Thank You: Accepting that good enough IS good enough

by Janet Metcalfe @ch100j

Let me start by saying that I feel so grateful to have found a profession that I love. It has tested me to the brink this year, but I love it. I love it because it is through the inspiring students and leaders around me that I’ve begun the journey of self improvement. I feel as teachers and leaders we give everything over. Our passion, our time, our energy - and we don’t mind because we see it as all part of the greater good. But what happens when those personality strengths become the stick by which we beat ourselves?

I’ll journey back a few years. I moved from Scotland and - having a 2 year old and a 7 month old - I was appointed a maternity cover at my current school. I have never settled somewhere so quickly. Fast forward 8 months and I was appointed Programme Leader. Fast forward another 10 months and I was appointed Faculty Leader. It was quick and ego boosting and terrifying and exciting. And although I know I had the respect of the Senior Leadership team, the imposter syndrome kicked in pretty instantaneously. Someone will find out that I don’t know what I’m doing - won’t they? The multi-tasking of the leadership role, my daughter's sudden health issues, my husband's reduction in work time to be at home more and just the day to day expectations of the classroom teacher became the ultimate balancing act. And heaven forbid I should be seen to not get it all right. Every deadline met on time, every challenge taken on by myself, every mistake my burden to carry. I really just didn’t want to fail.

And then I did.

An exam moderation in the summer saw our internal units reduced and our grades drop. I can’t describe that day to you, but I felt absolutely broken. I saw my team carrying the burden of frustrated parents and nothing I could say could fix it. We had them reassessed and the grades were changed, but I couldn’t see that. I began the year desperately trying to prove myself to my team seeking absolute perfection to never get it wrong again. Then a series of crazy life moments all combined together and I hit January feeling unable to breathe and wanting to run - fast.

And so began my little steps to becoming 10% braver.

Firstly - I was totally honest with my school. 'I can’t do this right now'. I was open with my team 'my anxiety at the moment means I can’t be good enough for you and I need to take a break'. The ease at which I said those things to people who I never wanted to disappoint was really powerful to me. And people swooped. The love, respect and support I got was incredible. I’m not sure if people were surprised or just wanted to reach out, but everything was about me taking time to heal. And I took it. And I’m not ashamed about it.

  • I find it a daily challenge not to let those behaviours take over. Everything is about strategies to manage it.
  • 'Today I wasn’t perfect'- give your kids a hug, breathe, and try again tomorrow.
  • 'I made a mistake on this' - have a cry if you need to and then tell yourself that you’re human and it’s ok.
  • I don’t know how to do this? Tell someone who does and let them guide you. Be okay with the fact that you won’t heal straightaway. 
  • Take a day if you need to and rest so that you can go again the next day.
  • Find mantras to keep you going; 'being good enough is good enough'.

I think the bravest thing you can do as a leader is model by example. The pressure of always striving to be perfect must also have been felt by them. So guess what - I missed a deadline for my Improvement Plan. I sent it along with a grovelling apology.

Do you know what happened? The world didn’t fall apart. I wasn’t fired. I received the following reply: 'thank you'.

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