Lead like a Nobel Peace Prize winner!

Jude McKerrecher

Jude McKerrecher started teaching Modern Languages in Edinburgh. She was curriculum leader at Liberton High School and then curriculum leader at Craigmount High School. She is currently on secondment to The Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools based at Scotland’s National Centre for Languages in the University of Strathclyde. This remit takes her to schools across Scotland to support teachers in Primary and Secondary schools with the introduction and progression of Mandarin and includes supporting projects, designing and delivering Professional Learning for teachers and supporting the Hanban teachers with training throughout their time in Scottish schools.

Follow @jmckerrecher

Website: https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/glowblogs/judithmckerrecher Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Image credit: Freestockphotos // National Cancer Institute. Image credit: Freestockphotos // National Cancer Institute.

To become a leader, you must first become a human being.” Confucius

I started this post just as we awaited the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize winner 2017. Nobel Peace Prize winners are leaders who, through their passion, determination and influence, fight for causes close to their own hearts - with much wider societal and global benefits. They are inspired and moved enough to insist and persist, leading a cause with fire and enthusiasm for the good of humanity. This year’s award was to ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. “ICAN” – what a hugely important cause, and a great campaign name which embodies a leadership attitude: “I can”.


We may not be Nobel Peace prize winners, but we do have the choice to develop as leaders, whether that is in learning, in volunteering, through the support we give to others, in our families and in our own approach to situations. Many acts of leadership will go unnoticed, but “We can all make a difference which contributes to positive outcomes for all.”collectively, just like the ICAN campaigners, we can all make a difference which contributes to positive outcomes - for an individual or for a greater good. The author Stephen Covey describes this as being like a trim tab; a small cog in a ship’s rudder which helps to guide the whole vessel (a metaphor attributed to Buckminster Fuller. Over the years, I have seen a redefining of leadership. Leading from the front with purpose and vision is crucial, but vision must be understood and shared so that people can lead in their own contexts and roles to collectively realise that vision.


The vision of the 1+2 policy in Scotland is to ensure that all learners have meaningful, quality experiences of two additional languages over and above their mother tongue. This not only supports the ability to communicate effectively in different languages, it also helps to build cultural awareness and intercultural understanding. It supports the development of literacy, numeracy, has benefits for health and wellbeing, and can be integrated and contextualised across the curriculum in what we teach and the pedagogical approaches we take. Although there is no hierarchy of languages taught, my current remit is in Mandarin and Chinese culture. As a professional development officer with a national remit for schools across Scotland, this a deviation from my role as Modern Languages curriculum leader in schools, but is a welcome way to experience a different kind of leadership and learn more about myself outside of my usual context.


Leading my own learning as well as that of others, working with colleagues from China and in the UK, and supporting the launch of Chinese Confucius Classroom hubs in schools is extremely rewarding. However, it would not be effective or possible without listening to, meaningfully collaborating with and always learning from the colleagues in schools and wider contexts with whom I work.


I could refer more closely to leadership literature and many renowned leaders in the field of leadership, yet I am not going to do that. I want to relay my own perspective on leadership with reference to my journey as an educator and, back to our old friend Confucius, as a human being. My personal leadership journey has been one of developing greater self-awareness, balancing priorities, learning from setbacks and finding a way forward. I wish to touch upon these one at a time.


Self-awareness


Self-awareness begins with honesty; being honest with ourselves and with each other – something which needs constant care and attention. In the rush of the world, it is easy to be harsh upon ourselves and upon others. Stepping back and considering new perspectives definitely allows us to understand ourselves more and to develop more empathy with colleagues, learners, family and friends. In my role, international education, intercultural understanding and communication have always been major influences which have helped me to develop an awareness of myself in different situations, but also of others and how they might see things differently.


However, this is a continuous journey in learning. The Japanese term “Kaizen” means “change for better” - in other words, continuous improvement in ourselves, in each other and in the way we contribute. 


Listening


Listening is also very important; listening to colleagues, parents and carers, school leaders and their needs in different contexts. Sometimes this means being responsive, supportive and influential in the value of learning to learning generally and the development of metacognitive ability. However, it can also mean being flexible with the organisation and facilitation of professional learning, as well as the ability to be resourceful in diverse situations. Either way, taking the time to listen to what others need and to listen actively and non-judgmentally is a powerful tool for personal, interpersonal and organisational change. You can sometimes learn as much from what is not said as you can from what actually is mentioned. This clip from Dr Jutta Tobias, whose course about Mindful Leadership I was very fortunate to attend, explains the value of listening, noticing and being non-judgmental to organisational culture:


YouTube link


Getting the balance right


Balancing priorities can be tricky, especially given the nature of education and the unpredictability of life. In education, it is very easy to lose ourselves. Leadership is not superhuman. It is humane, compassionate, resolute, courageous and caring; caring about others and their development but also about our own. To this end, I have found coaching and mentoring to be very useful in developing leadership skills in myself and others.


My own experiences of leadership have been in the everyday contributions diverse people make in many fields to simply make life better for others. No need for hierarchies or heroes. In any leadership role, formal or informal, there are always conflicting priorities to which we need to pay attention. “It’s important to be open-minded, understanding, inclusive and flexible.”The need for balance is crucial if we are to remain healthy, resilient and productive in all of the main areas of our lives. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey encourages us to look at important areas of our lives to give ourselves the attention we need so that we can fulfil our own roles effectively. I have learned through my own experiences that this is vital, especially as priorities change and attention is required in many different areas of life.


