#DailyWritingChallenge Day 17: Optimism

noun. hopefulness and confidence about the future or the success of something.

Optimism is a mental attitude reflecting a belief or hope that the outcome of some specific endeavor, or outcomes in general, will be positive, favorable, and desirable. 

I am optimistic about so many things right now. I am full of hope and positive energy that through this disruption we will create a shift.

When you Google Optimism lots of upbeat and uplifting motivational and inspirational quotes surface. The metaphors that resonate with me are the ones about growth:

We are not buried, we are planted.

We need ‘manure’, to grow roses.

I am optimistic that as a system we will stand up to the accountability measures that have exploded overnight. Terminal assessments, results reporting and league tables, Ofsted inspections and grading all seem so insignificant. Space has been created to consider a different way of monitoring, evaluating and reporting on how our schools and on how our children are performing.

If we can educate differently in a crisis, we can educate differently in equilibrium.

I am optimistic that as a workforce we are modelling that we can work remotely. Business cases as to why teachers cannot work part time and why leaders cannot function without being visibly in the building have disappeared. Timetables have been rewritten all night. Curriculum delivery has been reviewed and realigned to staff availability.

If we teach and lead flexibly in a crisis, we can teach and lead flexibly in equilibrium.

I am optimistic that as a sector we have become more collaborative and less competitive. The division and the disenfranchisement of so much of the system has caused walls to be built around each man-made island. We have the chance to tear those walls down and the opportunity to build bridges.

If we can co-exist in collaboration in a crisis, we can co-exist in collaboration in a crisis in equilibrium.

I am optimistic that as human beings we are making people-centred decisions. In many ways Mother Nature is reteaching us about humanity. She is shining a spotlight on the things that we have allowed to take over, to take priority, that seem less important to us now. We have people at the forefront of our collective endeavour.

If we can be people-centred in our decision-making in a crisis, we can be people-centred in our decision-making in equilibrium.

I am optimistic that our community values have been strengthened through these difficult times. The surge in gratitude and appreciation for our key workers, the number of people volunteering, the positivity and simplicity of initiatives such as #RainbowsOfHope shows our society at its best.

If we can be values-led in a crisis, we can be values-led in equilibrium.

I am hopeful and confident about the future success of our education system. I am optimistic that in this pause, that we will listen, that we will learn and that we will grow from this opportunity to recreate and to co-create the system that our children deserve.

#DailyWritingChallenge #Optimism

#DailyWritingChallenge Day 16: Family – a blog by Debra Rutley

An open letter to my Aspire Family:

Dear Aspire Family,

That we call ourselves a family is something I love and feel really proud of.

Right now, I’m missing my family.

I’m missing the guaranteed warmth, love and connection that awaits at every school site.

I’m missing your smiles, laughter and even hugs!

I feel the loss that our students must feel without you.

You have been my family for almost 20 years and I don’t say enough how much I appreciate being and working with you all.

Reminiscing, as families do, on our good times, especially the Revival Days at the end of every year brings a smile to my face and makes me laugh out loud. Being silly, not self -conscious and a good sport made these days wonderful memories to cherish. My favourites were the full staff flash dance, singing to Britney, the money wind tunnel and so much laughter with and at each other. We all have favourite memories and stories and we have loads of them.

The big magic moments of team days are not what knits us together. We are connected through the everyday joy and love, the little things we notice and do and our shared values.

You do small things that change lives and show that no matter what, you are still there day after day. Forgiveness is a given, tough conversations can happen, we can make mistakes, we support not judge and we have each other’s backs.

Our students and visitors feel this too. We embody those motivational pictures and carved words that many families aspire to “love lives here”. People see the values in our behaviours and people know where we come from.

When times are tough and challenging for us as a group, individuals or for our families there is guaranteed support, sometimes from an unexpected corner and often from lots of corners.

Right now, we are acting like the whole world is part of our family asking our usual red thread questions:

“What if that was my child?”

