"We don’t do that anymore."
"We don’t go there anymore."
"They don’t visit anymore."
These are some phrases I've heard, repeated over and over again. The closing of the door, the raising of the drawbridge. The ease of the insular. The closing of the gates. Beauty and the Beast, Edward Scissorhands, The Secret Garden all demonstrate this beautifully.
Shying away, feeling ugly, withdrawing from society.
A struggling school has the ability to go off the grid. Hide away and lick its metaphorical wounds for a while. But what if it wants to hide away forever?
With small, timid steps, asking for help and opening the doors can be transformative. In the early weeks of being SLT, a volunteer (and staff member from years ago) turned up at our office. “She wanted to know if she could come back, she heard we needed a hand,” someone said.
My instant reaction was “Yes! Of course.”
The church warden called. “Did we want to start using the church again for some services?”
“Yes. Of course.”
A local Headteacher called and asked, “Do you fancy a coffee and a chat about arranging some cluster moderations?”
“Yes. Of course!”
For months, the school had become an island. No meetings, no visitors, no workshops, no help. When you feel like the failure, like the one letting everyone down, it’s so easy to become your very own elephant in the room; everyone knows you’re there, but no-one wants to talk about ‘it’.
Slowly, the light was filtering in, and suddenly, it didn’t feel so lonely. We didn’t feel like an island.
I’ve always been the person that asks the questions, seeks the information. I'm probably far too open and honest at the best of times, but asking for help? It's something I've learned to do, and wow… there are some wonderful people in our profession, ready with resources, advice, tips, tricks and hard lessons learned, never to repeat again.
Our school is lucky to be in a very close academy group. Friendly, supportive Heads and staff, who want us to succeed, to share good practice, to celebrate achievements. Over the last 18 months, I’ve seen many, many schools, visited lots of people for advice, attended workshops, conferences and have welcomed lots of visitors to the school. The doors are firmly open for anyone to visit us at any time; we are proud of the school we have become and hope to repay those that have helped us.
So, open the windows and lower the bridge. People are there to help, to support and to encourage.
Let the light in.