Leading a high performance school in the 21st century is not for the faint hearted.  The better the product, the greater the demand.  Today we enjoy an enrolment of 1130 students.  Each one is a unique being, nurtured and supported by a family.

Unlike most good schools, Sun Valley has a tradition of thinking out of the box, striving to be extra-ordinary, competitive, unique, empathy-rich and innovative.  As an ASHOKA Changemaker School, we endeavour to be, and develop, social-entrepreneurs who make a fundamental difference in society.

This requires us to be creative and innovative.  It demands high levels of energy and the constant generation of enthusiasm where all rewards are intrinsic.  There are no dividends paid out for achieving excellence and there is no profit share for exceeding the target.  It’s a job based on passion. Passion, unfortunately, is like a bucket with a hole in it.  Unless the generator continues to pump – teachers quickly lose their passion and resort to default mode called classical, heartless, routine.

Each day my staff enter the arena to do their work.  And each day they are faced with the critics.  The more the critics are allowed a voice from the cheap seats, the less creative my teachers become because they have to arm themselves against fear, anxiety, comparison and criticism.

Critic 1We ask the questions.   “How do we create courageous leaders who are vulnerable and creative? How do we protect the heart of our school from the heartless critics, those concerned only about their small corner?”

For inspiration we turned to Theodore Roosevelt – the American President, whose words speak  volumes. 

It is not the critic who counts. Not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles.  The only critic whose voice is worth a listening ear is the one who is in the arena with you.  This is the one whose face is marred with dust and sweat and who strives valiantly and at times, errs.  But spectators, making comments from the sidelines – ones who have never known victory nor defeat are a mere noisy gong and a clanging symbol.  And can they make a noise! We have reached the stage where we are now annoyed by the critic in the cheap seats.  We are not talking about someone giving us useful feedback so that we can improve our delivery.  We are talking about people who want the school to be run THEIR way.

Sun Valley Group of Schools has adopted a three step approach to the critic:

ONE:  The teachers at Sun Valley Group of Schools are going to SHOW UP and BE SEEN.  We are going to do our work creatively with good planning, driven by policy, practice and values.46d62919d0d588a1d00f3d6d1d69016c

TWO: The teachers at Sun Valley Group of Schools are going to ACCEPT that the critics are in the arena.  In fact we are going to prepare a seat for the critic – because they are always present.

THREE: The teachers at Sun Valley Group of School are going to IGNORE the critics in the cheap seats and follow policy and good practice.  This will free them to be creative and innovative and invest their energy and passion in the lives of children.

The RICK FORM is the therapy document for the critics.  This can be found in the Homework Diary and at Reception. Fill it out, submit it, share your opinion.  It is enormously helpful to write down your complaint whether it is on TripAdvisor, HelloPeter or on our RICK Form.  The Senior Deputy Principal has been tasked to read them, review their value against policy and practice and suggest operational changes if necessary.  If we have erred against Policy, it will be rectified.  A courtesy call may follow if deemed necessary and if time permits.  We do not debate your opinion. We respect it.  We read it and consider all options.  Common themes are presented, quarterly, to the School Governing Body and our Leadership Team, and if necessary, operational changes may be made.

The Principal does not deal with the critics.  Their energy-sapping toxicity is counter-productive in the leadership of a high performing school.  The Principal’s task is to drive a united vision, developed by elected parents, teachers, administrators and custodians, and to generate the energy to deliver good practice, grounded in policy, offering our clients, the children, the best possible learning experience in a twenty-first century learning community.

Critic 3We will no longer entertain the critics who have an opinion and have never been in the arena. We are not interested how many people they have spoken to on the sidelines or at a social gathering.  There are too many people on the waiting list wanting their children to benefit from our unique learning environment.  If you are not happy and cannot tolerate our practice, move away and create space for someone who will benefit in this environment. 

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