May 23

Being Brave and rising to challenges

We often tell our girls how important it is to take risks and rise to challenges, to learn from failure and be unafraid to move out of cosy comfort zones. Last week I followed my own advice and did my first inspection as an ISI inspector, in the course of which I developed a severe case of empathy for the Junior pupils who have been on the receiving end of our resilience message.

As the Compliance Inspector within the team (yes, just as exciting a role as it sounds) I revised the mountain of regulations in the weeks before the due date, going back through training notes and periodically asking myself why I had ever thought this was a good idea. Arriving at the school I had to remind myself of my mother’s advice about spiders, “they’re much more afraid of you...”, got on with the job in hand and came out the other side. It was an intense experience, made more so by the knowledge that my work was rightly subject to the detailed scrutiny of the lead inspector as my judgements were so critical to the outcome for the school.

I had not anticipated just how uncomfortable and anxiety-inducing the process would be; back to being a learner, being evaluated on performance and not being quite sure if I was getting it right. Talking to colleagues who are undertaking post-graduate studies alongside their day jobs, they expressed the same insecurities; imposter syndrome is alive and well! The inspection experience and those staffroom conversations confirmed to me the value of modelling what we urge the girls to do. Whether completing a Masters, Doctorate or inspection we all felt like giving up but didn’t; it is important that the girls realise that you can feel a stomach-churning sense of apprehension and yet survive – or indeed triumph.

In the spirit of promoting courage and determination, Years 3, 4 and 5 enjoyed sessions this week at the Field with a team of ex-Royal Marines putting them through their paces in team-building activities. Blue skies and an impressive giant inflatable obstacle course made the day very good fun but the girls truly rose to the challenges. I watched the Year 3s and it was moving to see classmates encourage each other to overcome fears, literally scaling new heights; hardier girls slowing down and holding hands with the more nervous to get them through to the end.

Those girls were not fearless - there were manageable and understandable levels of fear in evidence at the prospect of a drop three times their height- but they were definitely brave and once they managed to complete the course once, the next time was easier. A lesson for us all; I might even try another inspection!

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