really excited about human creativity! 

And it means reigniting the flame and letting the rebellion take hold.


Photo by Anna Samoylova 

It’s been almost two years since I was last on school camp. And to be honest, the last time I was on camp I wondered a lot whether it would be my last. Turns out it wasn’t and it isn’t.

I’m pretty grateful about that. I do like a good school camp. Yes there are always the “issues” that arise; homesickness, car sickness, grumpy kids, grumpy adults, sleep deprivation, shared bathrooms – you get the picture.

But on the whole it’s always a lovely, almost inspiring event. You see people, in this case mostly little people, in an element that you’ve never seen them in before. By going on school camp you’ve gently ripped them out of their safe worlds and you’ve introduced them to something completely new in terms of environment and experience.

It’s during school camp that I notice the little things. Those things that may not seem to be all that important on the face of it, but on closer investigation make the way that we see, do and feel about our experiences all so much more vivid.

These things aren’t the iPhone we hold in our hands, or the car that we drive; the street that we live in, the holiday we’ve just been on, or the job that we do.

And in our schools they’re not the fancy interactive whiteboards that we were once told we’d all need, or the funky open plan like classrooms that seemed like the answer to everything, or even the shiny strategic plan that we pour ourselves all over in planning for the many hypotheticals ahead.

Nope they’re the little things; the way that we talk to each other, the way that we support each other, the way that we celebrate the very fact that we’re all in this together.

Here’s a list of the little things that made such a big impact on me when I was on camp.

  1. Morning coffee that hits just right 
  2. A heartfelt compliment from a parent
  3. A genuine smile from a kid accomplishing something new
  4. Unexpected acts of kindness
  5. That perfect playlist that boosts your mood instantly as you drive to school camp
  6. The feeling of a spontaneous adventure that school camp brings
  7. The laughter of the kids at something irresistibly, but unexpectedly funny
  8. Seeing a beautiful sunrise or sunset
  9. Finding the last piece of homemade baking in the camp pantry
  10. Watching the stars on a clear night

These are all things that made my school camp experience so much more vivid.

I wonder though, what are all the little things in our schools that make such a big difference? What might your Big list of little things that matter look like in your school?



Photo by amirali mirhashemian 

I used to like reminding my students, when they’d tell me that things were too hard or just simply too much, that the key to beating this sort of stuff is to think of it all as a hamburger.

Yup a hamburger. Stick with me here.

What I used to tell them is that when they (or anybody actually) bites into their favourite, huge, big, gigantic hamburger, that they never swallow it all in one big bite. Nope, they take little bites. And they take these little bites because their mouth is simply far too small to cram a whole big hamburger into their gob.

Unsurprisingly it’s the same for Leaders too. When we eat a hamburger – when we eat anything actually – we tend to chew off as much as we can, and no more. And if we’re really clever we’ll also take a little moment to savour what we’re eating while we’re at it.

This is the same for those times when the task in front of us is simply far too big, or far too much. There’s no way you can tackle the whole task in one big bite – so don’t even try. Break it down into “mouthful” pieces. And although the task might not necessarily be as tasty as your favourite hamburger, you can still take time to savour, or get some meaning, out of the situation.

There’s no challenge in front of us that can’t be tackled in bite sized chunks. So stop looking at a task and thinking it’s far too big, or onerous, and instead take a little bit of time to wonder where you’d be best to take that first bite.



The tide comes in and the tide flows out. 

This happens twice a day; not quite like clock work, but as close to it as possible without a human hand guiding it. To be honest it’s better this way.

So too do emotions. And the confusions that flow with them. Sometimes you find yourself completely assured and reassured by what you feel, and then there are other times when you really don’t know; let alone know why.

The other day I found myself in a situation where I should’ve been calm but I wasn’t really. I didn’t know why. I wasn’t sure what was feeding all of this. I had everything that I needed. It was all right there. But yet I still had this “thing”; this feeling.

