Voices in Education Podcast

Episode 26: Becoming the Teacher You Wish You Had at School

September 25, 2023 Season 3 Episode 26
Episode 26: Becoming the Teacher You Wish You Had at School
Voices in Education Podcast
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Voices in Education Podcast
Episode 26: Becoming the Teacher You Wish You Had at School
Sep 25, 2023 Season 3 Episode 26

As teachers, we all try our best to juggle being successful educators, caregivers, administrators, mentors, managers and so many other responsibilities that it can feel impossible to adequately achieve in every area. But what if the solution to these challenges was more to do with the whole school system rather than the individual teachers?

Julie Norman, a Leadership and School Effectiveness Advisor in the UK and founder of the Quality First Education System, believes schools have to work together to help create more efficient and effective environments for both staff and students alike by ensuring everyone feels respected - with a compassionate sense of themselves and others.

Join Julie on Voices in Education as she shares her whirlwind journey from a rebellious and mistreated teen to becoming the teacher - and school leader - she wishes she'd had as a child. She shares her keen observations of what does and doesn't work when building school communities, how to work together successfully with "the problem children", and what she believes to be the most important factors in improving student and staff experiences within schools.

Voices in Education is powered by Securly

Securly is your school’s all-in-one solution for student safety, wellness, and engagement. Securly's 2023 State of Student Wellness Report is a free-to-download paper that takes a closer look into the data and current trends surrounding student wellness. You'll learn how your school can overcome resource limitations, introduce efficient technologies into the classroom, and ultimately better support the students who need your help the most.

Download your free copy of this illuminating special report today.

Show Notes Transcript

As teachers, we all try our best to juggle being successful educators, caregivers, administrators, mentors, managers and so many other responsibilities that it can feel impossible to adequately achieve in every area. But what if the solution to these challenges was more to do with the whole school system rather than the individual teachers?

Julie Norman, a Leadership and School Effectiveness Advisor in the UK and founder of the Quality First Education System, believes schools have to work together to help create more efficient and effective environments for both staff and students alike by ensuring everyone feels respected - with a compassionate sense of themselves and others.

Join Julie on Voices in Education as she shares her whirlwind journey from a rebellious and mistreated teen to becoming the teacher - and school leader - she wishes she'd had as a child. She shares her keen observations of what does and doesn't work when building school communities, how to work together successfully with "the problem children", and what she believes to be the most important factors in improving student and staff experiences within schools.

Voices in Education is powered by Securly

Securly is your school’s all-in-one solution for student safety, wellness, and engagement. Securly's 2023 State of Student Wellness Report is a free-to-download paper that takes a closer look into the data and current trends surrounding student wellness. You'll learn how your school can overcome resource limitations, introduce efficient technologies into the classroom, and ultimately better support the students who need your help the most.

Download your free copy of this illuminating special report today.

Adam Smith: 00:02 You're listening to the Voices in Education podcast, powered by Securly. In our third season of the podcast, we're fine-tuning our focus and shining a spotlight where we believe it's needed most, on those who've dedicated their careers and lives to education. Whether inside or outside of the classroom, we know that students need to feel seen, safe, and supported to perform at their best. But these aren't just the needs of students, they're basic human needs that apply to our educators, administrators, and school mental health professionals as well. There's a saying that you can't pour from an empty cup. Well, you're invited to fill your cup here with us. I'm Adam Smith, a former teacher, mental health advocate, and your host of the Voices in Education podcast.

00:51 It's my great honor and pleasure to get to sit down with educators just like you to discuss why they chose a career in education and how they stay the course in the face of challenges. In hearing their stories, I hope you'll come away feeling refreshed, re-energized, and reconnected to your own reasons for becoming an educator. Let's hear from the Voices in Education. Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Voices in Education podcast. I'm Adam Smith, your host for this brand new season of Voices in Education. I can't wait to share these inspiring conversations with you all. But before I get into it, I want to make sure that you don't miss out on a single episode. Be sure to like, follow, and subscribe to Voices in Education on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts from.

