Category Archives: leadership

Respect and an invitation especially for you…

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Once again I have been compelled to offer a two for the price of one reflection as I failed to complete the one I had planned for last week…

The theme for the week was respect and I believe it has 3 stages and ways of living it out in our school community.

  1. Respect for yourself – it is a fundamental thing for us to be able to love and respect ourselves and place some self-worth in what we have to offer. Perhaps at times people can go to either extreme where people believe their own “hype” – a dangerous thing – or alternatively don’t have enough self-respect or worth. Perhaps in the modern world it is easy, especially for young people growing up, to feel the pressures to conform, act or look a certain way. In essence I believe the challenge is to be comfortable in our own skin and to be proud in who we are.
  2. Respect for others – if we can live our lives by showing respect to others I believe we will find that we will be intrinsically happier. We can find joy by building others up and not knocking them down, some of the happiest and most inspiring people I have met have lived selflessly by doing right by others each and every day.
  3. Respect for God – as Christians our respect for God underpins all of this. The example of Jesus lives out a true respect for Himself and all those He met, especially those on the margins of society. If we accept that God is the source of all love we can find ways each day to respect God and be grateful for all that we have in our lives – friends, family, food, housing or an education – perhaps the basic foundations of our lives that we take for granted.

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This week we are reflecting on the theme of invitation and there may be a seamless link to the week before… God loves, cherishes and respects all of us and has created us for a “definite service” and purpose. We are called to become the person that God has created us to be and one of life’s joys is discovering and exploring this every step of the way.

We are invited to;

  • Live life to the full
  • Love one another as God loves us
  • Be full of light, life and hope
  • Build people up and inspire them
  • Bring people closer to God
  • Lead with passion, integrity and faith

If we can do these things I am confident we will be happier, more fulfilled and have deeper relationships with one another and with God.

I feel blessed to lead and live in a community of faith at our school. The work we do has a deeper meaning in that we are not just ticking along, clocking in and out, but in fact doing something that has a far deeper meaning purpose…

As a Christian community we are challenged to simply build up the Kingdom of God in small ways each and every day. If we can do this we must be doing something right.

Have a great week and half term when it comes.

God bless.

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A lesson in obedience by Amber the school dog…

_DSC2816-2.jpgMeet our school dog – Amber. I can confidently say that she has been a popular appointment and part of the St Paul’s family. In fact more people came to find out about her than anything else in the last year. In reality she has come a long way, now she is aged nearly 3 years old, having started at school at about 12 weeks…

When she first arrived it became really clear that it was us that were being trained and not really her at all. We were blessed by being introduced to the wonderful Michelle, from Essentially Paws, who was the trainer who taught us how to get things right and set her off in the right direction.

So what does Amber do? Well essentially she is there to make people happy and content. She listens to reading, goes to some classes with specific students, can help brighten up someone’s day or change the mood or atmosphere if things get too intense.

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In a simple way I have learnt to think about teaching (and parenting!) in a new way through this experience. To make sure Amber is successful there are two simple ingredients;

  1. Make things interesting and give opportunities to learn and praise
  2. Be consistent in expectations and routines

This ultimately is good for our human relationships too and can bring us a long way. It probably can lead to the loyalty, commitment and engagement we can see as the fruits of her training.

The reflection below is based on the thoughts of one of my best friends James which he shared in their school this week.

Matthew 21:28-32

 

The Gospel this week tells us about a man who asks his two sons to go to work and neither gives an ideal response. The first flatly refuses but then thinks better of it, the second says “yes” but doesn’t then follow it through. The point being that it’s better to come to your senses later and do the right thing rather than pretend that you’re onside when you really have no intention of complying.

Obedience in education is useful; it helps us to get things done efficiently and makes life a little easier. We are not however seeking to cultivate a generation blindly following instructions or authority. The young people in our care need to be able to question respectfully but only where they see genuine injustice, rather than when it just doesn’t suit them to follow the rules. They need to be able to take a stand at the right time.

Some rules tend to make more sense as one gets older but in the meantime good listening and discernment are skills that we need to develop in young people in order for them to understand why we are called to act in certain ways. Deepening our understanding leaves us less likely to agree to do something that we later realise we either can’t or won’t follow through on but more importantly it helps us to understand why being appropriately obedient is good for us.

As teachers and parents we tend to think that we know what’s best for them and that if they do as we say things will turn out well. To a far deeper extent, God really does know what’s best for us and if we are to be truly happy, we really do need to listen to and follow Him no matter how much we feel like being disobedient.

Listening to God through prayer is the best way to understand what we are being asked to do. It’s then up to us respond appropriately and once we do, the Kingdom will be well on the way to being built. Finding the time for this reflection is key too if we really try to hear the message.