I doubt I was the only one in the world feeling this way. I doubt that I was the only person in the world who felt this confusion.

Viktor Frankl said Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

I like to think about this wise saying if I’m unsure about the origins of an emotion or feeling coursing through my body. It’s especially useful when deciding what my next action should be.

For example the other day when I really had no idea what it was that was making me feel unsettled. There were some possibilities, as there always are, but they all seemed to be way too far away in the future to be of any real interest. 

The feeling that I was having was a result of some sort of thought stimulus that I was having, albeit an unknown one. The response I was giving to this uncertainty was making me feel crap. I needed to look into the space between in order to give myself some well needed clarity.

And it was in this space I found a moment of peace. It was just enough time to take stock of where I was, and what I was doing. But it did the trick. Soon after I felt the crappy feeling lifting.

This sort of thing happens in our professional and personal lives all the time. Next time it happens to you, give yourself some extra time to take stock. 

So just wait for the tide to come back in. Give yourself some time and watch it flow in. Go on! You’ll be just fine.



Photo by Nils 

It’s been quite a year. In fact, it’s been quite a few years now. And it looks like next year, and the following, will also be quite a year or two as well!

Congratulations. You have made it through this “Quite a Year” phenomenon. Well almost. A week or so to go, but I’m placing bets that you will indeed make it through. Hold on, it’s all going to be ok.

No doubt 2023 has been full of Herculean tasks. Those sorts of jobs that have required Herculean like efforts. Hercules of course, is the Greek and Roman demi-god  famous for his strength and for his numerous far-ranging adventures. I imagine that this might sound just a little bit like a Principal or a Leader. 

But why stop there with the Greek/Roman task analogy.

I wonder how many of you have also participated in these following sorts of tasks throughout the year? (I’d like to take credit for these, but I can’t. They come from a comment section on a Facebook group called P#ucked Up and Filosophical. I couldn’t help myself – they all ring true in some form or another to me!)

Icarian Tasks: Whereby you’ve undertaken a task that you know you’re going to fail in but you do it anyway in a spirit of unabandoned fun! (Icarus was known for being  excessively ambitious. “An Icarian mentality that could only lead to a crash and burn”)

Cassandrean Tasks: Whereby you’ve had to deal with people who you know won’t listen to you, even though you’ve given them accurate information – and you’ve had to watch them fumble about even though you’ve told them the solution right from the start (Cassandrea prophesied the fall of Troy, but no-one bothered to listen.)

Dionysian Tasks: Whereby you’ve worked while a bit tipsy on wine – hoping none of us have undertaken this sort of task – but no doubt there have been times when it seemed it was the only way to get through! (Dionysus was the Greek god of wine!)

Pandorean Tasks: Whereby as soon as you start, the task goes all pear-shaped with heaps of surprises jumping up from anywhere and everywhere. (Think here of Pandora’s Box and the crazy “gifts” that popped out of these.)

Gilgameshian Tasks: Whereby you went and slayed the task against all odds, but you did so with the help of an incredible colleague. (Apparently Gilgamesh and Enkiduwere great friends who fought Humbaba, a giant who guarded the sacred trees. They successfully slayed the giant!)

Odyssean Tasks: Whereby you began a task as a group, and it took a really long, long, long time … so long that in the end you were the only one left doing it.

Narcissian Tasks: Whereby you work tirelessly on something but your efforts go unnoticed by someone too smugly entranced by their own intellect.

Can you think of any others? We’d love to hear from you.


Photo by Kamran Chaudhry 

Ok, so we all know that everyone experiences some level of anxiety. 

For some of us it might be as simple as that nagging little thing in the back of our mind that tells us we’ve missed something important. 

For others it might be more  like a suspenseful movie playing and replaying in your mind, complete with nail-biting plot twists and surprise guest appearances in worst-case scenarios. It’s as if your brain has a subscription to the most dramatic channel on TV, and every worry is a gripping episode that leaves you on the edge of your mental seat, popcorn optional.