01:40 Today, I'm joined by Julie Norman. Julie is the founder of the Quality First Education System here in the UK and currently works as a leadership and school effectiveness advisor, but her history within the education sector is an eclectic one. With roles ranging from early years teaching and senior leadership to becoming deputy head teacher and executive head teacher at four schools, Julie's experience is wide-ranging. At the heart of all she does is an ethos of purposeful individualized education and a respect for teachers and students alike. A foundation that stems back to her own childhood experiences within school and wanting to be the kind of teacher that she never had herself. Julie, I am thrilled to have you on Voices in Education today. How are you doing?

Julie Norman: 02:22 I'm doing great, thank you. Really well.

Adam Smith: 02:25 Amazing. Amazing. Now, just I'm going to peel the curtain back a little bit for our listeners here. During our preparation for this, you did have your cat jump in on the desk. It was amazing. The cat is locked out, I'm told, but it's possible that he will find a way to sneak back in. I'm hoping so, so we'll keep an eye out for that. But how are you? Are you having a good week?

Julie Norman: 02:47 Yeah. A really good week, actually. Having a nice slow week this week. Mega busy one next week, so reserving energy this week.

Adam Smith: 02:56 Amazing. Well, I'm glad we can get you on. Now, as I mentioned in our little intro, you work as a leadership and school effectiveness advisor. That's not a title that I've heard a lot before. But can we go back and look at your whole story and how we arrived at where you are today? I'd love to give our listeners a better understanding of what your day-to-day responsibilities look like within that role, so can you tell us a little bit more about what a leadership and school effectiveness advisor is?

Julie Norman: 03:22 Yeah. Sure. When I finished being an executive ed teacher, I was contacted by someone at Devon County Council asking if I had capacity to support them in their work, which I did have some capacity. I run my own business where I offer consultancy and training, and which they knew, and so they asked me to just come and do some work. Basically it's like a sip. You go in to head teachers, you review the school with them. I think it used to be called a mocksted, but we don't call it that anymore. We don't want any connection to Ofsted whatsoever. It's a really friendly pairing up with the head teacher and asking the head teacher like, "What do you want to know about your school? What do you want us to really look under the skin at?"

04:14 It is in part looking at the school and looking at the strengths and weaknesses of the school, but also then sitting with them, unlike Ofsted, and offering lots of advice and support off the back of that. It's a really supportive process. We're normally thanked profusely and they do call us and try and book us in, so they do seem to enjoy our visits. That's what I do. I go around schools anywhere in Devon from Bideford to Plymouth and basically support the head teachers to improve their schools. They all want the best school in Devon. My job is, no pressure, but to help them get there.

Adam Smith: 04:54 No, that's amazing. I think that is... You call it mocksted?

Julie Norman: 04:56 Yeah.

Adam Smith: 05:00 It's interesting because I guess what you do is ideally what Ofsted would be looking to do. You're trying to offer positive criticism, you're offering areas for improvement, what's good, what's not. I think it's so important that you get this outside perspective and, in your case, one that is so supportive. Because we know, our listenership here and everyone at Securly, we know how much teachers and educators go through. Sometimes it can be difficult to take that step back and look at yourself holistically, what are we doing?

Julie Norman: 05:33 Absolutely. Many of them really appreciate another set of eyes. There's a lot of things as a head teacher that you make assumptions without realizing you make assumptions. If you really like a teacher and you seen that teacher do a great job, they've had a really good year last year. You'll often step back and say, "They're a really good teacher," but actually they were a really good teacher last year, but what's happening this year for them? Never step back, continue that relationship. It's really good for a second set of eyes to come in and say, "Actually, why are we asking them to do this?"

06:07 Because my concern would be burnout for the teacher or things not being as concise and clear as they could be for the children because the teachers just spent hours on unnecessary paperwork. Leadership and school effectiveness is how can the school be more effective where the leadership are involved? What changes can leadership make that will make the school much more effective? Part of that effectiveness is wellbeing for teachers, and that they can really manage their workload and focus on the teaching, which is what they went in there for.