Trial and error


Finally, learning from what does not work is as, if not more, important as learning from what does. Failing forward and using mistakes as a tool for learning is an excellent way to develop resilience (something which needs constant attention) and to keep growing. Not every situation works out exactly the way we might intend it to and just when there appears to be a clear pathway, it is not unusual to stumble upon an unseen challenge or obstacle we have not preempted. When I consider this, I know that these are the paths I have learnt from the most and I can see something positive or helpful has arisen from every one of them.


The journey


In conclusion, I would emphasise that by developing ourselves as leaders helps to build our confidence and willingness to take more risks and try new things. This can have a direct impact upon the learners with whom we work and our colleagues. The ability to embrace and model the above skills is essential if we are to provide learners with opportunities to grow and develop throughout school. Being open-minded, understanding, inclusive, flexible, having a shared vision and a purpose, being compassionate and courageous are all tools any of us can transfer to any role. You never know; every Nobel Peace Award winner started somewhere. The next one may be in our classrooms or closer than we think. In any position, if we have the courage, belief and burning passion to succeed as and to develop leaders, I can, you can, we can and so can they!


To me, leadership in any context is a journey, not a destination. It is also a way of being, a choice and is about hearts and minds. Leading the way, wherever and whatever that may be, is not a straight, simple road. It is one of continuous learning which changes and challenges, frustrates and elates but, above all, it is a way of learning from the everyday inspirational learners, colleagues and friends we meet along that road. And they need not all be in education. The best perspectives can be developed by working with and learning from a wide range of people from all walks of life. Lastly, remember to have fun and keep a healthy sense of humour on the journey. We all need that!


Want to receive cutting-edge insights from leading educators each week? Sign up to our Community Update and be part of the action!

Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support us.
When you register, you'll join a grassroots community where you can:
• Enjoy unlimited access to articles
• Get recommendations tailored to your interests
• Attend virtual events with our leading contributors
Register Now
Login

Latest stories

  • How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country
    How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country

    Teaching English in a foreign country is likely to be one of the most demanding experiences you'll ever have. It entails relocating to a new country, relocating to a new home, and beginning a new career, all of which are stressful in and of themselves, but now you're doing it all at once. And you'll have to converse in a strange language you may not understand.

  • Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?
    Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?

    Over the weekend, my family of five went to an Orlando theme park, and I decided we should really enjoy ourselves by purchasing an Unlimited Quick Queue pass. It was so worth the money! We rode every ride in the park at least twice, but one ride required us to ride down a rapidly flowing river, which quenched us with water. It was incredible that my two-year-old was laughing as well. We rode the Infinity Falls ride four times in one day—BEST DAY EVER for FAMILY FUN in the Sun! The entire experience was epic, full of energizing emotions and, most importantly, lots of smiles. What made this ride so cool was that the whole family could experience it together, the motions were on point, and the water was the icing on the cake. It had been a while since I had that type of fun, and I will never forget it.

  • Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2
    Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2

    The Action Pack is back for the start of the brand new school year, just in time for Recycle Week 2021 on 20 - 26 September, to empower pupils to make the world a better and more sustainable place. The free recycling-themed resources are designed for KS1 and KS2 and cover the topics of Art, English, PSHE, Science and Maths and have been created to easily fit into day-to-day lesson planning.

  • Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu
    Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu

    Following the exceptional performance from British breakthrough star Emma Raducanu, who captured her first Grand Slam at the US Open recently, Emmamania is already inspiring pupils aged 4 - 11 to get more involved in tennis - and LTA Youth, the flagship
    programme from The LTA, the governing body of tennis in Britain, has teachers across the country covered.

  • 5 ways to boost your school's eSafety
    5 ways to boost your school's eSafety

    eSafety is a term that constantly comes up in school communities, and with good reason. Students across the world are engaging with technology in ways that have never been seen before. This article addresses 5 beginning tips to help you boost your school’s eSafety. 

  • Tackling inequality in EdTech
    Tackling inequality in EdTech

    We have all been devastated by this pandemic that has swept the world in a matter of weeks. Schools have rapidly had to change the way they operate and be available for key workers' children. The inequalities that have long existed in communities and schools are now being amplified by the virus.

  • EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab
    EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab

    The world is catching up with a truth that we’ve championed at Learning Ladders for the last 5 years - that children’s learning outcomes are greatly improved by teachers, parents and learners working in partnership. 

  • Reducing primary to secondary transition stress
    Reducing primary to secondary transition stress

    As school leaders grapple with the near impossible mission to start bringing more students into schools from 1st June, there are hundreds of thousands of Year 6 pupils thinking anxiously about their move to secondary school.

  • Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?
    Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?

    The K-12 online tutoring market is booming around the world, with recent research estimating it to grow by 12% per year over the next five years, a USD $60bn increase. By breaking down geographic barriers and moving beyond the limits of local teaching expertise, online tutoring platforms are an especially valuable tool for those looking to supplement their studies in the developing world, and students globally are increasingly signing up to online tuition early on in their secondary education schooling. 

  • Employable young people or human robots?
    Employable young people or human robots?

    STEM skills have been a major focus in education for over a decade and more young people are taking science, technology, engineering, and maths subjects at university than ever before, according to statistics published by UCAS. The downside of this is that the UK is now facing a soft skills crisis and the modern world will also require children to develop strong social skills as the workplaces are transformed by technology. 

In order to make our website better for you, we use cookies!

Some firefox users may experience missing content, to fix this, click the shield in the top left and "disable tracking protection"