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Staffrm Transfer 13 – WomenEd Scotland, Proud, Love is the Answer, Wellbeing, On Acting Like Adults (Jane Eyre).⤴




Lena Carter · 7 months ago

I have had an absolutely brilliant day.

I was involved in co-facilitating the inaugural national Scottish #womened network meeting in Glasgow and it was the most wonderful, motivating and energising experience.

Our aim was to explore the ways in which #womened can be promoted and further developed in Scotland and we put every minute to maximum use in achieving this.

In spite of my complete inability to stick to time, Caradh (Pert) kept things on track and we skipped nimbly from presentations to a carousel around the 8Cs to more discussions and some inspiring, moving and 10+% braver #leadmeets from Christine Couser, Gillian Hamilton, Jacqueline Risk, Elizabeth Gowans and Amanda Corrigan.

We explored our “why”, our “what” and our “how” and we looked at how our national approach to supporting women and men leaders will be similar to and different from others.

I am exhausted tonight but I am also glowing as I reflect on what was shared and what we as a group achieved. We have bonded as and we have produced a plan. Our first campaign will be online and we have launched #womenedwednesday, thanks to the brilliantly creative Joyce Matthews.

I reflected a fortnight ago about what #womened means to me:


Today was an incredible opportunity to explore clarity, communication, connection, collaboration, confidence, community, challenge and change.

There are exciting times ahead for leaders and potential wo(men) leaders in Scotland. Today was a tremendous start and we owe huge thanks to Caradh and Hannah for making it happen.



Lena Carter · 7 months ago

Pride comes before a fall.

Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.

Why is it that these two sayings have influenced me so much in my life? Why do a feel a crippling sense of superstitious fear that whenever I achieve something, I should talk it down and underplay it, lest something happens to spoil it or take it away from me?

Is it because I come from a line of grafters with a Protestant work ethic and a secret conviction that fun is a sin?

Is it part of that particularly British quality that means that self-deprecation is valued above self-confidence?

Is it just me?

I spoke at the WomenEd Scotland event last Saturday about this issue and about the fact that I manage to be able take the idea of delayed gratification to the extreme and that I never seem to get to the point where I feel a success; once any goal that I have sought to achieve is in my grasp, I set myself another one and rarely allow myself to take the time to celebrate or enjoy my achievements.

A while back I went on a long car journey with my daughter and we bought sweets to help us get through the boredom. At the end, half a packet of liquorice allsorts remained and I squirreled them into my bag, vowing to treat myself with them the next time I did something worthy of a reward.

But three months on and they still remained untouched. My internal jury didn’t feel that the work on the school timetable had merited a reward. Nor the presentation given to local Head Teachers on supporting pupil and staff wellbeing during challenging times. Nor the day-to-day juggling of work, family and domestic chores.

But that jury was overruled by the WomenEd Scotland contingent who supported me in allowing myself an allsort. They aren’t the best choice of sweet to eat when talking to an audience, but no-one minded too much.

The wonderful WomenEd Scotland tribe also helped me to see, through honest discussions and stories shared, that it isn’t just me and that too many of us undermine and sabotage ourselves when we are doing well.

It is time for this to change.

In a profession where we know that children respond best when they are praised and rewarded, it does not make sense to deny ourselves praise when we succeed.

I finished the timetable today. It is an amazing achievement, given my limited training, lack of prior experience and limited time. I am very pleased with myself and I want to share that with you.

Tonight there are no allsorts left. And tomorrow, I might just buy myself another pack.

Love is the answer.


Lena Carter · 7 months ago

This week I gave an assembly for my third year pupils about all that they have achieved in the last year.

I repeated the message that I have given several times this year:

Each one of you is an individual. You are each on an personal pathway that needs to be right for you and that will help you to be the best future version of you that you can; we may have future tree-surgeons and brain-surgeons in the room, future musicians and magicians and so there is no one size fits all. Success for one pupil may look very different to success for another.

