Who likes a podcast?

Over the last year I have been lucky enough to be interviewed on not one, but two podcasts! I am not generally someone who listens to podcasts, I prefer to listen to music and then watch interviews, but when I was asked by Mike and Arthur from TandTeaching I just couldn’t say no! They are two lovely people and it was so friendly and really just like chatting in a staff room with a cuppa! Despite being interviewed back in October, I am really proud that Mike and Art keep letting me know that my podcast is in their top 5 most listened to. And that makes me very proud, as there are some amazing and fabulous people who they have interviewed! You can find TandTeaching here on Spotify, but they are available pretty much wherever people listen!

Back in March I was then interviewed by Alison from Above and Beyond Education, for her #FlyingHigh podcast, where she talks to people about what brings them #Joy! What a great subject, and so I got to talk about, not only what I love doing, but also what is bringing me so much joy at the moment. (Which is being part of 365SEND).

I am now thinking about other podcasts or video chats I could do, I wonder if this is a new strand for the Purplemoon Website?

Leadership Horizons, the power of being outdoors

Leadership Horizons, the power of being outdoors

Posted on July 20, 2021

What do you get when you add a group of open-minded coaches, expert facilitators, the lake district and about 6 hours of time?

The answer is the feeling of being part of a something special, a lifting of soul and clarity of direction!

But first a bit of background:

I may have started my coaching journey many years ago, but in 2017 I met the truly outstanding Dr Paul Simmons as a new head in Oldham. The LA had teamed up with him (www.independentcoaching.org) to produce a program of support for new heads, and I embraced the coaching part of this wholeheartedly, finally a coaching method secure in theory, ethics and with a strong structure to work within. I then moved to the part two, whilst also sending my leadership team on part one, used the structure in my performance management meetings with staff and our senior leadership team meetings and progressed to part three.

When I left my headship in 2020, I was in contact with Paul as I considered the next stage of my journey. With sound advice and his support I ensured I completed part three, joined the executive coaching, added accredited supervision to my portfolio (my absolute passion for wellbeing) and embarked on my current chapter as Purplemoon.

Leadership Horizons Pilot

Paul, and his wife Marian, had been considering a day of coaching for coaches embedded in nature for a while. Nature and being outside as positive wellbeing factors have been a big identified as a feature of the pandemic Lockdowns and so when he approached me to ask if I would be interested in participating in a pilot day about coaching ‘in-situ’ in the lake district I jumped at the chance. As did nine others!

We gathered (socially distanced!) between 9-9:30 in a lovely room that was part of the University of Cumbria. We discussed what had brought us there, the theory and practice behind leadership coaching, and thought about

we then set off into the countryside, four of us opting for a shorter walk and then a sit in pleasant surrounds, and six opting for a longer walk and talk. (yes, I was in the walk and sit group!) we paired up, we coached, we came together for a packed lunch and chat, we changed locations and coached again in our pairs. We then met up as a whole group again to reflect on the day-our individual thoughts and learning, and our thoughts and learning as a group. We then drifted back home around 3pm, after all agreeing that it had been a remarkable day.

Remarkable Day Reflections

Whenever I have attended coaching sessions facilitated by Paul I have felt invigorated, have got clarity of next steps and also learnt more about being a coach. This day was no exception, however this day held something more, something deeper and we all felt it.

One phrase that has stayed with me is the difference between ‘feeling knowledge’ and the ‘knowing knowledge’, I know that being in nature is powerful and positive, but after this day I also truly felt it enhance and deepen the coaching experience. There was synergy between the heart and the head in a different way at the end of the sessions. What brought this about?

  1. Being outside brought different energy, it was more tranquil, less hasty or pressured- I also enjoyed not having to be in constant eye contact as I sat next to my coach rather than opposite across a desk/table. I fiddled with grass and flowers around me (as did she) and did not feel self-conscious about fiddling. Pauses were natural and mindful and invited further thoughts and discussion.
  2. I love working in metaphor and using the vista around me to describe my reality and my ideal, and work out how to get to that horizon, really helped both me and my coaching partner to depersonalise the issue/thoughts, describe them with rich language and give greater weight to our thinking. Whilst also being an aide memoir for the coach so more cognitive space could be given to support rather than remembering or note taking.
  3. Overall it felt very embryonic but also retained the structures and methods we all were so familiar with. Nothing was forced and for me there was less pressure as I felt unconstrained by time and the physical presence of work/workplace. I found the walking part as the nice bit of small talk, the shedding off of my ‘to-do’ list or my anxieties, frustrations or woes as I enjoyed the physicality of walking uphill and the taking in of the sights and sounds. When we sat, we paused and truly let go as we established our anchor for coaching in the surroundings, and then we delved deeper into the near, middle and far horizons.