Things to think about when obedience isn’t easy:

  • What am I being asked to do that I don’t really want to?
  • Why don’t I want to do as I’m asked or struggle to respond?
  • Why am I being asked? Have I really listened? Do I really understand what I’m being asked to do? Where does it fit in with the bigger picture and purpose of what we do together?
  • What would (insert name here e.g. Jesus, Saint Paul, the nicest person I know etc.) do?
  • What should I do when I face these challenges?

In essence we need to go back to Amber – if we want obedience we should ensure consistency and opportunities for learning and praise. We too need to build in routines and time to train and bring us closer to God, it is only then that we can listen to His plan for us.

Enjoy the week ahead.

God bless.

Forgiveness and humility

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Due to the pace of school life at the start of the school year I have only managed to write a short reflection on our themes each fortnight rather than once a week… I’m sorry I haven’t kept up with it so far – maybe a little ironic when reflecting on forgiveness.

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What stands out to me is that in reality all of us fall short at times… personally, in our jobs, in our relationships and also in our time for God. We can either give up on any area of these aspects or our lives or can dust ourselves down each day and seek to ask each other, and God, for forgiveness in the areas where we could have done better.

Equally we need to learn how to love and forgive one another. We sometimes see so many images of hatred, division and conflict. The images of conflict from the tragic events in Charlottesville really shocked and saddened me this summer. Perhaps it was the echoes which were more reminiscent of images buried deep in history of the 1960s or divisions of South Africa and apartheid.

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What was clear for the world to see was the level of hatred and the fact that there was a lack of leadership in the response. Through apathy we condone this division and hatred. We have a duty in leading, and educating, to challenge and engage people to live a life that builds unity not division.

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Nelson Mandela, a hero of mine, had every reason to hate and resent those who imprisoned him and robbed him of the best years of his life yet instead he made a choice to help it form him into the leader that he became of the “rainbow nation”.

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We can only meet hatred with love if we are to transform the world and we must have a belief in humanity to achieve this.

After the tragic events in Barcelona we saw how this can be lived out in the power of love and forgiveness. Even in the depths of a mourning family Javier Martinez found the humility and integrity to take the darkest time in grieving for the loss of his 3 year old son and transform it into a symbol of light and hope.

Ultimately this is the same message that Jesus gave. He led with humility and offered love and forgiveness in all He said and did in His life. If we can live this out in some small way each day we are truly making the world a better place, one small step at a time.

A few thoughts for the week ahead…

  • What can we do to ask for or offer forgiveness in our relationships with one another and with God?
  • How can we be liberated by offering forgiveness to others?
  • What can we do to act with humility and how can we be inspired by the example of Jesus?

I hope you all have a really good week and have the opportunity to love, live and forgive in whatever we face each day.

God bless.

New beginnings in our community

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Well here we are once again – already in September and with more than a touch of Autumn facing us as we were battered this afternoon by wind and rain! I hope you had a good break over the summer and had an opportunity to reconnect with those that you love.

When we come to the end of something – the summer, the school year or a job that we have really cared about, sometimes we can feel that it will never be the same again. We can almost mourn the passing of the stage that we are in or look back at times with rose-tinted spectacles on what it was really like. Of course it is important to recognise when we feel like this but also to try to get the balance right.

As we come into the new academic year we have a golden opportunity for new beginnings in all we do. As a school we see students join us in Year 7, others move on to the next key stage or sixth formers leave us for the next stage of their adventure. It is such an opportunity to learn grow and flourish and I always approach it with eager anticipation as we gather for the year ahead and it’s a great joy to see the energy of students and staff  as we gather enthusiastically at the start of the year with so much opportunity lying ahead of us.

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We have just started to work closely with a primary school, Annecy Catholic Primary School. I once heard someone say that the art of being a Headteacher was “hanging around” and I was trying to do this in a meaningful way as I wandered around the playground. One of the boys came up to me and proudly told me butterflies were his favourite insect… we ended up talking about the different stages of metamorphosis and transformational change that the go through. As two fluttered around the playground he was entranced by their flight.

It too reminded me of how we can go through this transformational change, my children once had a book called Hermie and Wormie. In it the caterpillars didn’t realise that “God wasn’t finished with them yet” as they got frustrated before going on to soar on their wings when they had found out truly what they were meant to be. Maybe this is a familiar message to anyone working in education, or even as a parent, we are simply helping every child become the person God has “called them to be”.

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I think we’ve got to learn from this sense of awe, wonder and excitement. God provides us so many opportunities for new beginnings. We can start afresh and dream new dreams. We can fix broken relationships or move on from things that have got in the way in the past. Ultimately we can grow closer to each other and to God as well.