Science tells us that we’re likely to have evolved this somewhat cute little knack of being overly worried as a way of protecting ourselves from the good and the bad during times when things were just a little bit more simple than they are today.

Like when we had to make life and death decisions about whether to fight or flight in a certain situation. Things were simpler then – a sabre tooth tiger roars in the distance – and all you needed to do was decide whether you were going to hang around or not. Anxiety is, in effect, a super power.

Life isn’t so simple now. The places that we find ourselves leading in, are full of situations that constantly ignite our fight or flight intuitions. But how do we learn from anxiety and how do we unleash this super power without it just sending us all absolutely bonkers? Well there are a few things that we can do to help.

Firstly; being aware of your negativity bias. This is the thing in your mind that likes to make the worst of everything. It’s likely that your negativity bias will be in full flight when you’re tired, hungry, angry, frustrated, stressed … and there are multiple problems needing to be addressed. During these times your own negativity bias will be fuelling your anxiety. 

The work around this is to be aware of your thoughts. Your negativity bias is only one way of looking at something. Psychologists like to use the term Cognitive Flexibility. Instead of defaulting to one way of looking at something, take your time to look at the situation from a variety of angles. Maybe, just maybe, that staff member who you thought gave you a dirty look during the staff meeting doesn’t hate you after all! There might be another rational and logical reason for that particular face.

Neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki describes different ways that we can turn anxiety into a superpower.

1. Productivity Superpower – also known as the WHAT IF anxiety. This may look like these sort of questions in your head;  “What if he didn’t do that” and “What if that wasn’t done right” and “what if this thing all goes wrong”

To turn this particular anxiety into a superpower she recommends turning these thoughts into actions. Change your WHAT IF list into a TO DO list. Give your worries an action e.g ring someone for clarification, google something, ask for help from someone. Suddenly you’ve changed your anxiety into something productive!

2. Flow Superpower – Flow is that wonderful thing that occurs when you find yourself deeply in the moment and time seems to magically slow down and even disappear. Great things happen in flow. But anxiety is the enemy of flow. Nevertheless, periods of “micro flow” can still be found in times of anxiety. Chances are not noticing these occurrences though. Micro flow happens all the time, even in times of anxiety. Even if it’s a moment of day dreaming – or letting yourself daydream; letting yourself go, just for the moment. It can help, and more so if you can catch yourself doing it and take some time to savour it. 

3. Empathy Superpower – Let’s face it we all have anxiety and we all know what anxiety feels like. We can use this by being aware of the anxieties of others. This is a superpower that is so easy to put in place. Notice the people around you. Look for the signs – those signs that you know so well because you produce them yourself. All you have to do is give a kind word, or lend a hand to the person who is going through their ‘stuff’. 

Maybe anxiety can teach us a lot more about ourselves and the situations that we find ourselves in  than just feeling shitty, or just being worn out. There’s no doubt that it’s not easy. There will be times when it’s ok just to embrace the “down”. But remember, you don’t have to do that. You have a choice. Your anxiety doesn’t control you. 

Instead you control your anxiety.


Photo by Letizia Bordoni 

With Uncertainty There Are Always Choices

Over the last few weeks, there’s been a lot of talk about the changes coming our way in the Education sector in New Zealand as a result of the change of Government.

They say that change is the only constant. And whoever “they” is, they might just be right. Change is a major player in our lives, both at a personal level and professional one.

With change comes uncertainty and often with uncertainty comes feelings of anxiousness and anxiety.

It can seem at times that along with this uncertainty that your choices in life begin to become limited. There are times as a leader that this seemed very much the case and this in turn added to the feeling of anxiety.

In reality though, even in times of uncertainty you still have many options available to you. You are never in a situation where you don’t have any choices to make.