Would I do it again? Absolutely! Am I looking into how I can incorporate this into my practise as a coach and supervision, oh yes!

Would it have been different if it had rained? Maybe, although we all gelt that some light drizzle wouldn’t have stopped us, a storm would have given us a different vista and energy, but there was always the safety of the building!

A whole week ‘Off’!

A whole week ‘Off’!

Posted on June 9, 2021

I managed a whole week ‘off’ work!

This is one of those blogs where it might appear I am showing off, because I managed to have a week where I did no work. This is actually a blog where I am thinking about how I managed to do it, how it felt and musings on how this might help you to do the same!

The week before my week off I spent some time scheduling my social media, ensuring that my ‘out of office’ email was ready to go and forewarning people that I was going to have the half term week off, and that I actually meant it! I stuck to my principle and did not download the app which would enable me to see my emails on my phone and I discussed with my partner how we both really meant it, no work for a week. This prep work I think did help me mentally prepare for the notion of a week off.

Where we were going also helped, it was the far north of Scotland where the 4G signal was spotty or non-existent. The hotel had limited wifi in some areas, so yes, I did pop onto social media a couple of times but not for ‘work’ but to share a couple of photos of the wonderful vista and let friends and family know what we were doing (and to see how they were spending their time!)

 Both laptops of mine and my partner were put into the bottom of the wardrobe and hidden by the spare blankets (from our eyes more than anyone elses). We did decide we wanted to take them ‘just in case’ but this was more so that we had them and could forget about them than to actually use them. Having them out of sight did put them out of mind!

Interestingly when I was a headteacher and in Portugal I still felt the need to constantly connect to wifi and check emails/messages. I wonder what has changed? -One thing I do know is that I was way too accessible (told people I would be regularly checking in) and with work accounts on my phone it was way too easy to do that ‘quick check in’.

Also, one person in our wider family group felt the need to do about an hour of work every day, and would go back into an area where there was signal to check her phone regularly. When I realised that she was doing this, I had a quick internal check in, did this make me anxious, did it make me want to do the same? The answer was categorically no! What I actually felt was sympathy for her that she felt she had to do this, but she felt that this was a compromise for her to have some ‘time off’ balanced into maintaining her workload. For me, I was confident that my prep work the week before and what was in my calendar for the week after was solid. However, when she was ‘off’ she really was off and none of us really talked ‘shop’ about any of our work (very diverse group) as there were so many other interesting things to chat about!

On reflection I know I’m in a much better place in how I prioritise and think about my emotional and mental health. My umbrella is strong and well maintained. This doesn’t mean that I don’t feel stressed or anxious at times, it means that I am better equipped to notice, check in with myself and do something about it. Would this have been possible as a member of SLT? Yes, I do believe so, if I had my umbrella and my boundaries and better self-awareness, (also the support of organisations such as the amazing HeadsUp4HTs).

I will admit that we returned on Friday (this had always been the plan) so that if anything major had happened work wise (for either myself or my partner) we had the weekend to check emails, phones, calendar and plan for this week. However, we spent most of the weekend with family in the sunshine in a garden, watching F1 and continuing our relaxing and recharging as we transitioned back into work mode for Monday.

Having a transitioning back into work time/space also helped, I think coming back later would have meant we had placed way too much pressure on finishing holiday (and doing the boring shopping/washing/prep) and going to work (setting alarm and feeling mental prepared) and I am becoming a fan on the transition in and the transition out. We had 6 solid days of holiday, true time off, much better than 7-10 days of ‘holiday’ but where work is done for an hour or so a day whilst on holiday. You may disagree, but however you plan your holidays, plan to be truly ‘off’, and then follow through and celebrate when you manage it!


