I’ve been so fortunate to share a range of great books with a great bunch of educators , and some amazing and inspirational authors this year.

Starting the year with Marc Brackett and his Permission to Feel: Unlocking the power of Emotions to help our kids,  ourselves and our society thrive  explores the importance of connection, emotional literacy and building relationships was absolutely the best way to open our Book group. Headsup4HTs encompasses all of these key ideas in its principles and approaches. It was great to connect with him in the US, explore his work with CASEL at Yale, and the Ruler approach.

Marc inspired us all to reflect on our emotions, and consider approaches to understand these and those of others, His wisdom, stories and the inspiration of Uncle Marvin has impacted on my work for many years and it was a real privilege to meet him, and share his work widely.

This book set the tone, the foundations for what has been a year of books bound together by the importance of connection, with self and others, communication, and understanding, crucial to building positive relationships with others and ourselves.

Viv Grant’s Staying a Head:the stress management secrets of successful school leaders  encouraged us to take this further and think deeply about our own wellbeing, considering the interplay between our emotional, physical and rational selves, and how to develop our resilience, and realism in a world that is forever changing. I’ve been a fan of Viv since I met her at a coaching event, and her wisdom, realism and honesty gave us a real sense of the practicalities of navigating the stresses of leadership, while retaining our sense of self and humanity, weaving that golden thread of relational practice further into our work in schools.

When you Wonder you’re Learning by Greg Behr and Ryan  captured so much of interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships, curiosity and wisdom at the heart of learning and life. They joined us from Pittsburgh and it was fascinating to hear about their work in exploring the work of Fred Rogers, his foundation and Remake Learning. Their exploration of the work of Fred Rogers and how his life, work and legacy can shape our thinking in relation to our learners and  our own lives was a joy. Interaction, creativity, the “expression of care” and identity sing from its pages, and an hour spent exploring our own curiosity was wondrous. There is so much to learn on every page of this book and it was an honour to meet Gregg and Ryan. They filled our virtual room with love and wonder.

Dave Whitaker’s The Kindness Principle:Making Relational Behaviour Management Work in Schools picked up this thread and wound it into our every day interactions, weaving us into consideration of culture and ethos and the people who connect to build an environment of acceptance and belonging, key to ensuring our children grow in society that promotes kindness and consideration for all humans. Dave’s consideration of every individual’s right to belong,  and the relentless pursuit of unconditional positive regard, hope and kindness shone through for all of us.

Adele Bates extended our own physical boundaries, zooming in from the Dominican Republic to share her book, Miss I don’t give a Sh*t . She continued with these themes, zooming us right back in to ourselves again, considering our own boundaries , turning the lens on our own wellbeing, preoccupations and perspectives, and how this affects our interactions with those around us. Her practical approaches and prompts were thought-provoking and focused on taking action, exploring inclusion and bias, belonging, and what we can do now, next week and long term to enable young people and to support and promote positive relationships.

 Valerie Hannon’s  Thrive: The Purpose of Schools in a Changing world was a perfect means of considering our strategic planning in relation to this. Considering the world our learners live in and what that will look like in the future is crucial when we are making our decisions. She took us on a reflective journey through what this means to ensure our learners thrive, and what this means in the disruptive world we live in, examining key issues at all levels: Intrapersonal, Interpersonal, Societal and Global . We considered the issues around what education is for, and the opportunities we have to ensure our young people thrive, and are agents in their own lives and as global citizens. Humanity and what it is to be human rang clearly throughout.

This continued as a theme in Restorative practice by Mark Finnis who was the perfect to end our year. Mark’s book has something on every page to take and use. His final paragraph encapsulates the themes of our year, “Children need to be crew, not passengers….imagine a world in which conflict in and between communities can be effectively managed by the people in the communities themselves.” He explored the importance of building social capital, again weaving the golden thread of positive relationships through the session, and prompting us to consider whether our culture is by design or default, some great provocations and some practical approaches to taking actions to be 1%  better and building on this.

I’m finishing with a quote, as I often do. This one is personal. It’s from my “Ten things I learned from Dean” in The Working Class: Poverty, Education and Alternative Voices  by Ian Gilbert. I make no apologies for my self promotion, it’s an acknowledgement of my own stance and perspective, and is from the chapter entitled Respect, a key value revisited throughout the year.  This year has shouted out loud and clear what resonates in point 5 in the chapter,

“Nurturing and creating positive emotions in a child must not be sacrificed for academic objectives as this will not support any long term gains. It’s about being brave enough to recognize the importance of making sure a child knows someone believes in their abilities, is secure in themselves and equipped for life.” I could go on, I’ve just been to the theatre to watch Billy Elliot and could really get talking about enabling and empowering EVERY child, but I’ll save that for my book.

This year we’ve explored emotions, navigated challenge, experienced kindness and compassion, explored and inspired wonder, and at the heart of this, we’ve explored our own emotional responses and connections, something @Headsup4HTs embodies in all it does in our mission to build strong foundations and  aim for the very best for our learners, our staff and communities.

What a year! Plans are afoot for Year 2 and we have our first event on September 29th with Diverse Educators: a Manifesto. We have a whole panel of authors joining us, so really not to be missed.

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