For those of you not football fans, or totally distracted by the election, the above picture comes from Monday night’s football match where Bournemouth effectively won promotion to the Premier League. Now, rest assured this is not a piece about football, nor does it come from a die-hard Bournemouth devotee. Instead this looks at the inspiration I have drawn from the plight of the club and the work of Eddie Howe – who is always referred to as ‘the young English manager, Eddie Howe’.
So why do I find this club so inspiring? Well look at this list:
- In 2009 they started the season on -17 points and were predicted to be relegated from the football league into non-league football by every pundit.
- The manager was appointed (at 32) in the January, despite losing both of his games as caretaker manager!
- Members of the club took to the streets to collect money to help save the club.
- He saved the club from the expected relegation that season.
- In the 2010/11 season he got Bournemouth promoted.
- Thanks to his success he moved to Burnley, but returned to Bournemouth October 2012 and got the club promoted to the Championship the same season.
- Now, two seasons later he has the club promoted to the top flight of English football, for the first time in their 125 year existence.
- This was all done with a team, at its most expensive, valued at £13.4 million!
As I said in the title, this piece is about resilience, belief and trust – all themes, thanks to Carol Dweck, that have such stock in schools at present, though I firmly believe that these were the phrases that embodied my experiences as a child in primary and secondary schools. Though admittedly from more of a ‘man up’ style of resilience! However, I plan to look at each aspect individually, use the experiences of Bournemouth and more pertinently Eddie Howe and ask questions, then consider how this could impact in school.
- How did Eddie Howe feel when he had to finish his playing career so young?
- How did the club feel when they started the 2009/10 season with such a deficit of points?
- How did Eddie Howe, and the team, find the strength to keep going through the grim January and February weather?
You see I look at these 3, probably simplistic, questions and think about experiences for staff and children in schools. Often, we look around and compare ourselves to others, then use that to beat ourselves up and this challenges our resilience. We look at our own situation and then compare what we have done/ can do to others outperforming us, perhaps aiming for contentment with a bit of, ‘at least I’m better than x’ thrown in.
It’s the same mentality as middle lane drivers on a motorway, who drive for miles passing seemingly invisible cars in the inside lane, reckoning they’re not as fast as those in the outside lane – they’re not a maniac, but not slow enough to be on the inside lane. However, this misses the crucial point – focus on yourself.
When managing Bournemouth in the 2009/10 season Eddie Howe and his team couldn’t affect the fate of others, save for the games when they played them. They could only do everything they could to win their own games and work to make sure this was enough. They had to give their best, thinking about the Growth Mindset values of; ‘What else could I do?’, ‘Is it my best, how could I improve?’ and ‘This may take some time, but I (we) will get there’. Isn’t that the attitude we need, both in supporting our learners, and for ourselves in our own work?
- Could Bournemouth have survived the 2009/10 season with a 17 point deduction without belief?
- Would Eddie Howe have been appointed without belief? (Not only in 2010, but also again in October 2012.)
- Could Bournemouth have gained promotion to the Premier League on Monday, against (so called) ‘big clubs’ without belief?
This element of a classroom is fundamental and I see it as my primary mission to raise my learners’ belief, not in a ridiculous, spurious manner, but in a realistic way – emphasising their successes and building on them, as shown in this diagram:
Too often do we hear the ‘I can’t’ side of the equation, including from parents with the oft cited, “I was never any good at Maths.” This belief building needs to start early, preferably in Nursery and Reception, but regardless of the year group taught at the start of the academic, building on the potential the children have – challenging any preconceptions the children may have.
Allow the learners to see their potential, give them excellent examples, especially of their own work and get them tapping into it, so that they will be prompted into action. They will build on this to demonstrate in their work, with nurturing and reassurance from the teacher and then see the fruits of their labours in (hard earned) rewards.
This very basic element of belief is what is necessary in a classroom, giving the learner something to build on – increasingly for themselves. It is about underpinning this for them, as they enter and get out of ‘The Pit’. Don’t make it easy for the learners, as Einstein said:
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
Support learners in modelling their beliefs towards the positives – a good start would be visiting this website by fellow ITL Associate Dave Hodgson! (here)
Having said that, I honestly feel that this is something that is required for staff as much as for the learners – regardless of their experience or responsibility, as I have found many school staff (not just teachers) have similar negative personal connotations of self as the children they are trying to build up. Speak to a member of staff and they will often be able to cite what they can’t do – dig deeper and you’ll find out why. I have seen this cited previously:
Amusing, perhaps, but I think it misses the truth. “I don’t have time…” to me, is a cover for “I’m scared to admit it as I don’t believe in myself enough.” This needs to be remembered, as much as the need for belief for learners as we turn to the third element of the triumvirate…
Back to the Bournemouth story:
- Would Eddie Howe have been appointed for a second time if the board didn’t trust he could do the job?
- When Eddie Howe gave his team talks, would they have had the desired effect if the team didn’t trust what he was saying?
- Would the team members have gone out collecting funds if they didn’t trust that theirs was a genuine cause for everyone?
I have often prided myself on the environment within my classroom and the results that the learners I teach/ I have taught achieve, but in considering this most recently during a conversation with a colleague I hit upon this fundamental. We trust each other! This is especially pertinent for my Year 6 Maths class at the moment, who are not being hot housed for the upcoming SATs and have a relaxed attitude about what is coming, knowing that (as I have told them) “It’s a marathon, not a sprint” and all of our work and projects have prepared them, not 3 weeks of non-stop past papers!
Sure, it has been easy recently as I am in the 5th year at the same school, but I know this is something I have always done, across 18 years and 6 schools. But, more than earning the learners’ trust, I have to trust them too – provide them with choices and make them aware of the consequences of these choices, but also work together if those choices result in consequences that aren’t desirous to anyone. It returns to the idea behind Vygotsky’s ‘Pit’ and Dweck’s Growth Mindset, not constant spoon feeding and wrapping them in cotton wool. The trust has to be mutual, you have to trust that they will make the right choices; they need to trust that you’ve been open and honest about the possible outcome and that you will be there if they don’t make the right choices!
However, this goes beyond the learners, it has to be applied to staff as well. How can we ever expect teachers to take a risk if they don’t feel trusted? In fact David Didau (@The Learning Spy) says it much better than I do in his recent blog post (here) about trust and accountability, building on his great piece ‘What if we started trusting teachers?’ As I said about belief, too rarely do all members of staff have great self belief, shrinking from taking risks or trying new things as they don’t see themselves as capable – or that the potential risks outweigh the rewards. But, to what extent does this stem from a (perceived) lack of trust?
So, with just over half a term left of this academic year left, as we look forward (beyond August!) to the next academic year, let’s follow Eddie Howe and Bournemouth’s example.
- Have a clear target, look to where you are going – not where you’ve been, or where you’re starting from and have the resilience to stick it out regardless.
- Believe that you have the skills and abilities to achieve, develop the ability to bounce back as the (undoubted) knocks come.
- Trust yourself and others and have others trust you too!