Adam Smith: 06:44 Yeah. It sounds amazing and quite varied because as you say, it is an individualized approach. You aren't going in, as you say, selling certain packages that will improve things or anything like that. It's very much, well, let me look at your individual school or situation, what needs improving? What's good?

Julie Norman: 06:59 Yeah. You're just questioning the effectiveness of everything that they do, and then advising them on ways that they could address that if it's not as effective as it could be. Or as efficient, there's that too.

Adam Smith: 07:11 No, I love that. I think that's such an important message for educators everywhere that... I've heard it called working smart, not working hard. As you say, it's slimming that workload down because it's what is effective? What is absolutely necessary and what is the fluff that is causing teachers to face the burnout and that kind of thing? You mentioned effective leadership quite a lot within your responsibility. That's what you're looking for. You're looking to create or help leaders be effective. I think that's leadership and that your tussle with that over the years is actually a big part of your story. I'm going to go back now if that's okay?

Julie Norman: 07:49 Yeah.

Adam Smith: 07:50 Your professional journey is such an interesting one, and it led you eventually to creating your own curriculum. In your own words, when we were discussing it, it was born out of necessity and you implemented the Quality First Education System. It's a curriculum that doesn't just teach to the test, which I know is an old school method of teaching things, but instead you put the learner at the heart of everything that's taught. To me, this sounds groundbreaking, just really appealing. I'd like to delve into that in a bit more depth, but I want to go back even further to understand how you got to that point, how you decided I think we need something new, something fresh. I'd love to go back and let our listeners know where this all stemmed from. I think if I'm right in saying this, this is a series of events that began when you were a teenager in education yourself. This is when you first came face-to-face with what I would call ineffective leadership.

Julie Norman: 08:50 Yes. Just a bit.

Adam Smith: 08:54 Would you mind sharing that story with us?

Julie Norman: 08:56 To take one step back, I moved to England when I was 12 from Ireland. Now in the first school that I went into, obviously I had a thick Irish accent, so I got beaten up pretty much every day for being the IRA until finally the police removed me from the school for my own safety. I had three months at home to perfect my English accent, and then they put me into a new school, which was miles from home. It was about 45 minutes on the bus every day. I settled into that school. However, what I had learned, and I think what I had gone into that school was an attitude of I'm not going to get beaten up anymore. I'm not going to get treated badly anymore. I'm going to stand up for myself. I had this vigilante way about me when I saw bullies picking on or beating up sweet kids who had done nothing wrong.

09:48 I would go and beat up the bully and say, "If you want to hit anyone, hit me. I'll take their punch for them." I'd gotten quite angry I think really with society allowing this to happen, allowing people to be bullied effectively. Whilst this mission was in play every day by 9:10, I'd be excluded because I had beaten someone else up. Usually I'd get them on the bus and get told by the bus driver... Then I'd go in and they'd go, "Turn around and go home, Julie." I got excluded probably a hundred times by the time I was 14, it was pretty much every day. I remember when I was 14, I turned up to school and I'd had some cider on the bus, as you do. I was turning into a little bit of a neerdowell. I was very angry with society. I had a very violent stepdad, and I think I used to bring that anger into school.

10:43 Because I'd spent too many years being beaten up by everybody else, and I think school was the place for me to exercise my right to stand up for myself. I'd had some cider on the bus, and I think the year leader had found that out, and she asked to speak to me from tutor. Again, I'd only just walked in the door and I was being called out. I thought, here we go, excluded again. I haven't even hit anybody yet. Then she said to me, "You are breathing valuable oxygen someone useful could be breathing." I knew she didn't like me. I knew I was hard work, but it was in that moment I realized actually that's almost wishing me dead and that's hate. That's hate on a level I don't know, so I didn't feel like I wanted to be there anymore, so I stopped going to school. By the time I was 16, I was very much in the wrong crowd, and then met the man in my dreams who was also very violent and an alcoholic and spent years with him.