“What if that was my sister?”

And as usual we are asking:

“How can I help?”

And we are helping our whole community.

Thank you for being that family people would want to choose.

Debra

#DailyWritingChallenge Day 16: Family – a blog by Naznin Chowdhury

When I was a child, I was sent to my maternal grandparents as my father didn’t want me to attend the school in our village. It was in Bangladesh as I am originally from there. So I had to stay at my grandfather’s house from the age of 4 years old and I started my primary school there. The love of my grandparents, uncles and aunties was enormous, yet I always felt the absence of my parents – especially my mum and my brother who is just 2 years younger to me. My youngest sister was not born at that time.

My grandfather had a huge family but despite being surrounded by lots of people, I was always a lonely child. I used to climb the tall trees, spent hours talking to them, watching the birds and swimming in the pond. I received magical support from them when I missed my mum terribly.

I felt content with the silence and solitude of the places I used to be; when the leaves and branches moved for the gentle breeze in the summer afternoons it seemed like they were talking to me and became my friends; something I enjoyed more than anything. 

As we didn’t have a telephone there was no opportunity to speak to my mum; only waiting for her to come and see me.  After school, every day, I walked home with the excitement and hope that I might see her that day; but no, she hadn’t come. Most of the evenings, I would sit beside the road watching the buses pass by. When a bus stopped, on the other side, I looked at the feet of the people and waited just to see if my mum was getting down from the bus.

When she came to see me after months I was over the moon.  Trust me, all my loneliness disappeared the moment I saw her.  It was like suddenly a quiet child became confident. I was no longer worried and I became brave when I was with my mum and brother. The visits were always short. When mum used to leave to return home, those days became the saddest days in my life.

Finally, the time came, my parents moved into town in a small house for our education. I also moved to be with them and got the chance to live with my family. I joined them when I was in Year 6.   Thus started my other struggles which can be left for another time….

Whenever I thought about those days I used to be sad. I always asked myself why they didn’t keep me with them when I was small and why I had to miss that time being with my family. But later I realised why they had made that decision. They wanted to protect me. My childhood taught me how to be independent, how to take responsibilities, how to be resilient and optimistic to fight against any obstacles. That has made me a strong person.

Very early on in my life, I identified my strengths. One of my strengths was my beautiful family, especially my mother.

I mostly overcame my struggles and achieved many things in life. On this journey, my parents were my inspiration – they have been the most wonderful and supportive parents; whilst not being fortunate themselves. Neither had the opportunity to continue after higher secondary education due to their circumstances but they always had a love and passion for education and continue to do so to this day.

I believe people are lucky who have a good combination of ability and ambition. If you have the ability and are ambitious things will be much easier for you. If you have a big dream but you are not gifted, life may seem like a battle to you. But you can still accomplish them IF you have an amazing family behind you. I have won the battle as I have a never-ending source of inspiration and that is my parents who believe in me more than anything.

Now as a parent by myself I am trying to do the same for my son. I can already see the impact of love and inspiration on my son who is 6 years old. From a child who was not a very confident person, he has transformed into a brave little boy.

My parents are now old. They live in Bangladesh. In this most difficult time in the world, I am not even able to go to them to stand beside them. Whenever I call them they seem to be worried for us. This is called the love of parents and the love of family. My prayers and love for everyone and their families in this hard time. We shall overcome it together!

#DailyWritingChallenge Day 16: Family

noun. a group consisting of two parents and their children living together as a unit.

noun. all the descendants of a common ancestor.

noun. a group of related things.

The purpose of families is to maintain the well-being of its members and of society. Ideally, families would offer predictability, structure, and safety as members mature and participate in the community.

