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The Retreat

A little war analogy to make a point for School Leaders today.

Wars have battles. And in most battles, there are only two possible results – you win or lose.

Winning is preferred, but it can still come at a cost. Losing is worse, comes at a cost, and sometimes the battle is so badly fought that there’s little more the battalion can do than limit the casualties.

In such cases, the battalion retreats. They head back behind more comfortable lines and into more familiar territory. But rest assured, they lose nonetheless.

Towards the end of Semester 1, I saw too many Australian teachers retreating from the battle.

I saw them retreat to the front of the classroom, and I saw them retreat to punitive or adversarial ways of working. They said things like “I give up”, “I can’t be bothered”, “I don’t have enough support”, and “I’m not putting up with this”.

If you’re a leader, your job is not to stem the flow of those retreating. It’s to make retreat impossible. It’s to place a wall behind the most recent steps forward so there’s no option to go back.

In terms of practice, look out for yourself condoning aggressive, punitive or blameful defaults – even at the end of terms and semesters where the battle is the most pitched.

Even further, you’ll need to make it very clear what continuing to fight, continuing to sustain high expectations and continuing to live out our practice commitments looks and sounds like.

This will give you something to thank and congratulate your soldiers (teachers) for. And they need to be thanked. They really need to be thanked.

It’s hard to thank soldiers for retreating.

Mark the Term 3 date in your calendar when a retreat might be brewing in your school. That’s your date to step in and reinforce the wall in a supportive, optimistic, practical and encouraging way.

Keep fighting that good fight (seems a more appropriate sign-off today than ever),


PS. Melbourne’s and Sydney’s events are close to selling out, so if you are considering coming to these workshops, register today so you don’t miss out. Register here.


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Across Australia in July and August, these interactive workshops will provide you with a better understanding and a roadmap to tackle the issues you are facing within your school.