Having read something in the week about the fact that the “I failed at school but am a millionaire” Richard Branson-style stories aren’t really helpful to schools or pupils, I added the proviso that, however much we may doubt their ability to judge all types of achievement, qualifications are important currency. We therefore need, over the remaining years of school that remain for our third years, to get them as qualified as possible, whilst ensuring that they are happy, healthy and doing the best they can.

I then briefly addressed each pupil personally.

Some pupils were praised for their outstanding marks in specific subject assessments. Others for turning a corner in terms of motivation or attitude. Others for coming to school every day after periods of absence. Others for sporting or musical achievements. And others for being overwhelmingly positive, helpful or responsible.

Some got a combination of several of the above.

It was an incredible privilege to share the amazing successes of the young people with whom I work.

And it felt particularly apt to do so ahead of our minute’s silence to show respect for Manchester.

I ended by talking to them about the tragedy. I reminded them that the world is full of wonderful, loving, positive people like them and that hatred and negativity are in the minority. I urged them to fight despair with hope and to reflect on the words spoken by Harry Styles the night before:

“We have a choice, every single day that we wake up, of what we can put into the world,” Harry said. “And I ask you to please choose love every single day.”

I love my job, even at the most difficult times.


Lena Carter · 6 months ago

Today I have been reflecting. I have been reading the things that others have been saying about the events in London last night.

Once again, we are urging each other to fight hate with love, negativity with positivity and despair with hope.

I wrote this after Manchester:


To be honest, today I don’t feel hopeful. I feel sad, angry, exhausted after trying to be relentlessly positive.

But I think it is ok to say that.

When I studied psychology some time back, I remember reading ideas about how we need to express are darkest, negative, shadow-side feelings that we experience as well as the positive emotions and thoughts.

If we don’t, they will find a way of coming out in ways that may be harmful to us or others.

Life is both light and shadow, sunshine and rain, ups and downs.

So today I am down and allowing myself to be.

I will watch the concert for Manchester and I will weep and grieve.

Life is sometimes cruel and we need to allow ourselves to hurt.

And tonight, though we would never have anticipated it, the tears will be for London as well.

And then tomorrow I will move on.

On acting like adults.


Lena Carter · 6 months ago

I went to see the incredible National Theatre Touring production of Jane Eyre yesterday.

It was everything I hoped it to be and more from a theatrical perspective.

So many messages were explored and communicated about being female, being male, being human; about morality, religion and sanity.

But also about Attachment, Adverse Childhood Experiences and about the crucial importance of Nurture in childhood.

Although of course Charlotte Bronte would never have heard of these new fashionable, capitalised terms.

We see in Jane a little girl who has had the most traumatic start in life through the death of her parents.

This is then exacerbated when she is sent to live in kinship care with an aunt and her cousins who reject and abuse her.

There are so many times in the story where we see how things might have been different for the looked after Jane and her emotional development. Perhaps the most poignant for me in this performance was the point in the play where Jane returns to see her dying aunt, Mrs Reed. The aunt is trying to defend her dislike of Jane as a child and to justify it by invoking sympathy in light of the fact that Jane would often fly into violent rages and attack others.

In the play, Jane’s response was to answer “but I was a child.”

In the book we read this:

“My disposition is not so bad as you think. I am passionate but not vindictive. Many a time, as a little child, I should have been glad to love you if you would have let me.”

(Jane Eyre, Penguin Classics, 2006).

The attempt by Mrs Reed to turn herself into victim and blame Jane for a natural response to the distress she has suffered is sharply exposed.

But how much have we adults moved on since Mrs Reed?

How many times must we remind parents that love is a far more powerful tool in influencing a child’s behaviour than punishment? That meeting the needs of a child is not spoiling but rather supporting the child into an emotionally secure future?

Mrs Reed may have argued that she had Jane forced upon her but the reality is that she had a choice, as an adult. Jane as a child did not.

How many times must we remind ourselves as teachers that no child is bad and that we are the adults in the relationship whose paid job it is to support and care for all the children we encounter? If we don’t want to have that responsibility, we have the choice to find a different job where we don’t. The children in our schools don’t.