11:42 I had two children with him until I was about 27 coming up to 28, and that's when things changed. That's when I hit a point where I thought, no, something has to change. I was living in a really abusive relationship with the two children, and I just thought, no, I've got to change everything and put things right. I decided I was going to become the teacher I wish I'd had. If I'd had a decent teacher at 12, 13, who had realized what I was going through and supported me, I never would've been so angry in school. I wouldn't have been excluded all the time. I would've had the support that I needed. I wouldn't have ended up in an abusive relationship probably. That whole 14 years would've looked so different. I felt I need to go in and be that teacher. I need to go and work with those children. I need to go and hug them and say, "Are you okay?" That was the beginnings.

Adam Smith: 12:47 I think we often discuss the why behind why do teachers teach? Why would they go into schools? You hear so much about burnout, and you hear so much about conditions and lack of resources and whatever. They are issues that absolutely... I know so many people are working to resolve and they need to be resolved. But I think what we love to really highlight here is exactly what you're saying, these teachers out there that are the ones that make the differences. Because you're right, I think as children, we are the product of our surroundings and the adults that are our caregivers or not in your case. It's so important what our educators do. They are such key [inaudible 00:13:29]-

Julie Norman: 13:29 I don't think they quite realize sometimes how powerful and influential they are.

Adam Smith: 13:33 No.

Julie Norman: 13:34 I guess when I was 28, I decided that if I'd had a decent teacher, my life would've been so different. There's almost a responsibility to become that teacher and make sure that other children's lives are changed because of something I did that was right. Just that instinctive, unconditional love or care or compassion allowed that young person to access education and become successful in life. I almost felt a deep sense of responsibility to do that, to right all the wrongs of my past, to make sure that those unteachables become teachable and successful as well.

Adam Smith: 14:16 When we were discussing this previously, you mentioned that your real why behind education is that... I think we've all seen this. We've all seen this in whether we are teachers ourselves or whether we've got children that have been through this. When the children ask, "Well, why am I learning this?" If there isn't a reason behind that, if there isn't a-

Julie Norman: 14:33 Don't teach it.

Adam Smith: 14:35 ... reason that makes sense to them, they won't want to learn it.

Julie Norman: 14:37 Just don't teach it. Step away. Do something else until you can find a reason. Go and talk to other teachers and say, "Give me a good reason to cover this?" I think that was lost for a long time. There's generations of children now who saw no point to school whatsoever other than to be bossed around by grumpy adults. '80s, '90s I think I'm of the '80s era secondary and I think '90s was very similar. As time's gone on, we're getting better. I don't think we're there yet which is really sad considering the year we're in now and things have moved on, but not as much as they should have done. But we should be making learning far more purposeful, far more about using that information to be part of citizenship. Get involved. Don't just read about it in a book, get involved. But if we don't have purpose behind what we're learning, then how do the children use it?

Adam Smith: 15:35 Exactly. I think application of learning, it's something I can definitely relate to. There are things that I've learned that I still remember and I'm still not really sure why I learned them. They've never really come into play. But I think, of course, there are always ways to apply these things. It's so important that we show the children that kind [inaudible 00:15:51]-

Julie Norman: 15:51 It's not even just... We want them to apply, of course we do because we want them to experience everything. But even if you've learned something and you think, well, I don't need that, but someone else would. It's understanding other people as well and why they use those skills. Appreciating that those people use those skills. If you don't have that skill because you haven't used it over a long period of time, then you turn to people who do have those skills. You appreciate them and you value them. But it's important that we do know where that skill is used even if we are not going to. They're all doors opening, aren't they? They're all telling us, "You can go this way or this way or this way," because you have all these skills and now you have choices. I think young people need to understand that we are arming them to make really big choices, but really exciting choices as well. We're not too good at doing that yet.

