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Why you Shouldn't Allow Exam Results to Define Your Self-Worth + Success

Discussion in 'Headteachers' started by VivGrant-IntegrityCoaching, Aug 25, 2016.

  1. The results are in. Following weeks of nervous excitement going through all the possible outcomes of how results will turn out, it can feel like the whole year has been building up to this moment. Having poured your heart and soul into ensuring that your school delivers the results you felt it could achieve, sadly it might be that they haven’t quite turned out to be what you had hoped for. It may feel like someone has not just let the air out of your balloon but has popped it.

    When you have invested so much of yourself into the job, it’s all too easy to take the results personally as though they are a sole reflection of your ability to lead. It’s at times like these when all sorts of doubts and concerns may well creep into your head and you may begin to question the validity of role.

    If this sounds familiar, then don’t despair. Now is not the time to give up on your dreams! Indeed, it is more of a time for deep reflection, a time to pause and re-caliberate, so that you can begin the new school year with a renewed sense of energy, purpose and commitment.

    So, if your school results are not as you had expected and you have found yourself prone to negative and self-depreciating thoughts, read on and take encouragement from our seven tips on how to re-define what success really means for you and your school.

    Seven key tips on how to re-define what success really means for you and your school

    Tip 1: Remember that true learning lies in developing the ‘whole’ child

    Over the past years, with an increased emphasis on results, some have lost sight of the true purpose of education. The truth is that schooling is about educating and nurturing the whole pupil and not just getting good exam results. It is about instilling pupils with attitudes and behaviours that will prepare them for life. It is about allowing pupils to believe in their own potential and enabling them to see that there is world of opportunity open to them. It is about nurturing children so that they leave school with a strong sense of self-worth, hope and a zest for life.

    Tip 2: Don’t define yourself purely on external factors

    Whilst external judgement and scrutiny from governors may come, it is important to remember that these individuals don’t truly know your school as well as you do. You’ve seen the changes that have taken place in your school, where it was and where it is now. You’ve seen the pupils who have been transformed in the walls of your school. You know the hours you’ve poured into your job, the triumphs throughout the year, your strengths and skills in action.

    Ultimately, just because your school’s exam results may not have been what you had hoped for, they are not an indication of your self-worth and the immense value that you are to your school and the community that your serve. Results don’t make a person. It’s what we know to be true about ourselves that defines who we are.

    Tip 3: There are successes even in disappointments

    When you are presented with a huge range of results as you will have been, particularly ones that are disappointing, it can be hard to see the triumphs contained within. Dig deeper beneath the performance trends and you’ll have stories of students that your school has helped to achieve results that they themselves probably didn’t believe were possible!

    You’ll find staff who’ve made huge strides with their teaching methods and who have transformed pupils’ love for and engagement with the subject they teach. So, whatever you do, don’t forget to celebrate these triumphs. They need to be acknowledged as they are a part of your school’s narrative and they are an essential part of your school’s success story.

    Tip 4: Stop comparing yourself and your school’s results with others

    By comparing yourself and your school to others, you can never win. It is a simple fact that they’ll always be more successful schools and they’ll always be less successful schools than your own. So if you recognise this habit within yourself, make a commitment to yourself today, to break it. Instead of comparing yourself to others, seek to compare and improve upon your own previous best. Focus on you. Focus on your results and on how you can make things better in this new academic year. Keep in clear sight your victories, the success stories and the praise you’ve received, this will give you a clearer perspective as to how you’re performing in your role and what else you can do to be the best that you can be.

    Tip 5: Challenge and silence your inner critic

    We all have an inner critic and when it’s on your side, it can spur you on to get things done. But more often than not it can turn from being a constructive force into a destructive one and drag your self-esteem down. As a result, we can often end up being more offensive and deprecating of ourselves than we’d ever have dreamt about being towards anyone else. The good news is, if you want to challenge your inner critic, you can! It is possible to retrain your entire internal narrative and ultimately, change how you treat yourself. An effective first step is to simply say STOP whenever you hear your inner critic speaking loudly and negatively to you, respond to it with positive affirmations about your strengths and successes.