Jane is a success story, a poster girl for the looked after child who survived and thrived in spite of it all.

But 170 years on from when Charlotte Bronte so brilliantly launched her into the world, why aren’t we doing better?

How many of those labelled criminals, terrorists, or delinquents might have spoken Jane’s words?

Staffrm Transfer 12 – Optimism, Jigsaw update, Happy 2nd Birthday Womened, Shhhhh, The Way not the What.⤴



Lena Carter · 8 months ago

This week a tweet asked me to consider what I am feeling positive and/or optimistic about in relation to education.

1. Online connections. Through Twitter, Womened, Staffrm, HealthyTeacherToolkit and Teacher5aday in particular.

2. The capacity of those in schools to solve problems and support one another.

3. Children who are endlessly inspiring.

4. History and all that it can teach us.

5. Four more days of the holidays.

Jigsaw update.

Lena Carter · 8 months ago

So, a jigsaw update.

Back in February, I wrote about my extreme jigsaw activity and the fact that I viewed doing a 1000 piece Star Wars jigsaw as good preparation for embarking on writing a school timetable.


I think that the learning I gained by doing the jigsaw has indeed helped me with the Herculean task of timetabling thus far.

1. My brain is finding it hard to switch off from trying to find timetable solutions, as it did when doing the jigsaw.

2. I have not exactly needed specialist clothing but I have needed to put my glasses on (usually kept for driving out of vanity) as hunched over the computer and squinting is not a good look.

3. A night’s sleep and fresh eyes really do help make what was impossible become possible.

4. My tendency to catastrophize has been exacerbated. I have been heard to utter “that’s IT! It can’t be done!” several times a day.

5. Time and patience are indeed very important.

6. And asking for…. and accepting.. help are crucial.

Thank heavens for a man called Alasdair who gave up a day of his holiday to teach me and for a man called Steve. I am married to the latter and I had forgotten that he was once a demon timetabler.

I have a long way to go. But I have started and I have learnt a lot. 6 weeks ago I was insanely jealous of people who talked about COS, SETTS, schematics, triples and pairs and knew what they were.

I have joined their ranks.

That we will have a working timetable on May 30th when we need it is still no certainty.

But if we don’t, it won’t be for lack of trying.

Happy 2nd birthday #WomenEd


Lena Carter · 8 months ago

So, the wonderful Hannah Wilson set me homework


Connections made through #womened and other platforms have helped me to stay true to my vision of authentic and passionate leadership and helped me explore and be challenged in my thinking. In a small rural community it can be difficult to find kindred spirits but the #womened tribe is full of them!


I sometimes struggle to articulate my vision face to face and in my workplace. Communicating online and via blogging has allowed me to communicate and rehearse what I want to say in a safe and nurturing space before going into a possibly more challenging arena.


My #WomenEd connections to date have been virtual: digimeets, Twitter conversations, Yammer connections and coaching. I was lucky to meet some of those I have met virtually at Northern Rocks last year but it was a long trek. That is why we are bringing the face to face connection opportunities to Scotland!


I suppose that the main piece of collaborative work to date has been the work I have done through being coached by @malcpd. It has been a privilege to work with her towards outcomes that will benefit my school through my leadership.

And now, of course, I am collaborating to develop the Scottish network!


I am the opposite of Hannah and always lack confidence. #10%braver has helped me hugely with my chimps and my critics and the positivity that been expressed about my blogs has been a real source of support at times of doubt.


Something inspires me every single day. I feel completely and utterly blessed and privileged to get all this support.


I have been inspired and encouraged by my #womened tribe to aim high, follow my dreams and be authentic…..but sometimes those around me aren’t as enthusiastic about me.

In my youthful London days I might have moved on, found another setting or simply sought out a different group from those around me to connect with.

Now, with family commitments and a sense that this smaller pond is home, I need a different approach.


I have become more patient and reflective but retained my passion for making a difference and being the best version of myself.

I have also had the confidence to be me and not hide behind the me I think I “should” be. There is still a way to go but I’m hugely grateful to #womened and all my other online connections for helping me start the journey.