My nuclear family is small and tight. Mum and Dad got married young (18 and 21) and had me young (20 and 23) and then my sister 18 months later. Dad was applying for a farm manager role and the advert (back in 1977) said you had to be married! I think this requirement was to do with the fact that mental health can be such an issue for single farmers as they experience significant social isolation. I do often wonder how they did it. At key ages in my life I have reflected on the fact that at the same age as I was celebrating with my friends, my Mum and Dad had teenagers tagging along. I am a responsible person, but their familial responsibilities at the same age just did not compare.

Life growing up had not been easy for either of them, Mum especially. Mum’s parents, the Chesters, had emigrated to Canada which is where she and her siblings were born. When Mum was 9 her Dad, my maternal grandfather, had an aneurysm in the shower after a cricket match one day, whilst Gran had popped to the shops and he died. This sent my maternal grandma spinning as she was left as a young Mum with 3 children under 9 in Ontario. The children were sent back to live with childless relatives in the UK as Gran’s mental health unsurprisingly suffered from the traumatic loss.

I can remember Mum telling us these stories as we were growing up but they were always emotionally charged and made her very sad. One particular memory is of her pointing out the farm house where she and her siblings were fostered as the Aunty who had taken them in could not cope. She described how they were treated, that the couple wanted to separate the 3 of them and adopt the younger 2, but Mum’s fighting spirit held the sibling unit together. Gran came back to the UK but was in and out of hospital but in all honesty, I don’t think she ever fully recovered. I had just started primary school when she died, so I was too young to go to the funeral, but I feel for my Mum losing both of her parents so soon. Gran was a primary school teacher, so I think my vocation was in my DNA.

As I have progressed in my career and learnt about mental health and wellbeing, trauma and attachment issues, I understand and empathise more and more with the complexities my Mum and her 3 siblings experienced and the emotional scars it has left with them. I am no Freud, but I see their behaviours and attitudes through a different lens perhaps due to my semi-trained eye, than to my sister. My training helps me to understand them, to feel empathy and compassion for them. I can perhaps be more objective in how I see and explain things, as I am when I am supporting vulnerable families, victims of trauma, looked after children or investigating safeguarding incidents at school.

So Mum and Dad as a young couple ended up pretty much bringing up my uncle and my aunt, as their Father had died and their Mother was in and out of hospital. The lines of siblings and siblings-in-law were blurred and I see my Aunt and Uncle default to the parent-child mode in how they interact with my parents. This has led to explosive rows over the years between them all. Mum and Dad found stability and security in each other, my Aunt married and had 4 children, but divorced and is a single parent. My uncle went back to Canada to find his roots, he was nomadic for many years, and married/ started a family late. Unfortunately, one of the rows has led to a family estrangement and my Mum and he no longer speak. So I have lost contact with him and do not really know his wife nor my cousin that well.

My Dad’s side of the family are less complicated as we have less to do with them. My paternal Grandfather was a hard man, I can’t really remember him. My paternal Grandmother was mean, she didn’t like Mum and did not approve of the marriage as she felt that Dad had married beneath them. Arguments between my maternal and my paternal Grandmothers at Mum and Dad’s wedding and then my Christening resulted in my sister not being christened as they could not face another family drama. Grandma Wilson was always on Mum’s case and Dad was loyal to my Mum, his wife and the mother of his children, so he consistently defended her, which led to a period of estrangement and silence before she died. So I have been brought up without Grandparent relationships in my life, on both sides of the family tree.

Dad’s Dad, my paternal Grandfather had a family before he met my paternal Grandma, so my Dad has 4 older half siblings he has never met. We have never done our family tree, although I have considered it as I have family in this country I have never met and family in Canada I have met when I was younger. In fact when I was at university, I had a friend, Chris Smith, who was convinced I was related to his Mum, a tall, freckly red head from Cornwall (I was brought up in neighbouring Devon) – he would often comment that we had similar mannerisms and we joked that perhaps there was a distant bloodline.

