I enjoy developing school development plans, but then again, who would not? The excitement of a blank white sheet waiting to be filled with the next meticulously planned course of action. It is a chore that I can get lost in, like putting together a jigsaw puzzle: gathering all the pieces and figuring out where they should go. How are we going to keep raising standards? What are our plans for employee well-being? Each blank sheet has always represented a new chance for me to achieve excellence. This is the correct one! As I lean back to examine my job, I will think excitedly.
However, life is not a blank canvas. Even while we are in the planning stages, events such as a global epidemic can cause us to rethink our plans. Staffing issues, levelling up, assessment, lockdown, and school closures have all been reported. These have had a significant impact on the subject of strategic planning.
Life’s refusal to cooperate with my precisely prepared monitoring setups irritates me frequently, but the truth is that few of us ever complete a development plan in its entirety. There will always be forgotten, postponed, traded, or cut short. Even the monitoring schedule, which is the only one we have, is rarely flawless — I am not sure if anyone is holding pupil progress meetings, and if so, how?
And that is fine. Wabi Sabi, or the art of embracing the flawed, is a Japanese philosophy that I have been reading about. Nothing lasts, nothing is ever finished, and nothing is flawless, according to the three precepts of Wabi Sabi.
Many headteachers, on the other hand, are perfectionists. We are driven to our job because it is something that we can control and measure; the outcome is entirely in their hands, unlike other professions where other people’s activities have an impact on whether you achieve your goal. The realisation that perfection is unattainable may be frightening to a perfectionist, but it is liberating. Perfectionism can take the fun out of learning and growing as a person and as a group. You can become a slave to your own development plan, berating yourself repeatedly for not finishing each step. Persistent yearning for, or pursuit of, perfection in any area of life is stressful — and it invariably ends in disappointment.
According to new research, this way of teaching can also increase the risk of burnout. Teachers who demonstrated evidence of ‘unhealthy perfectionism’ (a combination of high standards, a high level of concern about making mistakes, and self-doubt) had a significantly higher rate of burnout than those who did not, according to a study published in 2018 by the charity Education Support.
So, should we simply give up? Is it time to get rid of the school development plan? No, I do not believe so. A plan is a map that shows you how to get from where you are now to where you want to be. There may be wrong turns, detours, and shortcuts, but the important thing is that you are able to appreciate the voyage, flaws, and all. When we hit the stop button at the conclusion of a half-term or year, we should be celebrating what we have accomplished rather than dwelling on what we have not.
Wabi Sabi is crucial to remember since it does not advise us not to strive our hardest; rather, it reminds us that things do not have to be perfect to be worthwhile.
Another advantage of never quite executing the perfect plan is the tantalising prospect of what you could accomplish if you did. It is one of the reasons I keep returning to that plain white page. What does it matter if it is a problem, I will never be able to solve? I am looking forward to giving it a shot.