Thanks so much to Hannah for the inspiration. You are a true legend.



Lena Carter · 8 months ago

As you know, I teach Drama.

As you know, I like to talk.

As you may know last term I worked on project about bullying with my S2 classes. It was wordy- lots of talk, dialogues and a chat-show finale. And it was hard work: challenging, emotional and at times upsetting.

And so this term I have reverted to the polar opposite. I have dug out my 1994 “Theatre of Silence” unit.

In it, we talk about non-verbal communication and the 93% emotional intelligence statistic and we look at Mr Bean’s “Sandwich”, Laurel and Hardy’s “Sugar Daddies” and slapstick/ silent movies and Samuel Beckett’s “We Three”.

But this week I took a risk. I did a bit of 10%braver.

When each class came in, I greeted them without words.

I registered with gestures and mimed the instructions to the warm up and other tasks.

They continued to speak and that was fine.

We did a warm up. We then watched Mr Bean and I communicated that I wanted them to work in pairs and devise a short comic piece involving 2 characters on a park bench.

They had 10 minutes to practice and then performed them and got feedback from me.

Here is what I noticed:

I slowed down. I noticed them, looked and listened with intent.

I saw a beautiful smile, a worried look. I made eye contact.

They slowed down.

They talked but the atmosphere was much calmer than usual. They listened to and watched me more but they also listened to each other more.

They worked really hard to understand me.

Several took on the role of interpreter and said what they thought I meant until I confirmed they had got it.

Their performances were funny, sophisticated and demonstrated learning.

5 minutes before the end I began to speak, summarising what had happened.

I have set them homework: to try taking half an hour over the weekend where they communicate without talking.

There is much to be said for not saying. In terms of behaviour management, I was forced to remember the power of silence and the need to use more than words.

I could never have done this a year ago when I walked back into school after secondment and had to build trust and relationships. We have come on a long journey, the pupils and I. And we have such exciting times ahead.

The way not the what.


Lena Carter · 7 months ago

I am sitting in my garden in the sun. I am feeling a sense of nervous excitement because the week ahead holds a lot in store.

On Monday I will present next year’s school timetable to staff. In Scotland the exam season is upon us already and the new year begins at the very end of May.

I am far from finished with the timetabling but I want to get the basic structure to staff now, so that they can maximise the time freed up by the exams over the coming weeks and start planning for new classes.

I am new to timetabling but as the daughter and wife of former timetablers, I know that my pride in what I have created will be short-lived and that once staff see it, I will be inundated with complaints.

All the more so if it turns out that what I have created does not actually work….

On Friday I will be presenting to a secondary head teacher’s group on how our school has responded to the deaths of three young people in our school community in the last year.

Nothing I say will be particularly new or innovative…but it will be an authentic reflection on how to help staff and pupils when the worst happens….three times.

And next Saturday I will be co-facilitating a #womenedScotland networking event in Glasgow.

I am equally terrified and excited because I have never done anything like it before. If all else fails, I may try presenting through the medium of mime……https://staffrm.io/@lenabellina/DV6sYuwd5G

Challenges. Exciting ones and ones that I know are within my capabilities. But keeping calm and retaining a sense of confidence in myself over the next week will be the biggest challenge.

This week I did a farewell assembly for my fourth years and we said goodbye to seven pupils who are not returning next year. I felt proud, emotional and like a mother duck watching her ducklings paddle away to the stream that flows out of the pond.

My parting advice? That life is amazing and challenging. That we need to make the most of the ups and be resilient when there are inevitable downs. That you need to be your own best friend because you are the only one who is guaranteed to be with you until the end. And that, to quote Bananarama, Fun Boy Three and a lot of mindfulness gurus, “it ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it.”

I will heed my advice this week. My way will be focused, calm and modestly confident. The way not the what is the key.