My sister and I are chalk and cheese in many ways, but we are very close. She is someone I would choose to have in my life as a friend, even if we were not related. Our lives have gone off in very different directions, at very different paces and ended up in very different places – she didn’t go to university, married young and has 2 teenagers. Our family values bond us together despite how different we are. I am extremely proud of the amazing mother and wife she is, of the joy my beautiful nephew and niece give me and the support that my brother-in-law gives me as a constant in my life too.

Families are like branches on a tree, we grow in different directions yet our roots remain the same.

My family are a source of love and support. My family provide a strong foundation in my life and have instilled strong values in me. My family enable me to be secure and stable, they empower me to be independent. My family may be complicated and messy in some ways, but in other ways my family is very simple. My family also protect me – I am confident that my Grandparents are my Guardian Angels who hover over me and keep me safe and well.

Life often goes full circle. My best friend moved to Canada 10 years ago so I go over often to see her and my God children in Toronto. On my last trip to the East Coast we went on a road trip to Kingston to reconnect with some of my Canadian roots. We went for dinner at my 2nd cousin’s house and I went to have a cup of tea with my maternal Grandmother’s best friend. I had met her when I was a young child on a visit to see extended family, but 30+ years had passed. It was lovely to hear stories about my Grandmother and my Grandfather in their early years in Kingston. She and her daughter told me stories I had never heard before. Her daughter then took me to ‘meet’ my Grandfather’s grave. It was an emotionally charged experience driving through a huge, beautiful cemetery, and pulling up in front of my Grandfather’s headstone. I bizarrely felt very connected to a man I had never met before, by standing in front of his grave. I am sad for my Grandmother that she prematurely lost the love of her life, I am sad for my Mum that she lost h er father so young, I am sad that I never got to meet him but his memory lives on.

If family is anyone who loves you unconditionally, then perhaps we don’t need to have met in person to feel nurtured by familial love.

#DailyWritingChallenge Day 15: Opportunity – a blog by Debra Rutley

The opportunity to nurture through food.

At first, I thought I’d opt out of this writing challenge. All I could think about was missed opportunities to travel and do. But I’m not letting the opportunity to write slip by and with more thought I realised that during this crisis I’ve been given a major opportunity to fulfil my primary drive (read overactive) to nurture others.

Food is the way I nurture others.

Sunday afternoon tea was my job at home. After a Sunday dinner at 1pm with lots of Yorkshires to fill us up we still needed something by tea time but it couldn’t be a real meal, as that would be wasteful. We didn’t have food to waste. As the eldest of 5 I was given the responsibility of coming up with something out of nothing. I loved this challenged and was always proud of my ‘spread’. Whatever I could find and make from nothing became our tea for 7. I learnt how to make pastry with lard and would often make a plate pie, usually cheese and onion or if I was lucky corn beef. Jelly was another highlight on the table, served with tinned peaches and carnation cream. In the summer we had fantastic salads from the garden. I did all of this, every week, in secret in our tiny kitchen and would present the food on the dining table when it was all ready to a fanfare of ‘Oh that’s impressive Debra’. My Dad would say “lovely spread”.

It became my thing, to make an impressive ‘spread’ out of nothing and it still is. I love to show my love through what I can give people to eat and it needs to be impressive, not ordinary.

Covid 19 has given me the opportunity to share my love via food again. To my son, who is isolating at home after travelling and to my students. We deliver five-star hot meals three times a week to our students’ courtesy of Waddesdon Manor chefs. Recipe bags are delivered to families each week so that our young people have the opportunity to cook a meal for their family and be proud of that achievement.

My first response to Covid 19 as a strategic leader was to connect and nurture through food. It’s instinctive and every day I will take the opportunity to share my love in this way, hopefully widening the scope as we move through this crisis and opportunity.

#DailyWritingChallenge Day 15: Opportunity

noun: a time or set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something.

Mindset is really important. We can list off all of the negatives of being in lock down, or we can focus on the positives. We can highlight all of the problems it has and will create, or we can focus our time and energy on the opportunities that are arising.

