I’ve just come back from a work trip, training a group of teachers in coaching skills for their Level 1 coaching accreditation. It was a joy as always to work with a dedicated group of people with their hearts and minds firmly focussed on supporting young people to learn, grow and develop. I was struck by the wonderful warmth and care these people exuded, alongside the absolute determination to help children develop in every aspect of their young lives – and I was deeply moved by this.
At breakfast that morning, in my hotel, this was sharply contrasted with another group of education professionals. It was a crowded breakfast room and a motley collection of four people made it clear, through their high-volume conversation, that they were an inspection team from THAT organisation we all know and oft criticise. Their conversation was revealing. I was saddened by the judgemental and sarcastic manner in which they talked about the school leaders they were inspecting. The tone and style, in my view, showed little respect for the people that working in that school. I was staggered at the lack of professionalism from these people, who behaved with a sense of arrogance and impunity.
As I watched the group of teachers in my training that day and thought back to breakfast, it filled me with pride that such enthusiastic professionals should be looking after the needs of children in that area. My breakfast experience, however, did nothing to build my respect for the inspection team.
Viktor Frankl, in his extraordinary book Man’s Search for Meaning, describes his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp. He concludes, having survived the experience, that the last human freedom is to choose one’s response in any given situation. Whilst I would, of course, not want to draw parallels between the Nazi regime and inspections, there is a serious point here. Whatever comes your way in an inspection, however you are treated, you always have your human freedom to choose your response. That is yours and yours alone. Your long-held values and professionalism are unchallengeable. Your quest to champion the development of the whole child as a rounded citizen, is your quest. Whatever an inspection team may do or say, they cannot take away your sense of integrity, unless you choose to allow that; your integrity belongs to you. Your values belong to you. Your professionalism belongs to you.