Staffrm Transfer 11 – Hard Work, Emerging from the Chrysalis, Wellbeing, Another End of Term, What Would You Do?⤴


Hard work


Lena Carter · 9 months ago

Last weekend I had a fantastic opportunity and I came away from it feeling validated and empowered. I wrote a #digimeet‍ blog about it here: https://staffrm.io/@lenabellina/Pg3kPHJDHC

The last five days have been, by contrast,  the sort that can take the wind out out of your sails. I just went to list the various issues that have arisen….but then I deleted the list because I realised that they are nothing more than the bread and butter of being a senior leader in a rural comprehensive.

I am feeling completed shattered tonight and once again I have lost my voice.

I am also feeling cross with myself because I upset someone at work due to a misunderstanding. Of course I apologised but it is not a good place to be in. I have had a little cry about that.

At my innermost core, though, I’m ok. There have been high points amongst the challenges and I know that I have got through much worse before.

An amazing group of pupils made the tower in my headline picture in one of my classes this week and the image reminds me of why I do what I do: to get people working together to learn, find solutions and  aim for the stars.

This weekend I will regroup, lick my wounds and prepare myself to start again next week.

Emerging from the chrysalis.


Lena Carter · 9 months ago

After some hard weeks, Easter is in sight.

Today I was hugely re-junivated when I bumped into some of the people who inspire me the most in my authority. We didn’t have much time together but the glimpse was enough.

Tonight I have written these words to the staff at school:

I don’t know about you but I am tired. It feels as if it has been a struggle to get through the recent weeks with winter bugs threatening (and sometimes winning) and huge amounts to do. As a staff, we have faced a number of challenges (both professional and personal) and we need to take care of ourselves and of one another.

We have perhaps the most important job there is; parents entrust us with their children and we help them learn and develop into young adults who make the most of life and make sensible choices. It is both a huge privilege and a huge pressure to do our job and we can’t do it to the best of our ability if we are unwell, either physically or mentally.

Taking care is very important.

There are just two weeks left to go until the holiday, lighter mornings and evenings, fresh growth appearing.

I know that I am ready for the holiday but I also know that I need to think ahead so that when it comes, I am not so exhausted that I don’t enjoy it. I owe that to my family. Over the next two weeks, I am going to try and get myself ready for the holidays. I am going to make an extra effort to rest, breathe, relax, notice, have fun and cut corners. This fortnight will not be about driving myself into the ground and committing my last few drops of energy to work before collapsing in a heap next Friday week.

Why don’t you join me?

In addition, I thought it might be fun to share some book recommendations ahead of the holidays so that staff who like to read might get their holiday reading sorted in good time?

Mine is ‘The Goldfinch’ by Donna Tartt.

From Goodreads:

The Goldfinch combines vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher’s calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.

I have not quite finished it but am rationing myself as I have found it utterly captivating.

If you have a recommendation, please email me and I will include it in next week’s bulletin.

Continuing with the wellbeing crusade…


Lena Carter · 9 months ago

It is interesting that some staff in my school did not appreciate my call to wellbeing strategies last week.

So my Friday thoughts to them tomorrow are short and sweet:

Some of you got in touch after last week’s Friday Thoughts saying that my suggestion of slowing down in a week where folio and coursework uplifts are due was poorly timed.

I appreciated hearing those thoughts and it made me reflect. However, I hold to what I said and I would suggest that it is precisely in our busiest weeks that we need to take most care of ourselves.

Let’s be honest, as teachers we are always busy. There is always more we could do. There will always be external pressure on us. But we have to learn to manage workload and look after ourselves – and each other – if we are to survive.

I found a good website that offers some useful thinking on this and you can find it here, if you are interested: www.helpguide.org/articles/str…

“A man who works regularly in a systematic fashion never feels overworked or tired. He knows his limits and is able to do in fair time, all that he undertakes. It is not hard work that kills a man, but irregularity or lack of system kills.”

Mahatma Gandhi. CWMG Volume 91 page 135.

Another end of term.


Lena Carter · 8 months ago

I was going to start this post by saying that I am at the end of probably the most challenging term of my career. That I am exhausted, that I feel almost overwhelmed by the dramas and demands of my job.