Effective Supervision Checklist

Effective Supervision Checklist

Posted on April 14, 2021

But what is it you do?

But what is it you do?

Posted on March 3, 2021

What do I do? Here is a video explaining what I do.


The power of Listening, and being Heard (Thank you NHS)

The power of Listening, and being Heard (Thank you NHS)

Posted on February 27, 2021

The power of listening, and of being heard!

The last two weeks I have been on a bit of a journey with the NHS. Challenging during the lockdown, but ultimately a positive experience and I have been well cared for all the way through. It got me thinking again about listening, about being heard, but then also the ‘so what/what next’ stage.

From the 15th to 24th February, I had 4 appointments over the phone with photos shared with the GP. They were great and attempted to fix me. This also included a virtual walk in session over video at the weekend. On the fourth appointment the GP response was ‘you need to go to A&E.’ Our treatment isn’t working, this may need intervention.

So my partner drops me at A&E, I am triaged. However, I need to go to Huddersfield as that is where the SAU unit is and I am in Halifax. They are apologetic, can I get there myself or do I need transport? My partner is called and dutifully he taxis me over.

When I enter SAU in Huddersfield, my name and info is already on the board. they were expecting me. A nurse comes and does my observations and I sit.

I am then taken to a room, a lovely doctor has a brief look and touch, and then agrees it is an abscess and it is looking nasty and it needs to be drained, today. It is now 2:45pm. They are going to put me on the list, find me a bed and get it sorted. He goes through the pro’s and cons of local v general anaesthetic, I vote for General, he smiles, a little relieved, I think that is the right choice he says, before running through the risks again. He runs through my medical history and allergies again and then says he’ll find out timing. At this point I message my partner, I need my glasses, as I had put in my contacts before leaving the house. The doctor comes back, good news he says, we will have a bed for you, we can do this today. Not so good news, I am on a waiting list so will not go down for a few hours yet, that greatly increases the chances of staying overnight. I ask if my partner can bring a bag and my glasses, he says absolutely, he can drop them off (He can’t come in though). Instructions dispatched to partner and I get in my gown.

At this point I am impressed by the speed, efficiency and organisation. I am also incredibly impressed by the level of care and compassion shown. The staff are getting on and doing their job but also listening and noticing and responding. I am feeling safe and ok.

My bag is dropped and brought to me by a nurse, we have a little giggle as my partner had got a little lost on the way!

I am taken to ward 1 as the bed is ready. New staff, same level of compassion and care despite the fact they are obviously busy. People pop by to see me, to check on me, my allergies, my history. To give me the heads up on timing and the fact that it will be shift change so the people talking to me now about the operation will not be the ones doing it. (A nice touch).

I go down bang on 8pm, as they said I would, having a nice  little chat as we go about  nothing in particular. COVID has not been mentioned at all, apart from when they apologised as I had to do a test. It is hovering around us though, with the masks and the distancing where possible and the endless hand sanitisers around the place.

Into theatre. They realise there is no cannula in. I apologise, I have very awkward deep veins and after they had trouble getting blood in Halifax A&E decisions had been made to leave it to the ‘experts’ in theatre to do it when needed. I can sense a few wry and cheerful smiles even with the masks, not to worry we’ll sort it they say. I inform them of the best site, and reassure them that I won’t feint or vomit or anything and then there are four of them trying to get the blasted thing in me and reassuring me at the same time. Calm heads, soothing voices, determination and some local anaesthetic so they could adjust it works. It is in and I am falling asleep.

I wake up. Dry mouth, very dry mouth, they have water ready to sip. Cheerful voices again welcoming me back. Success they tell me. So I’m heading back to the ward. I am brought toast, the best toast ever, and a lovely proper cup of tea. I know I am going to get very little sleep, this is ok with me, I read, they pop in doing observations on me and my fellow patient in the bed next door. The night ebbs and flows, although they are clearly being quiet there is still noise. At one point I hear gentle laughter from the nurses station. It is a strangely reassuring sound. Amongst all the bustling and work and difficulties in the current situation there is clearly camaraderie and team work on this ward. I like it.

From 7am things get more bustling, a very cheerful loud fun support worker comes in and announces it is breakfast time and what do we fancy? He also tells us he likes our bay as it is cool (we had the window open all night!) We get introduced to the day staff as shift change has occurred again. The doctor comes to see me. Very happy, I can go home! The nurse will just change my dressing and do my paperwork and remove my cannula and then I can go.

