A Tale of Two Cities

“There is prodigious strength in sorrow and despair.”

As the end of term arrives, I have found myself reflecting on the extraordinary realities of the past eighteen months.

Orange Ball has supported a range of schools in London and Liverpool during this time, delivering our Mental Fitness Coaching Programme as well as more bespoke Leadership and Wellbeing Coaching sessions. This equates to over two hundred coaching hours filled with sorrow, despair, joy, laughter, gratitude and every shade of frustration anger and kindness.

Regardless of the setting, or role, the major challenges have been common to all, from pupils to support staff to the leadership team, even to us as coaches. Every member of the school community has had to find resources and resilience to cope with enduring uncertainty and flux, rapidly changing demands and expectations.

School staff have had to innovate under huge constraints, manage higher than normal levels of stress and try to prevent burnout; headteachers have had to lift themselves, their staff and their children to overcome unprecedented levels of stress and scrutiny. All of this has had to happen whilst people were experiencing their own personal challenges and anxieties, especially over friends and loved ones.

Three things, in particular, struck me about all the schools we supported:
1: Schools need certainty. Uncertainty can be crippling. We cannot always change the situation, but we can change our response to it. Mental fitness is key to combating the emotional and psychological duress of uncertainty.

2: There is an unwavering commitment to pupils and wider communities. To offer reliable support to others, we need to first support ourselves. Where staff and leaders are able to fall back on personalised coping strategies, it contributes to better wellbeing across the organisation and beyond. Build and celebrate collective resilience as well as personal resilience.

3: Everyone shared the desire to take control of their own mental health and wellbeing so they could better support themselves, their pupils and each other. They all looked inwards towards their values and found strength in doing so.

One of the real joys of delivering our Mental Fitness Coaching Programme in Education is that we support such a diverse group of people and organisations – headteachers, senior leaders, teachers, support staff, canteen staff, site staff – it has been a privilege to hear from every single one of them.

Finally, we have grown as people too. We are better Mental Fitness practitioners because of working alongside exceptional people dealing with exceptional times, and for this, I thank every single person who took part in our coaching programmes.

We have been blown away by your strength and your resilience and it’s been a privilege to have been by your side this academic year; we’re energised by, and grateful for, such positive feedback from you all. We wish you all a restful summer and look forward to continuing to support schools in the next academic year.