Securly: 16:43 The Voices and Education podcast is brought to you by Securly. Since 2013, Securly's sole mission has been to support student safety and wellness. With more than 15,000 schools worldwide already choosing to bring Securly into their school communities, we are creating a clearer picture of what young people are struggling with each and every day. With this data, we are able to more effectively target and implement support. We want to share that information with as many educators like you as possible. The 2023 State of Student Wellness Report is a free to download paper that takes a closer look into the data and current trends surrounding student wellness. You'll learn how your school can overcome resource limitations, introduce efficient technologies into the classroom, and ultimately better support the students who need your help the most. Download your free copy of this illuminating special report by visiting https://hs.securly.com/report. That's https://hs.securly.com/report.

Adam Smith: 17:45 Well, so to that point, you mentioned about if it's not a skill for them, it's maybe a skill for someone else and that thing. Now, you went on to become deputy head teacher and then a head teacher for several schools. Your mission and vision is really what led to the creation of this curriculum of your own. A big part of your curriculum, the backbones, were three points. You said it was sense of self, sense of others, and then sense of the world. That's how you would teach everything. You have to make sure that it was one of those three, if not all of those. Tell us a little bit about that and tell us about your ethos and mission as a leader? Now you are in that role that you felt was lacking when you were a child, so tell us a little bit about that and what you did?

Julie Norman: 18:32 Okay. When I was an executive head teacher, obviously it was an LA maintained... Well, they were LA maintained schools. However, I knew as an LA maintained school, I do need to follow the national curriculum. But when you look at the national curriculum and you look at the key objectives rather than all the fluff that's been added over the years, just look at those key objectives. There actually aren't that many and they're not that prescribed. I think we've prescribed much of what's in there that doesn't need to be in there. I pulled out the key objectives, and then I sat with the staff and we looked at sense of self, sense of others, and sense of the world. What fits into each of those three areas, and the whole national curriculum does very comfortably fit in spread across those three areas.

19:19 Comfortably across all three in some cases. I said if we were to focus on a sense of self that young people are given the opportunity to really learn about themselves in a metacognitive way. What am I good at? What am I not good at? What do I like about myself? What don't I like about myself? What do I enjoy? What do I not enjoy? Be okay with that. Just know yourself. Know who you are, and be proud of who you are, and express who you are. Articulate what you like and what you don't like. Have an opinion. Don't be afraid to say, "I disagree with everyone in the room. These are my thoughts." We celebrate your thoughts because they're yours and it's what makes you unique. But on the flip side, we also made sure that we did a lot of work on sense of others.

20:06 What do other people think? How did they feel based on their experiences, their opportunities, their likes and dislikes, and how they feel about themselves? They will have different thoughts. We must respect them as much as we want our thoughts respected. But we also have to have some understanding of why they have the thinking they do and why we have the thinking we do, and that that's okay. But actually collectively, how do we work together to get a sense of the world? Where do we fit into the world? What's our responsibility and what are our rights? What do we change? What do we leave alone? What do we look after? What do we repair? We have responsibilities there. It's really key for the children to learn about each other's strengths and celebrate each other's strengths. Not celebrate each other's weaknesses, but use each other's strengths.

20:53 I find schools tend to focus on your weakness. What's your target? What are you trying to get better at? What aren't you good enough at? Whereas we worked completely on the flip side, what are your strengths and therefore where can you be placed within this project work? We're going to do this huge project where we're going to address climate change, but where are you going to fit into that based on your own principles, your character, your strengths within the academic field, but also your character strengths? We need someone who's good at speaking out or we might need a speaker for the group. We might need somebody who's particularly good at maths. We might need a good writer. Then the children start having conversations like, "You're really good at maths. You are really good at writing. You're really confident when you speak and you say it so well, I think you should speak for the group."

21:42 Their sense of self is constantly being fed positivity all the time, which only helps them ever grow in confidence and actually then address the areas they want to address more readily because they're coming with confidence and a whole team around them. What you get then is you get this ethos in school where everybody understands and knows each other really deeply and really respects each other deeply as well. What comes from that is an unconditional love. You just love your fellow human being because you know all the wonderful things about them, you know all their strengths, you know how important they are. When you're surrounded by people who feel that about you, school's a nice place to be.

