"A hundred years from now, it won’t matter what car I drove, how big my house was or how much money I made…but that I made the difference in the life of a child."

Many years ago, I read this quote. I don’t remember where or on what, but the minute I read it, it rang true for me. And, that is why I teach…because by teaching I believe that I can make a genuine difference in the life of a child and, by extension, in the world.

As a teacher, I have always taught from the heart. Yes, I share my love of literature through the subject of English; however, every day that I am in the classroom I make a genuine effort to see the child in front of me: someone who needs to be nurtured, cared for, heard, and treated with respect. Over the years, with increasing demands on the role of the educator and the continuous cramming of the curriculum, this has become more of a balancing act. However, the need to connect with, relate to and engage my students has been core to my teaching philosophy.

From the beginning of my career, I have always believed that when students feel safe, happy, and connected they flourish. Early on in my career, when I was asked to step up and step into the leadership sphere, I quickly learned that the same was true of the staff in my care.

In fact, I have often been told that I wear my heart on my sleeve. Sometimes that has been directed as more of an insult, than a compliment; however, as a leader, I have resolved to be that person who cared too much rather than the one who didn’t care at all. At times that has been both personally empowering and exhausting; it requires what Brené Brown would describe as vulnerability - uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. It's that unstable feeling we get when we step out of our comfort zone or do something that forces us to loosen control – to focus on developing the human being in front of us as well as the technical/professional skills for which they have been employed.

Workplaces, and education institutions are no different, quickly become heavy with strategy, plans, data analysis, key performance indicators, presentations, and meetings. When you are not careful, you become overwhelmed with the cerebral or “head” part of the equation; high on the busy-ness of the business, you can easily find that there is not much soul driving it. But as John C. Maxwell (#1 New York Times bestselling author, coach, and speaker) rightly points out, Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.

Leading with heart, I have found, is as equally important as teaching with heart. Even before the complications of COVID and the added stressors of anticipatory anxiety, the need to create an emotionally connected culture where leaders practise compassion, active listening and appreciation was important. That is why I am a strong advocate for our Staff Wellbeing program. It, just like our students’ Five to Thrive Wellbeing program, is about thriving: feeling like we are growing and developing, continuously learning, and trying new things. 

Ultimately, it is incumbent on leadership to create an environment where staff feel safe to be vulnerable and take risks to keep learning, feel happy, mindful and take notice of the little things that make them smile, and connected to their colleagues, and their students, so that they enjoy coming to work. At MBBC, we do this through the sharing of best practice in our staff meetings, our staff-led wellbeing workshops, our weekly awards and draws, and regular staff challenges and games. Leading with heart at MBBC fosters an environment in which staff feel empowered because they are encouraged to nurture their health and wellbeing in parallel with developing their professional skillset.

As teachers, we teach children. As leaders, at MBBC we lead human beings. With both, leaders at MBBC are just as passionate about the growth and development of those in our care, as we are about our own. We care about the hopes and aspirations of everyone in our MBBC community, and our Leadership team work collaboratively with both staff and students to help them develop so that they get where they want (and sometimes, need) to go. Leading with heart is about appreciation, respect, encouragement, and empowerment. At MBBC it is about connecting with people and helping them fulfill their potential so that, as leaders, we make a genuine difference in the lives of those we lead, and by extension, the world in which we live.