Appreciating opportunities:

Last year when I was suddenly put on gardening leave, I had to give myself a pep talk. I could have crawled into my cave and sat there in the dark feeling sorry for myself for June, July and August, or I could create a positive experience out of it. I was in shock, it hit me hard, so I allowed myself to indulge in my grief for 2 weeks. I then booked a ticket to South America. As someone said to me: when else in your life will you have 3 months salary and no requirement to go into work? From a period that really hurt and could have lingered, instead I have so many positive memories of the places I visited and the people I met as I decompressed.

It is ironic that less than a year later, I again find myself with an opportunity I did not see coming. When else will we have this time to pause, to stay at home, to recalibrate? When else will I have the time (or in fact make the time) to tidy every drawer in my house and sort out the garage?

We need to appreciate this opportunity that is being created by lock down and be grateful for what we have, rather than long for what we do not have.

Wasting opportunities:

I am not someone who tends to regret things I have and have not done. I don’t get FOMO. It is what it is, I make choices and I live with the consequences. In my head I am telling myself I should be reading more, I should be exercising more, that I have an opportunity to do things that I haven’t been prioritising. As someone who sets goals and plans ahead, I am achievement focused.

We need to make sure that we do not waste the opportunity to do things we have been putting off or those things that we have said we would do, when we had the time.

Growth opportunities:

I was reading a thread on Twitter this morning about CPD opportunities. I have seen some brilliant initiatives and collaborations emerge and gain momentum in the last 3 weeks: NourishEd is a women’s collective with daily blogs on leadership identity, WeAreInBeta is a leadership community with daily discussions on problem-solving and resource sharing, coaching circles are creating a space for people to connect, reflect and grow, book clubs are popping up to discuss the books we are reading.

We need to take the time to grow personally and make the time to grow professionally during this time.

Creating opportunities:

People are being really creative in how they spend their time. I am seeing amazing pictures on social media of things people are building and creating in the kitchen and in the garden.

I have also been reading lots about how to recruit and how to apply for jobs during this period in history. Networks are being mentioned a lot. I have spent a lot of time and energy in the last few years investing in my connections, building professional relationships and developing partnerships. I am a connector and a people person so it comes quite naturally.

I am excited to be creating opportunities for myself and for others during this.

We need to take control and create opportunities during this time rather than just waiting for opportunities to come to us.

Seizing opportunities:

As doors are opened, ideas are explored and conversations evolve, opportunities will emerge. This disruption has caused temporary chaos, but order will return. I am confident that things will look and feel differently though. Life before Covid-19 was one iteration, we are manifesting into another iteration of how our lives will be. I am reluctant to use the words normal or new normal as is there really any such thing?

With time, with space, new things will grow. These green shoots will need to be nurtured to ensure that they blossom.

The story of dolphins being seen in the Venice canals really struck me. When this is over, will the boats, the tourists and the pollution return to banish them back out to the wild? Or will we take this opportunity to reconsider how we are treating our planet?

We need to take the leap of faith and grasp these opportunities. We need to be courageous in our values. We know that 2020 will be a year that will be in future History books – the year the pandemic made the world stop, listen and change. Covid-19 is a time and a set of circumstances that make it possible for us all to do something.

Which opportunities will you appreciate, create, seize, grow from and not waste?

#DailyWritingChallenge Day 14: Joy – a blog by Liz Cartledge

Cascading Joy

Being on maternity leave this academic year, I’ve been incredibly lucky to experience a lot of new found joy welcoming twin girls into the world. Life always gives us joy, because inevitably it gives us hope.

Never losing sight of hope will lead us to joyous times ahead. Never before has this been more important for us to hold onto as parents, leaders and neighbours battling this pandemic.

As a secondary school leader, I know only too well the importance of radiating joy to make school more fun, to inspire others and to make children believe the future is a bright place.