One of my favorite poems is Robert Frost’s 1915 epic “A Road Not Taken”. In it he suggests that life is a journey full of decisions, and that sometimes it’s the most obscure ones that we make that make the biggest difference, even when they seem the most unlikely. 

I like this. I like this a lot. In terms of leadership it’s a beacon for us. It’s a leading light and reminds us that there is always a choice, and that the right choice might not always be the thing that you initially thought was going to be the right choice.

And, if we think about it even more, we have choices everywhere. In times of uncertainty these choices are still there:

We have choices such as:

Do we choose to be indifferent or do we choose to stand up

Do we choose to love or do we choose to hate

Do we choose to make a difference or do we choose to sit on our hands

Do we choose to we proactive or do we choose to be reactive

Do we choose to be positive or do we choose to be negative

Do we choose to move forward with goodwill or choose to hold onto a grudge 

Do we choose to trust or do we choose to be skeptical

Do we choose to have milk in our coffee or to keep it just black

Uncertainty and change doesn’t äutomatically mean that our choices have been eliminated, it just means that life is going on. And it will go on, whether we like it or not. And that too, is a choice.

And as Socrates once famously said; “The Secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new”.

The Road Not Taken

Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.


Photo by Albert Stoynov 

When I was 17, which is a little bit younger than I am today, I began my first three week posting at a primary school as part of my first year of teacher’s training. 

Sadly, I don’t remember the name of the teacher who stood in front of the class that day. Sadly because, no doubt, like all teachers, she touched the hearts of many in her career. And she deserves to be remembered.

Teachers and leaders do this daily. 

Let’s call her Mrs Batchelor. 

As a 17 year old I watched her carefully write up on the blackboard, in white chalk, the day’s handwriting lesson. The very next day would be my turn. A simple handwriting lesson.

I was petrified. It seems so simple now. All these years later, and a million handwriting lessons and other lessons; and staff meetings; assemblies; sports events: end of year prize giving speeches later….etc, etc. and I wonder now what I was scared of. But I was. 

My heart raced as I walked to the front of the class and scraped the chalk across the blackboard surface. I must have written the line of the day’s letter (it was a “d”….. a cursive d) a hundred times…..rubbing them out, just to get them like Mrs Batchelor’s. 

I followed the model of her lesson to a tee. And she was happy with that. I think she even wrote in my Teacher’s Planner book, in a completely acceptable 1980s manner, the four letter word….. GOOD. 

This is probably the first example of authenticity, or in my case, lack of authenticity, that I encountered in my career. She wasn’t being inauthentic. I was.

I say this because, although I followed her model successfully, there was nothing in this simple lesson that gave an indication to my students of who I was. And because of that I failed in this opportunity to connect.

If I could go back and talk to myself, the advice I’d now give is this: 

The model is important, true. But you need to bring something of yourself to that model, in order for you to not only connect with people, but also be fulfilled in yourself. You need to be authentic. 

So what does this really mean? Well, that’s a very good question, because it doesn’t appear to have been a big consideration in the majority of my teaching and principal career. We weren’t trained in authenticity. It certainly was never promoted as that crucial key that I now know is so important. 

Authenticity to me means this: 

  • Having a great respect for who you are as a person. This means knowing and understanding what your key values and personality traits are. 
  • Having confidence in knowing your own strengths AND weaknesses and understanding that both of these are a part of you …. yes you! So don’t hide from these, feel embarrassed about these, or make excuses for these. Embrace them. Wear them on your sleeves! 
  • Finally; Knowing that authenticity also promotes diversity. There will always be some sort of model to follow, but the real strength in our schools and workplaces isn’t found in a model, but in the diverse personalities that grace our places. 

How do you show your team that you are an authentic leader? 

You do it by promoting who YOU are, warts and all. And that means becoming very good at knowing who you are and being able to communicate what this means to your organisation. 

Yes, this means that you are opening yourself up to a lot of judgement. Being authentic is a potentially vulnerable place to be. But if you have built a culture of authenticity then you will have also built a culture of acceptance and safety.