I message my partner excited. I am coming home! ‘How soon?’ he asks. I’m not entirely sure, but this morning. (I am aware that sometimes discharge can take time!) The nurse comes in, right lets get you sorted she says. She is going to discharge me now! I am crazy excited, she smiles. I apologise, she says there’s no need, it is good to send patients home happy and feeling ok. She does what she needs to do quickly, efficiently and with compassion and then I’m in my clothes and go meet my partner at the entrance. I am home by 9:30am.

Our NHS is amazing. I am proud to be in a country that has such a service. But mostly this last two weeks I have been truly struck at how all that I have come in contact with have listened, really listened despite the current situation and restrictions, and got me the care and outcome I needed. I can not say it loud enough, thank you to the staff at my GP’s, the walk in centre and in particular the amazing wonderful staff at SAU and Ward 1 of Huddersfield Royal Infirmary. I spoke, you listened, you cared and you healed me.

What’s a Wellbeing Umbrella?

What’s a Wellbeing Umbrella?

Posted on February 9, 2021

Listen to Jenny explaining what the wellbeing umbrella is.

Make sure you are under the umbrella too!

Make sure you are under the umbrella too!

Posted on January 28, 2021

Wellbeing. It’s vital isn’t it? We talk about it frequently with staff, with our pupils, with families. We think about it regularly, for our staff, for our pupils, for our families. Many schools have wellbeing polices, wellbeing plans, wellbeing as part of their curriculum offer and wellbeing sessions or meetings for staff. But there is a storm out there all the time, and do we think enough about our wellbeing as leaders?

People often use the phrase ‘put on your oxygen mask before helping others’ as a quote for ensuring your own wellbeing, but I often think that this is about when entering crisis mode, or extremely high levels of stress. I am a fan of the umbrella metaphor, the umbrella that protects from the storm. So, make sure you’re also under the umbrella you hold. I find this metaphor really works, because it may also be, if you are holding the umbrella over your staff, who is holding an umbrella over you? Maybe you do have good coverage from an umbrella, and you are doing ok, that is great! (Make sure you stay under the umbrella!)

However, leaders sometimes find themselves in the position of just holding an umbrella to protect their staff and community from the storm, maybe patching and mending the umbrella as they are holding it. Their staff are protected; some may get a little splash from the storm, but on the whole they are warm and dry. But what of the leader? There they are, cold, wet and battered by the storm as they are not under that umbrella they are mending and holding.

Why is the leader not under the umbrella? This could be for many reasons, (or a combination of them)

  • They don’t feel they should be under the umbrella; it is not for ‘the leader’.
    • They feel they should ‘be strong’ they think that they are in service for their staff and community and should be holding it all together. It may be the leader as a martyr or the Superhead. It may be they feel that they are the holder, but not able to shelter under it.
  • The staff do not welcome them under the umbrella.
    • This is a cultural issue, an ‘us vs them’ mentality, seeing the leaders as others or separate. This could be dangerous and unhealthy in the long run.
  • They thought they had an umbrella over them, held by a COG or CEO.
    • This is so hard to come to terms with, when the support they thought was there is not. Or it is the leaky umbrella, the umbrella that folds and breaks with the slightest pressure.
  • They do not realise they are not under the umbrella…. until the lightning hits…
    • A very dangerous scenario, leading potentially to mental health issues and physical illness. The burnout and confusion-how did this happen? (when their resilience is worn away)

In this context I am not only thinking of headteachers (although sadly I do feel that it is many of them that are not under a good enough umbrella) it is also the deputies, the safeguarding leads and the SENDCo’s. The heads of department, the school business managers and the CEO’s.

So, if you realise you are not under the umbrella, what should you do? First of all you need to pause, reflect on why you are not, and get some help. This is not admitting that you are no good at your job, this is about saying I am a member of staff too, this is my right. Having some excellent coaching and/or supervision is a good tool to use to get your umbrella up, but you also need to have a great umbrella; what should your umbrella consist of?