Adam Smith: 22:27 I think listening to students and again on that individual level as well. Making sure that they recognize that they're appreciated for who they are as themselves. To me, that's one of our big steps forward in education over the last sort 10 years or so. We have a solution here at Securly called Rhithm (https://securly.com/rhithm). where the students can basically do... It's a three-minute check-in at the start of each class. It's emojis on their screen and it's like, "How are you feeling right now? Or where's your head at right now?" Just nice quick things and they can just click through.

23:02 What that then does, it presents them with a little video or exercise. If they're feeling a little bit like, "Well, I've been on the playground and it's all a bit crazy and whatever," it recenters them for learning. If they're feeling a bit sad, it talks them about, well, that's okay. As you said before, it's validating how they feel and letting them know that it's okay to feel your own individual way we can do something to help you with that. I think this combined with what you are saying, everything coming together to show it's okay to be you and, as you say, it's okay to be wrong. It's okay to not be in the right place right now.

Julie Norman: 23:35 That's right.

Adam Smith: 23:36 All of these things are [inaudible 00:23:37]-

Julie Norman: 23:38 Of course it is. You wouldn't be a human if you didn't have emotions. You can't just switch them on and off because the bell went. If the bell goes, what does that say? You're not allowed to be excited or happy or giggly or angry now the bell said you can. I'm sorry, but bells are not that powerful. As much as some secondary schools would like to think they are, they're not.

Adam Smith: 23:56 It's like applying sort of Pavlovian... Once the bell rings, the student will be ready to [inaudible 00:24:02]-

Julie Norman: 24:01 Yeah. Line up silently and come in and turn off all your emotions. Nope. You're going to lose that fight and good luck to you, basically. We do have to validate those emotions. We have to help the young person say, "What am I going to do about it?" They can control their emotions with the right support and guidance. But to just be told, "Stop having the emotion," no one's dealing with it. That's when children kick off for no reason is what I'm told. They just kick off for no reason. Highly unlikely. Something did it.

24:37 But it's recognizing what's causing these children to have a meltdown? Much of the time it is because they've suppressed those feelings for too long and they just explode because they weren't dealt with, they weren't filed away and understood. That sense of self is absolutely so important. Not just for you to understand your own emotions and it's okay to feel the way you feel. In fact, it's good that you have feelings. We like that you have feelings. This is a positive thing. Wouldn't it be awful if you had none? But also the sense of others. Learning to be compassionate with other people and understanding that they also have feelings. Just because you are not feeling it right now doesn't mean they're not.

Adam Smith: 25:20 I think what I love about your approach is that it's not just the students that you apply this to, it's actually your staff as well. I think that's such an important lesson that you've taught not only the students but also your staff. I think in conclusion to it all, you became that effective leader that you didn't have when you were a student. I think probably [inaudible 00:25:45]-

Julie Norman: 25:45 I hope I did. I hope I did. I know that safeguarding concerns came out of the woodwork soon after I started. The governor said to me, "They'll have always been there, Julie. But no one has ever asked them are you okay? Now we're hearing those who are not okay." That was absolutely pivotal to me, that the safest place in the world for these children was their classroom with the staff. That was so important. Yes, there were a lot of safeguarding issues to deal with. When you open up that culture and you make it safe, then children will tell you what's happening. You've got to then deal with it. You have a responsibility. But that's okay, I'd rather that than not know.

Adam Smith: 26:35 Definitely. Speaking of looking out for the children, I'm going to wrap up with three questions that we ask all of our guests here on Voices in Education. I would like to know, in your opinion... Obviously you go out to these schools and you see a lot of what goes on with the students. What do you think the biggest challenge is that educators are facing when it comes to supporting students' wellness?