When faced with uncertainty, it’s vital we support each other and find examples of people spreading joy. Take for example the man who inspired the clapping for the NHS workers. This is leading to a joyous moment from our windows and driveways with our neighbours. Moments we’ve never shared before. Or think of the leaders of Western Primary School in Grimsby, delivering food parcels to the school community every day. This is giving all the children and families joy during these difficult times. What inspiring people they are and there are many more all over the world.

As leaders we have the power to cascade joy every day. Take a moment to think and I bet you’ll be surprised how much joy you’ve given to others. Whether it be through a kind word, a phone call or post on social media, spreading joy is a key role for us all at the moment and I urge you all to do this daily, because you are masters at it as teachers!

For parents all over, finding joy and holding onto it is even more important now than it’s been for a long time. Take today as an example, in our household we have had a very joyous moment as our youngest daughter has learnt to roll over completely unaided! Joy often leaves us filled with hope and so the importance of sharing joyful times will help others.  

But for so many joy isn’t a word associated with recent times. People have fear, loss and worry. The only way some will ever be joyous again is by holding them in our thoughts during these times and reaching out to spread moments of joy through kindness.  

Isolation certainly makes us look for joy starting at home, which can only be a good thing. What skills have your children learnt through home schooling? I bet some joyous moments have been shared, like learning to ride a bike or learning about how to show empathy to others. 

As teachers we need to find out about these joyous moments that can be celebrated when we return to school. Which children in our schools helped spread joy at home? Which children showed strength, resilience and therefore spread hope. They will be the leaders of the future. Demonstrating the ability to inspire others during hard times is truly remarkable. There will be many, let’s find them, celebrate them and lead in the most ethical way to praise these children.

As leaders let’s aim to lead more joyous school communities so that those around us feel positive about the future.

#DailyWritingChallenge #Joy

#DailyWritingChallenge Day 14: Joy – a blog by Debra Rutley

I’m afraid of joy.

I have always been afraid of the vulnerability of joy, even at work. Don’t jinks something in-case it turns bad at work means we can’t use the Quiet word. At home that means I would try not to get too excited or if I felt really happy I would then feel that sharp pain of what if.

The foreboding joy comes from nowhere and hits me in the stomach, sometimes even at night. It wakes me and I wonder if someone is dead. They must be, I’m too happy.

I’ve learnt to lean in to joy and the vulnerability of joy through our blessings at work and counting my blessings at home. I try to stay with the joyous thought rather than the fear of something bad happening.

It’s not easy but has got much better with practice. At Aspire AP we go through the day looking for moments of joy and we call them Blessings at the end of every day. They are ordinary things that are heart-warming and build connection. We are all looking for and spotting joy in the ordinary.

At home I count my blessings and am grateful for the simple things and when I feel that fear ( oh my god something bad MUST be going to happen) I sit with it and tell myself to focus on the positive little things and my boys have gotten used to just sending me a thumbs up text to let me know they are well.

Without embracing the fear I would feel nothing and I want to feel all the joy I can.

#DailyWritingChallenge Day 14: Joy

Noun: a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. Verb: rejoice.

Joy is caused by elation at a moment in time. Joy may not always be about oneself but be about others’ contentment also. 

We feel joy in our bodies because of the release of dopamine and serotonin, two types of neurotransmitters in the brain. Both of these chemicals are heavily associated with happiness (in fact, people with clinical depression often have lower levels of serotonin).

For many years I have engaged with the #oneword initiative where you select a word to be your guiding star for the year ahead. I spend time reflecting on my goals and aspirations for the year ahead. My #oneword2019 was Joy. As opportunities and invitations arrived in my inbox or through my letterbox, I would ask myself: Will this bring me Joy? If the answer was no I would politely decline.

2019 was my fortieth year and I committed to filling it with Joyful things and I consciously aired it of Joyless ones. By the end of the year I felt happier, lighter and more fulfilled.

I was in a new home, a new role and a new head space.