You lead by taking that big step into the unknown of how people will perceive and receive you. You have a choice. You can do this by wearing a mask and therefore hiding your own unique personality. Or, you can do this by being your biggest asset – YOU.

So if I was 17 again, and I was taking that simple handwriting lesson all over again, I’d be hoping that the model and the plan, somewhere, was also saying “find a way” in this lesson to be yourself and do that.


Photo by Benjamin Davies

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of another term. You’ve done it! No doubt there have been some misfires, dropped balls, and a few times when everything has seemed just a little icky and maybe a bit stuck. But you’ve made it anyway; like you always do. It almost seems against the odds. But it never is because you always do make it. No matter the circumstances. No matter what.

We’d like you to take some time and celebrate that; some time just to breathe and say to yourself, “hey you, you’ve just done a damn good job, and you can be proud of how you’ve made it through”. Because no matter how anyone sees it, there is no-one on this planet who has done what you have done. There is no-one who has had exactly the same experiences as you. And therefore you can(and should), be proud, because only you really know what that has really involved; what that has really meant, in terms of energy, sacrifice, fortitude and patience. Go you!

Now, after you’ve celebrated, take a little bit of time just to think of your future self. I’m not talking about some unknown character in twenty years time, but that person in two weeks time. You know, that person who will drive into your place of employment, park their car in your favourite car park; fill your favourite cup full of coffee; and put their feet under your work space, take a huge breath, and begin the new term. 

And ask this question: Will your future self love you?

You’ve got a couple of weeks now to lay this foundation. 

What sort of things do you need to put in place, so that your future self will say – “Far out! That ‘me’ from two weeks ago really did a great job for me and got me into a fantastic position for tackling the new term.”

I reckon if you’ve got some crappy things to work through work wise, then your future self will probably love you if you get these little nuisances out of the way sooner than later. That way you can rest and enjoy the majority of the break away.

And after you’ve done this I reckon your future self will probably love you if you give yourself plenty of time just to be you. And when I talk about you, I don’t mean “Principal You”, or “Leader You”, but “You, you”. There’s only one person in the world who knows what that really means to be you. And being that particular YOU for a great part of the next couple of weeks will put you in a great position for the next term.

But trust me, eat the frog first. Get rid of some of the crappy things off your to-do-list first. And then go and find yourself.

Your future self will love you.


Photo by krakenimages

I really enjoyed David’s question last week; “What would this look like if it was easy?”  Which got me thinking and I want to extend this just a little bit further.

What if you moved through your school, or learning place, as if you were the easiest person to work with?

Please note that I’m talking specifically of being easy to work with, and not for. What would your personal definition of “being easy to work with”  look like?

What would people see in you that made it easy for them to work alongside you?

How would you behave around people?

Where would this thing called consistency fit in?

What would you see in the behaviour of others around you as a result?

Do you think that being the easiest person to work with would result in people thinking you were a push over, or making other judgmentally negative insinuations? (Of course it’s not a competition. You can have many people in any one institution being easy to work with.)

But I’d imagine that if I was onto a winner and having a brilliant day, with all the ducks in a row and everything was going to plan, that I’d be easy to work with. It’s those other times when you’re up against it, neck deep, with a board report to write; a stand down to investigate; an angry parent to deal with; a broken photocopier; and no coffee in the kitchen. What about those times?

It’s easy to be the following when the tide is flowing in the right direction

  • Be reliable and always follow through on your commitments.
  • Be respectful of others’ time and work.
  • Be open to feedback and willing to learn.
  • Be a team player and be willing to help out wherever needed.
  • Be positive and have a good attitude.

People who are easy to work with are also people who others are likely to want to collaborate with and succeed with. Unsurprisingly being easy to work with makes your own work more enjoyable and fulfilling.

So how about you? If you were the easiest person to work with, how would it change your own wellbeing?