In this episode, Claire talks over the internet with Dr Victoria Carr, headteacher at Woodlands Primary School in Ellesmere Port.
Victoria discusses how her difficult and sometimes distressing childhood meant that she would spend a lot of time reading and learning on her own before she even started at school. This head-start gave her a good grounding and the words of her reception teacher, ‘this girl is university material’, stuck with her and motivated her throughout her educational journey. Although she had (and still has) a keen interest in the military – in particular a desire to fly Chinook helicopters – Victoria moved into teaching and leadership with an ambition to motivate and inspire children and her staff to seek and fulfil their dreams.
Victoria discusses the challenges of leadership in this period of disruption within education, how she supports the pupils and staff in her school, and how the coronavirus has led to her having to be more creative with the latest round of recruitment. She also shares how she strives to help, support and motivate others to be the best they can having learned from her own experiences and seen through her own life what the power of words can achieve.
Words really can have a long-lasting impact.Victoria talks about how just five words from her reception class teacher, and the implicit belief about what was entirely possible in her future, have stuck with her and helped motivate her throughout her life. Victoria talks about how being where she is today is proof that teachers and those involved in education really do shape lives and that what we say to children absolutely matters.
Develop teams with critical thinking.Building a culture where people are actively encouraged to constructively question and challenge decisions and the way things work means that a team will always be growing and developing. As well as this, the team members themselves will be growing and developing personally and professionally too.Sticking to the status quo can sometimes be the best course of action, but if nobody is questioning it, nothing will improve where gains could, perhaps, be made.
Invest in everyone.Creating opportunities for everyone - not just teachers - to develop both personally and professionally is an investment in that person which can realise potentially significant benefits both for them, the team and, ultimately, the organisation as a whole.
Do what’s best for you and your school.Often, those who develop and implement policies in government are not best placed to have an understanding of the impact of the policy at a ‘ground level’, or an appreciation of how different each individual school can be. Leaders, now more than ever before, can find themselves having to make difficult decisions. However, taking a course of action that you know is best, even if it might be a tough one, will usually always be the right thing to do.
“I became a teacher and I've been teaching now 23 years and it is a job that I absolutely love. All of the amazing people I've met through that journey and the things I've done, I don't regret any of that now. I do wonder how my life would have been if I'd been a pilot...”
“I have this philosophy… that when I'm an old lady - hopefully I'll live to become a really, really old lady when I'm 90 - that I'll be able to look back and think that I was lucky enough to seize every opportunity that came my way, that I've got no regrets and that I can truly say I've lived my life and that I've touched lives as I've gone through in a positive way.”
“I know that the teacher who said to my mum and my nan when I was five that I was ‘university material’ did change the direction of my life because, before that, nobody in my family had ever thought about university. It was just never a thing.”
“Back in the 70s, everybody respected the teaching profession. They were well respected. So my grandparents were of an era tha