Julie Norman: 26:58 I think that's easy. What I hear from teachers all the time is the curriculum. It's the curriculum. The curriculum has to change. The expectation on what to teach and how to teach has to change. We have to hand back the professionalism to the teachers. We've got to stop giving them instructions on how to teach what. They know how to teach, they're perfectly well-trained. Well, let's hope they are. If they're perfectly well-trained, we then have to stop micromanaging them. Because I think what's most important for every teacher is they want to respond to the child. You can't do that when you've got five or six learning objectives you must meet today because you wrote it in your plan that the head teacher took in on Monday morning. You laugh, this happens all the time. They have to hand in their planning file to a head teacher, what's the teacher going to do with a planning file?

27:55 Just stop this practice because then the teacher feels that they have to cover exactly what they said they would. I'm sorry, but I've been a teacher for many, many years, and I don't think... If I never looked at the children and I never listened to the children, I'd follow the plan to the letter. However, when children are involved, and particularly if there's 30 to 35 of them in the room or more, many have more between 35 and 40, you have to respond to them. You've got to be flexible and adapt. Sometimes you've got to bin that lesson and overhaul it straight away into something else. Only the teacher can make that call on that day in that moment. If we don't give them the autonomy to do that, we are in big trouble. That is the biggest problem for teachers right now is they're not being allowed to make those decisions.

28:50 They're not being allowed to decide when to mark, when not to mark, how to mark. Let's have a live marking policy. Let's not have a marking policy. In fact, let's have a live feedback policy. Let's just let the teachers decide in that moment what is the best feedback I can give this young person and how that's going to have the biggest impact. Some children love having something written in their book. Some children just want you to look them in the eye and tell them what they need and they hear you. That connection is what moves them forward. But the teacher will tell you who those children are, not the person who writes the marking policy. They don't know. We have to change that. We have to work far more with teachers in saying, "What do you need to ensure that this child has the best experience in school?" When I say experience, academic qualification is 10% of what they need. They need to build their characters, they need to learn about themselves, they need to learn about the world.

29:49 They need to have debates and discussions. They need to have opportunities to listen to other people. If all we're ever doing is talking at them with a whiteboard full of slides... Slide 2 of 36. I'm sorry, but you're expanding that 10% to a 100%, and 90% is not being addressed. Then children don't want to come to school. Then you have children who don't want to come to school when your absence is very low and you cannot think for a million reasons why. The head teacher saying, "What can I do about my absents? I've got these threatening letters for parents, I think I'll start sending them out." Yeah, that'll do it. Or how about we include the children in their education so they want to be here? That'd be great. I think that's one of the biggest problems we're having is it's top down and it should be bottom up.

Adam Smith: 30:38 It's an incredible perspective. I don't think I've ever heard it said in that way, the way you've framed it because I think you're so right. How can we possibly address the student's wellness, their needs, whatever it is, if all we're doing is, as you say, following a very strict plan? We're not looking up from the slides or the computer or whatever it might be. That's an amazing... I think that's a [inaudible 00:31:01]-

Julie Norman: 31:01 Children are learning things, they don't know why they're learning them. If they get stuck, they get left behind, or they have to take it home for homework because they didn't quite understand it. We have to address all the misconceptions, all the confusion. Any children who are feeling... Look, we've got to address it in the moment. We mustn't move on until we address it and discuss it together. It's such a race for teachers to get through the learning objectives. It's an absolute nonsense in my opinion.

Adam Smith: 31:38 For our listeners that are working in education right now then, there are a lot of them that are struggling feeling lost or burnt out. What's one thing you'd like to say to them?

Julie Norman: 31:46 I would like to say to them hang in there. One of the reasons I want you to... Well, there's two reasons to hang in there. One is the tide turns. Things do change and people do learn. It's slow, but it's changing. Be part of the change. Get yourself into situations where you have a voice. If you don't have a voice in your school, get out and go find a school where you do have one because your voice is so valuable for our children. Now, the second reason is the children. You are there to give them every opportunity in life that maybe you wish you had or that you did have and you want the same for them. Stick it out for them. Just keep reminding yourself while you're there every day and you're there for them. If you can become their voice and speak up for them, get involved in SLT.