Please take some time, no matter how busy you are, to check your wellbeing umbrella. Maybe you can remake the organisation/school/team umbrella with your staff. There are resources out there. (Purplemoon can project manage this for you, and we are not the only ones that can offer this). There are some excellent books and podcasts on this topic, Kat Howard’s book ‘Stop Talking about Wellbeing’ immediately springs to mind.

Wellbeing is not an add on, it is not the next cliché or buzzword. Everyone should be under the umbrella. Everyone should help decide what the umbrella is made from and maybe everyone should be holding the umbrella up. Everyone should be protected from the storm. Whatever the storm is.

Of course, work should also be ongoing to dissipate the storm(s), but perhaps that is another blog!

Is venting good for you?

Is venting good for you?

Posted on January 18, 2021


Venting, good for the soul? A nice way to release anger and frustration? The satisfaction in the moment; getting what is in your head out into the world and letting someone else have a share in your feelings sounds good doesn’t it? But is it actually good for your long term wellbeing or is this a negative selfcare tool?

There was a point in my career when I would have been very much on the side of venting as a good thing. The job would be weighing heavily on me and something would just be tipping me over the edge. I’ be on a call to my dad and after the general niceties he’d ask me an innocuous question; ‘how’s work this week?’ Or maybe a not so innocuous one; ‘did you see X in the newspaper?’ and away I’d go. He would listen, empathise, sympathise and quite often get angry and frustrated on my behalf. Sometimes he would make me more frustrated as I had to explain something to him as an segue as he isn’t ‘in the field of education’. I’d then run out of steam and talk to my mum about something totally innocuous (a bird in the garden or something the neighbour had done) and I would laugh and move on. And I would be feeling better(?)

Sometimes it would be a teacher friend I would be venting to (and it might become a joint vent on the same subject, both adding the fuel to a raging burn) and then we’d realise we were on the tram, or in the pub and maybe this wasn’t a ‘safe space’ to be having this vent. Or it would be a teacher friend at a different establishment where we would end up almost in competition over who had it worse. Urgh.

Later it also became my super other half (not in the education sector at all) and he would get it full barrels at times, and just look at me with sympathy then go and get us both a beer and try and help me make sense of what I had just said. I am not sure he signed up to that at all when we moved in together!

I then started being coached and coaching ‘properly’. I think I came to it ‘late’ and we had been doing a kind of ad hoc muddle of coaching over the years from reading about it and the odd seminar. But, for me, finally attending some meaningful training (Thank you Paul Simmons at Independent Coaching and Oldham LA who provided this free to new heads) really made me realise how dangerous venting is:

  1. Was I venting in a safe space?
  2. was the person on the receiving end able to deal with the venting in a good way and were they emotionally equipped to deal with it?
  3. (Crucially) was it actually making me feel better longer term?

At this point I also went back to a very good friend who is an outstanding play therapist. She worked in my school leading filial play therapy and, (as she now lives in Australia) I sent her a message along the lines of ‘Remember when you were muttering about me needing Supervision and you were trying to get me to sit down and talk and I didn’t really get it? Well I do now!’ But still, supervision isn’t on the general radar of education folk. Coaching definitely is, and coaching will definitely reduce the need for the venting. So, why is supervision better (and safer) than venting?

  1. There is a safe space created where there is just you and the supervisor.
  2. The supervisor has no emotional attachment to the situation (especially when they are external to your organisation) or, if they are a line manager who has received supervision training, they know how to deal with their own emotional attachment to it.
  3. The supervisor will be equipped and ready to deal with, and address the need of, the supervisee. It is a planned and structured event.
  4. If the supervisor believes that medical intervention or specialist therapy is needed then they will advise the supervisee to seek this out (and if necessary stop the session so that this can occur).
  5. The issue/case/situation that is being discussed will be examined, addressed, thought about and some steps to move it on will be decided by the supervisee.
  6. If the supervisee is bringing the same issue/case/situation to sessions, then the underlying issue regarding this will be addressed.
  7. Supervision will have a long-term positive effect on your wellbeing and job satisfaction

Is venting good for your soul? When it comes to work I would argue no, not in the long term, and it can be dangerous in the short term depending what space it is done in and who with. Supervision and coaching are far better tools to have (and, I believe, they should be part and parcel of your wellbeing offer at work). However, don’t get me started on the current preferred playing style (that means they win) of the England rugby team…