A few questions for the week and term ahead…

  • How can we grasp the opportunities provided for new beginnings?
  • What can we do to build the best relationships personally and professionally in our lives?
  • How can we find time for faith and to invite God to walk with us all on this journey in the year ahead?

I hope you have every happiness in the year ahead… enjoy the adventure in all that we do.
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Living more simply…

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Sometimes in life we can make life tougher for ourselves… we rush things, cram in too much to every day and also fail to live in the present. It is easy to recognise these things when we take a step back and take the “long view” but perhaps more challenging in the here and now.

We also fill our lives with possessions and things we believe we can’t do without. My ten year old daughter once asked me to name the worst week of her life… I was suddenly worried that she had faced some unknown trauma or difficultly that I had missed and that I had failed her in some way as her Dad. I was relieved when she revealed to me the worst week of her life was when we went on holiday to France and she had no internet access! But also there was a sense of sadness that she felt that she couldn’t cope without the joys of YouTube or going online.

I joined in with a Year 7 class discussion on surviving the internet and social media detox they had just had for 24 hours. I was shocked by how isolated they felt by this but there is something we can learn from it.

I think our deepest satisfactions come from the simplest things – time with people we love, time to rest, times when we learn or are inspired. So I hope this week we can find some opportunity to do this.

A few thoughts;

  • What can we do to declutter our lives?
  • How can we find the time for the things that matter most in our lives?
  • How by having less possessions or “disconnecting” in some way can we be happier?

So to model this we can pray simply… I will share a prayer written by a Year 9 this week after I challenged him to think about how to be a positive part of our community…

Dear God,

Please bless this school with your greatness as St Paul’s is a great school that loves you.

Please bless everyone and everything that they do everyday.

Please help students make good choices as they go throughout their everyday lives.

Thank you. AMEN

God bless.

The chosen people…

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This week we have the theme of Church as a focus in our school community. In a very simplistic way we probably think immediately of a variety of Church buildings or experiences we have had.

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In essence this may be missing the point. The Church is actually God’s “chosen people” – a community responding to the call of faith to come and worship together. In the photograph of the brick wall we can see the different shapes, colours and textures of every brick which are unique and different, yet together they make the one wall bound together to make something which is greater in some way.

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Some of my best experiences of being part of the Church have come in unusual surroundings ranging from celebrating Mass in a railway carriage on the way back from pilgrimage in Lourdes to gathering under a tree in Zimbabwe and sharing the Gospel with a community in a rural village awaiting a priest (who never turned up!). The word Catholic means universal or worldwide and it is a great joy that wherever you go in the world you belong to part of the community, even if we don’t understand the language we can engage with the faith we share.

The world feels at times troubled and divided facing great challenges in tragedy, terrorism and political division. However, I feel so blessed as I have the perfect tonic to recover my belief in humanity, faith, life and hope. I have the joy of walking into a vibrant school community each day. Being surrounded by young people (and staff!) so full of vitality, joy, energy and positivity brings joy to my heart.

This week we celebrate our Patron Saint’s Day as we celebrate the feast of St Peter and St Paul. This culminates for us on a day on Friday full of fundraising, activities and time celebrating all that is best in our school.

A few thoughts for the week ahead;

  • How can we build up the strength of the Church community?
  • What can we do to celebrate the diversity and difference we find in our communities?
  • How can we ensure we continue to see light and hope even in times of challenge and conflict?

So in advance thank you for making St Paul’s such a special community that I am so proud of because in essence #thisismychurch!

God bless.

We are one body…

It seems like we are living in a divided and troubled world.

We have shared a minutes silence more often in the last 4 weeks than I remember in twenty years of being a teacher. We have witnessed the horrific Grenfell Tower fire with such tragic loss of life and continued extremism and terrorist attacks, the latest at Finsbury Park Mosque.

This is combined with a country divided by the election, the start of Brexit negotiations and a Government formed on a deal with a small group of politicians never before at the heart of the political system. I was proud to see the alternative speech written by a fellow Headteacher, John Tomsett, in the days following the election. Well worth a read – if only politicians could show brave leadership and integrity at the times it is most needed.

In all of this unease and confusion we need to strive to find Christ among us. We can see this in the goodness of human action in responding to challenge and tragedy. God is good and God is love. This is what we need to see shining through even in the darkest times.

The Feast of Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ, marks how we invite Jesus into our lives in the sacrament of the Eucharist or Communion. He is truly present in this moment. It also prompts me to consider how we can be “in communion with one another”.

So perhaps we can do a few small things this week;

  • Look to find the goodness in humanity
  • Be able to offer light and hope in some small way to others we encounter each day
  • Stop for a minute to give thanks to God for all we are blessed with – our safety, our homes, our food, our faith…

I hope and pray that we can all be part of one body, one community to enrich the gift of life that God gave us all.

God bless.