32:33 Get involved in those conversations that says, "Hang on a minute, how is this going to serve the children?" I know it's going to serve SLT. I get it's going to serve the financial team. Everyone there is happy, but how is it going to serve our children and how is it going to make them want to come to school, enjoy coming to school, and benefit from coming to school? They're the only three questions you need to be asking. If you can't answer them, then you're doing something very wrong. Get involved in the conversation. Don't walk away. Get help. I'm a mentor for head teachers. Unions often offer mentors and support. I'm a support officer as well. If head teachers are suffering through disciplinary action or capability, and there's always someone out there that you can talk to who will understand. Then someone once said to me, "Put your big girl knickers on and get stuck in." Get your voice out there. Speak for our kids.

Adam Smith: 33:33 I love that. No, I think you're so right that it's... We're all about the why we do this in voice and education and it sometimes reminding yourself of that is actually very empowering. I love that answer. Final question, as we've discussed, there are a lot of challenges that we are facing in education right now. But there's a lot of good work going on as well, and I'm sure you see that on a day-to-day basis. What's giving you hope about the future of education?

Julie Norman: 34:02 There's quite a few things really. I'll try and be quick. But I started my business, SOS, School Omega Solutions. One of it was obviously to go into schools to introduce a different way of teaching children using that curriculum. But not necessarily that curriculum, my most popular training session, which is also an inset day, is called the compassionate classroom. That gives me hope, the fact that it's so popular. I do narrowed down versions that are only an hour for staff meetings. I do whole day insets and I can adapt it to any school.

34:40 I listen to the school and what are the issues they're dealing with and I adapt it for them. Now, that gives me hope. Schools want compassionate classrooms, thank God. Schools want metacognition. They want to start working with the child and their thinking and helping them to learn to be a thinker rather than a knower. Knowing stuff is absolutely pointless if you're not going to do anything with it. You're wasting your time. But with metacognition, it's all about now you know this information, what are you going to do about it? That absolutely gives me hope. I do see on a daily basis, the tide is turning. It's very slow, but it is turning.

Adam Smith: 35:25 I agree. Everyone I've spoken to both on this podcast and off is... It's looking like the change is good and it's finally coming. It's amazing. Well, look, it has been just the best conversation, Julie. I've loved having you here. I think you've given us so much to think about. You've given us a great example, I think, of how leaders should be, schools should be, and how we should be to our students. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Julie Norman: 35:46 It's my pleasure.

Adam Smith: 35:48 Where can people find you online? You mentioned School Omega Solutions, which is your business. Can we find you there?

Julie Norman: 35:53 Yeah. Just Google "School Omega Solutions," and you'll find me, all my contact details (https://schoolomegasolutions.co.uk/). If you want your school to be much more compassionate, I'm your queen. I'll bring it.

Adam Smith: 36:05 I love that, "I'll bring it."

Julie Norman: 36:07 I'll bring it.

Adam Smith: 36:10 Good call to action. That brings us to the end of today's episode of Voices in Education, but now we'd love to hear from you. If you enjoyed this episode, don't forget to leave a rating and a review to help other listeners like you find the podcast. We'd also love you to continue the conversation over on our social channels. You can follow us on Twitter @Securly, over on Instagram and Facebook at Securlyinc, and on LinkedIn at https://linkedin.com/company/securly. I look forward to seeing you all there. Until next time, make sure you're giving yourself and your own needs the time and consideration they deserve.

36:44 If there's one thing we can take away from today's conversation with Julie, it's that it's so important to value yourself and to feel part of the community and culture within your workplace, and that you are respected and cared for. Be sure to speak up. Support your colleagues to do the same. Help create that safe space within your school for not just your students, but also yourself. The job you do each day is so valuable and we're so thankful for all you do. Keep up the good work. Thanks for tuning in to the Voices in Education podcast powered by Securly. For more episodes and additional details about the podcast, visit https://securly.com/podcast.