“As a leader, never throw your L-plates away. Learn to say ‘I have no idea’ because you are not the answerer of questions, you are the leader of great questions.”
Sir John Jones encouraged courageous leadership and palpable passion in order to grow future leaders at the recent Hertfordshire Special Headteachers Conference 2014: Ready, Steady, Grow! Knighted in 2003 for his services to education, Sir John advocates breeding creativity and independence within young people.
Sir John explained the importance of passion in accessing the hooks that get each individual child learning. Passion spreads by passionate people, he argued. The sort of profound learning that comes from a passionate teacher produces children who are much better equipped to face the world than a child who is taught to answer questions.
Whilst recruiting, he suggested headteachers look for a level of emotional commitment from prospective staff. Emotional commitment from teachers alongside cognitive commitment breeds passionate learners: “They’ll forget most of what you made them think, they’ll never forget how you made them feel.”
Sir John feels it is crucial to develop this understanding of each child in the classroom to gain their personal loyalty. Simple gratuitous acts of kindness and careful use of positive language power phrases such as ‘what I like about you is’ make all the difference -“Tell your staff!” he implored.
He warned against the danger of habits. He suggested that schools need constant challenge on every level in order to be creative: “Nothing grows in comfort zones!” he said.
Most importantly, Sir John expressed the necessity of nurturing creativity to encourage children to think critically and learn for themselves. “We are preparing our children for a world that does not yet exist”, he told his audience. It takes creativity, portability, flexibility and ingenuity to prepare children for the world. Teachers need to keep these in focus whilst teaching in order for pupils to have these qualities in life.
His final words to each Headteacher: “You are the people with the power to transform lives; be a magic weaver. And don’t forget to switch off at the end of the day.”