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ACCEPTING VULNERABILITY

Dear colleagues
 
Welcome to our next edition of ‘Called, Connected, Committed’, where we are exploring the leadership practice of ‘Accepting Vulnerability’.
 
It is clear that throughout this season, school leaders have been under immense pressure in terms of the decision-making required, with so many variables at play all of the time. Throughout this time, we will have all been working through how we deal with these issues, and also how we are personally responding, in terms of our own wellbeing.
 
One of the strange variances between the education sector and many other sectors working with young people, is the general absence of formal support processes for staff such as supervision. There will be many occasions where school leaders are having to deal with significant strain, particularly perhaps for those dealing with complex safeguarding issues, and the opportunity to share in a supportive professional supervision context could make such a difference. In our document, we say: ‘Leading in education makes room for vulnerability, present in life-giving relationships, pastoral care, and processes such as supervision, mentoring and coaching.’
 
I was delighted to sit down this week with Louise Michelle Bomb
èr, Clinical Lead and Director at Touch Base, and a fantastic author and speaker who will be known to many of you. Her recent book ‘Know Me to Teach Me’ has just come out and is full of fantastic practical suggestions, focused on attachment theory, and the importance of relationships. It was a brilliant conversation with
some real wisdom about potential approaches and I really recommend listening to it, particularly in relation to the return to school in September. Attachment theory is an area where the education sector at large has much catching up to do in understanding and process, and we hope this will be a useful opening to that journey.
 
We continue to thank you for all you’re doing leading in this season
.

Andy Wolfe - Deputy Chief Education Officer (Leadership Development)


This week, our reflection is discussed by Louise Michelle Bombèr, Clinical Lead and Director of Touchbase and author of 'Know Me to Teach Me' and 'Inside I'm Hurting', in conversation with Andy Wolfe.
Accepting Vulnerability Reflection & Conversation (Audio Version) - click here to listen
Accepting Vulnerability Reflection (Extract)
Leading in education makes room for vulnerability, present in life-giving relationships, pastoral care, and processes such as supervision, mentoring and coaching. Leaders recognise the importance of mutual support and encouragement and create hospitable environments in which students and adults feel able to be vulnerable, thus deepening their connection with one another. They lead generously, supporting an economy of grace and collaboration within and between institutions, and they look outwards, using their limited resources, time, money and expertise in line with their vision.
Vulnerability can lead to being hurt; in the sting of the short term, and the lingering pain of the long. Through vulnerability, leaders show that they care, and that their teams matter, but it is risky. It is an appeal for understanding, trust, gentleness, and a matching response, but these may not be given. Yet, when the risk is taken and the response does match, there can be a quantum leap in trust, solidarity and energy. We do not always expect our leaders to be vulnerable, yet the releasing realism of this stands at the heart of the Christian message.
 


To read the reflection in full visit:
 https://www.cefel.org.uk/vulnerability/

Suggested resources to reflect on the concept Accepting Vulnerability where you are

'Leaders recognise the importance of mutual support and encouragement and create hospitable environments in which students and adults feel able to be vulnerable.'

Having listened to Louise's conversation on the podcast about Accepting Vulnerability, you might want to explore Touchbase's resources in more detail. For both primary and secondary schools exploring how they can best support students returning to school, these transition packs may be useful: Primary and Secondary.

'Through vulnerability, leaders show that they care, and that their teams matter, but it is risky.'

An exploration of the topic of vulnerability without reference to Brene Brown now seems unthinkable! Dr Brown's work on the topic is so widely known that for many of  us, she has become almost synonymous with the word 'vulnerability'.
Dr Brown sees teachers as some of the most daring and important leaders in society, because they have the power to be 'guardians of spaces that allow students to breathe, be curious and explore' (Daring Classrooms). A classroom where vulnerability is fully accepted and welcomed can be 'the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change' (TED2012). Do we have the courage to sit with the discomfort and pain this might bring in order to get there?

'Leaders look outwards, using their limited resources, time, money and expertise in line with their vision.'
There are many views and opinions about how to support pupils' needs as we move to the full re-opening of classes in the Autumn. This article from the Chartered College signposts a huge range of different research and ideas on this topic, giving a helpful overview of the sorts of things to be considered. Amongst all of this information, a school's particular vision is vital in discerning what to prioritise for these children in this context. Where does your school vision encourage you to focus your attention?

'There is no suggestion that such exposure in gentleness, a passion for justice or showing compassion is cost-free...'
Last week, author Rhidian Brook spoke about vulnerability on Radio 4's Thought for the Day, reflecting on Michael Rosen's recent illness and the well-known line from Rosen's We're Going on a Bear Hunt: "Oh no, we've got to go through it!"
You can listen to the episode
here.

 
'The Beatitudes headline not only the importance of risky vulnerability but also the overwhelming blessings that come to those who persevere in this way.'
For some people, the Beatitudes have been really helpful during the pandemic, bringing comfort to those who have suffered, struggled, experienced poverty or hardship. Here are some different renderings of this famous text from Matthew's Gospel:
The Beatitudes through the voice of a child
Beatitudes in a time of Pandemic
The Beatitudes set to music by composer Arvo Part

A Prayer for School Leaders

Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Lord Jesus Christ,
You know what it is to be denied, betrayed and abandoned,
As we encounter hardship and pain in our roles and in our lives,
May we know you walking beside us.
Help us to see your handiwork all around us 
That glimmers of the Kingdom of Heaven might break through.
Bless us, your children, we pray.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Lord Jesus Christ,
You know what it is to lose someone that you loved.
As we encounter grief and loss in our roles and in our lives,
May we know you weeping together with us.
Help us to feel your comfort enveloping us
That reservoirs of deep and never-ending grace might flow.
Bless us, your children, we pray.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Lord Jesus Christ,
You know what it is to be misunderstood, humiliated and vulnerable.
As we encounter the weight of others' expectations in our roles and in our lives,
May we know you standing beside us.
Help us to believe you advocate for us
That truth, justice and mercy might abound in equal measure.
Bless us, your children, we pray.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Lord Jesus Christ,
You know what it is to give yourself to bring about reconciliation.
As we encounter argument and strife in our roles and in our lives,
May we know you mediating between us.
Help us to be drawn towards your common purpose
That we might lay aside our own desires, letting peace and harmony reign.
Bless us, your children, we pray.

Amen

'Vulnerability... stands at the heart of the Christian message.'
This worship song by Ben Cantalon 'Love Came Down' reminds Christians of the promise of God to be with them when they fall:
When I call on your name, you answer, When I fall, you are there by my side.
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