New Year’s Day 2019 in Norfolk

Thinking about Joy under lock down is making me consider the simpler things in life and appreciate things that perhaps I took for granted. I am definitely feeling more grateful each day for what I am lucky to have.

What Joy Was:

  • Hugs with family.
  • Laughing with friends – in person.
  • Eating out.
  • Hot baths.
  • Reading lots.
  • Going to the theatre.
  • Walks on the beach.
  • Travelling abroad.
  • Going to events.
  • Meeting new people.

What Joy Is:

  • Calls with family.
  • Laughing with friends – on zoom.
  • Cooking lots.
  • Hot baths.
  • Writing lots.
  • Watching movies.
  • Walks in the woods.
  • Being at home.
  • Connecting through coaching circles.
  • Connecting with new people.

What Joy Will Be:

  • Hugs and calls with family.
  • Laughing with friends – in person and on zoom.
  • Eating out and eating in.
  • Hot baths.
  • Reading and writing lots.
  • Going to the theatre and watching movies.
  • Walks on the beach and in the wood.
  • Travelling abroad and staying at home.
  • Going to events and connecting through coaching circles.
  • Meeting people I have connected with in person.

So despite the weird world we currently find ourselves in, the weird turn our lives have taken, there is still much Joy to experience and appreciate.

A few years ago my Mum bought my sister and I a memory jar each for Christmas – the idea is you write down all of the things that bring you Joy to remind yourself at the end of the year what a full and happy life you lead.

A twist on this is to keep yourself uplifted during the coming days, weeks and months – write down things that bring you Joy, when you hit a low point you pull out an idea to make you smile and remember that everything will be okay. In fact it will be better than okay.

#DailyWritingChallenge #Joy

#DailyWritingChallenge Day 8: Gratitude – a blog by Debra Rutley

Blessings at Aspire

“Be a blessing to somebody” Maya Angelou.

At Aspire we end each and every day with Blessings.

 I first read about gratitude as a way to support positive mental health after suffering from a major mental breakdown. When I felt well enough to read I read the work of Martin Seligman and Positive Psychology and I tried to make their suggestions habits. Research from Positive Psychology has shown that practising gratitude can improve your overall sense of well-being and specifically your optimism. After practising gratitude on a personal level and the feeling the benefits I took the idea to work.

When you work in AP its challenging every day. I took the idea of Blessings to support my staff well-being, keep me from the edge and fill the air with optimism. We already met at the end of every day to discuss the day: the issues, the students, what we learnt, what we could do differently and to support each other. Often we had cake! Blessings at the end of the day complemented the cake and was an attempt to end the day positively, to feel good about what we had achieved and the differences and change we had seen.

At the end of every day we count our blessings, at least 3.

Children are our Blessings at Aspire. We collectively share which children are our blessings and why. This means it’s a collective celebration of others, collective optimism and collective hope. It brings us together as a community of staff to share the small steps of change that happens so gradually at Aspire you could miss it if you weren’t paying attention. It helps staff pay attention to the small but significant steps to self-improvement like smiling at a teacher or putting pen to paper for the first time. Our blessings, celebrations and thanks aren’t for special occaisions they are for the ordinary and the daily lifting of us all.

This works. It works really well when the day has been tough and we wonder why we bother and it works in a strange way when we have discussed troubling behaviours from a student who is then also a member of staff’s Blessing. Blessings at the end of the day ever so slightly shifts perspective, helps us see the big picture and alters how we think and feel before going home.

Imagine… if you were the parent of an excluded child who previously had only ever had contact with a school when they called to complain. You get a call from your school to say your child was our Blessing today.

Priceless!

Blessings is now just what we do around here. It’s a habit that’s well established. In the current climate we have morning Blessings that are shared in our Daily News. It’s keeping us connected, lifting our spirits and emphasising our common purpose. We are grateful for each other and the love we share.

#DailyWritingChallenge #Gratitude