    Tip 6: Become Your Own Best Friend

    Another helpful way to retrain your internal narrative is to try and encourage the voice to treat you as though it were your own best friend. Instead of beating yourself up, ask yourself: “How would my best friend support me and help me in this situation?” Then do things and talk to yourself like he or she would. It keeps you from falling into a pit of despair and helps you to be more constructive after the initial reaction to the disappointment. Learning how to handle and to replace the voice of your own inner critic and transform it into a caring and nurturing voice is a great place to start when raising your self-esteem.

    Tip 7: Go back to your core

    Reflect on who you are as a leader, what you stand for, your vision, motivation and goals. Consider whether you have been acting according to that vision and motivation. For example, if what motivates you is to inspire a love of learning in your school, reflect on all the ways that you did that over the past academic year. This exercise could remind you that either you need to re-focus on your beliefs (which could be the key to your success) or alternatively, it could remind you that you have been successful in remaining true to your core purpose and passion.

    I have plenty of other tips and advice for Heads & SLT, if you're interested visit my blog -
    [This comment/section/image has been removed for breaching our Community Guidelines/Terms and conditions]
  2. Jesmond12

    Jesmond12 Star commenter

    Once again, excellent advice which I will try to follow. I think that number 4 is the hardest one for me.
  3. Glad it could help :) I think they all can be hard to do, particularly when you've had made a habit of these ways of thinking.

    It's important to realise that you can't change thought-processes overnight and so you have to be patient with yourself. But the first step is having an awareness of these damaging thought processes, as it is only through recognising them that you can work on eradicating them. Like I said, the best way to do this is through stopping the thoughts as and when they arise, challenging them and countering them with positive affirmations & responses to situations.
  4. hhhh

    hhhh Lead commenter

    Trouble is, these days not all heads are supportive and teachers are judged on results and (worse as more subjective) observations. Quite right you shouldn't judge your self-worth based on such ridiculous things, but people need to pay the bills!
  5. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    Don't forget - loads of schools cheat!
    sabrinakat likes this.
  6. I agree that many Heads can struggle to supportive, however, I would say that this can often be down to the culture of fear which exam result pressure & the vehement implementation of new OFSTED inspection criteria has drilled into schools.

    Understandably, school leaders are worried about the judgements that might be made about their leadership and their schools. [This comment/section/image has been removed for breaching our Community Guidelines/Terms and conditions], I discuss how this fear has led many school leaders, often unconsciously, to lead from a "fixed mindset". In this mindset, they believe their own mistakes to be a character fault and a sign of weakness, personal qualities and attributes carved in stone which leads to pressure to prove oneself. In turn, this means that HTs also apply this mindset to how they regard and treat their staff.

    A fixed mindset means you become risk averse for fear of being proved wrong. Your creativity and ability to think ‘outside the box’ can be severely limited, because you rely more heavily on the left frontal part of your brain (the rational, logical, reasoning part) to carry out the leadership functions of your role. To be fully effective as a school leader, you need to be able to draw upon the capacities of the right frontal parts of your brain, so that you can also be creative and intuitive in your approach to problem-solving and finding solutions. Left unexamined among a few individuals, the fear can lead some to become controlling and over-critical as a leader. When this happens, they put everyone into a fixed mindset.

    This means instead of learning, growing and moving the company forward, everyone starts worrying about being judged. It starts with the bosses worrying about being judged, but it winds up being everybody’s fear about being judged. Doing this, only serves to weaken their own ability to lead – and consequently that of their staff – to rise to the very real challenges presented by an increasingly dehumanised inspection regime.

    It's important HTs are therefore supported to build a Growth mindset, in which they regard both their own & their staff's personal qualities can be nurtured and mistakes are seen as fertile ground for self-learning and development. As a school leader, when you are able to do this, you will be much better equipped at strengthening your own inner resolve and resilience. In doing so, you will also develop the inner tools that protect your own self-esteem and self-worth. You learn that in developing the ability to overcome setbacks, difficulties and self-doubt, you become much better at valuing yourself for who you are, and knowing that within each perceived failure lays an opportunity for greater self-growth and understanding.

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