But the joy of blogging is that evidence shows that I have been here before. I have felt that sense of being beyond tired, over-challenged, over-stretched…… And the reality is that I have survived before and I will survive again.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with being tired after working hard; it is a bit like the tiredness you feel at the end of a long walk or run. The ache in your legs shows that you have put effort in and need a rest before the next exertion.

We are in a difficult place in schools just now. But has it ever been different? I don’t think so.

The reality is that there are always challenges but there are also always positives, however small. It is hard if the things that we judge to be positives are not viewed as such by others who are looking for hard evidence and hard data. It is hard when we are surrounded by those who want to weigh the pig instead of looking at it to see if it is thriving. And it is hard when others take more perverse pleasure in being critical and apportioning blame than in celebrating small successes and seeing a glass half full.

Small things to celebrate include:

*The hello in the corridor from the pupil who never says hello.

*The pupil who is there every day for a week after not having been.

*The class which produces the most sublime anti-bullying drama after a short year of studying the subject.

(Now don’t get me wrong. My learnt (not natural) tendency is to ALWAYS see the negative first….. But I know now to fight against that because it is not a helpful way of being and if I can’t look for solutions to problems, I am part of the problem.)

Life is amazing and it is awful. It is sunshine and rain. Every life has its ups and downs. As teachers in a school community, we will be touched by the ups and downs of the lives of every member of that community: the pupils, staff members and their family members beyond. In a large school that can equate to thousands of lives.

Being a teacher will never be without challenge and drama. We have chosen a vocation that makes us engage with lives in all their wonderful and terrible reality. But we have also chosen a vocation that allows us the privilege of helping children to navigate the opportunities and challenges of life.

Personally, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

What would you do?


Lena Carter · 8 months ago

We have had friends visiting this week.

Old friends. The type you don’t see for a long time but then feel as if you have never been apart.

Like an old pair of shoes that still fit perfectly even though you haven’t worn them for a while.

We walked, talked, ate, played games.

On one walk we played a game that involved answering the question “what would you do if you didn’t have to work? If money was not an issue?”

It is a good game and it is an important question to consider if, like me, you are wondering a bit about where your life is going.

So, my answer?

I would do something where I know I am making a difference to the wellbeing of children and young people.

I would re-train as a dramatherapist and spend some of my time working therapeutically with children.

I would run a youth theatre and teach drama.

And I would write and talk about these things.

And maybe set up and run my own school where these things were at the core.

What would you do?

Staffrm Transfer 10 – May The Force Be With You, Poorly, Teenagers, Chimps, To Go Boldly…..⤴


May the force be with you.

Lena Carter · 10 months ago

The jigsaw.

At Christmas I did a couple of jigsaws. In the past, I have always loathed them. My hatred was such that I never managed to put it aside in order to be able to do them with my children, even though doing jigsaws is seemingly a key part of childhood development and the acquisition of fine motor skills.

I do remember feeling incredibly guilty when our lovely child minder told me how good my three year old was at them. Like her Cumbrian accent, she clearly had not got that from me.

For some reason, at Christmas, I got slightly hooked on two round bird jigsaws at my mother in law’s house. And having bought my son a 1000 piece Star Wars puzzle for Christmas, I decided to give that a go this February break.

Those who know me will know that, as part of my new acting post at school, I have to write the school timetable this year. I am petrified about it as I have done training but never actually produced a timetable on my own. In my talks about options to pupils, I have explained that creating the timetable is like creating a huge jigsaw that carefully matches pupil desires with staffing and accommodation and trying to get the best fit possible.

In my head, this jigsaw was a metaphor for that process and I superstitiously told myself that if I could do it, I could do the timetable.

I have an inordinate amount of work to do at present but, having put in 13 hour days for the past month, I was determined not to give my days off over to work.

And so, a gentle jigsaw distraction.

Three days on (and approximately 16 hours) and I have learnt a lot.

1. It is not work that causes me stress. It is the challenges I set myself in my head. Who would have expected that thought of a jigsaw would wake me in the early morning two days in a row, anxious and champing at the bit to get on with it?

2. Jigsaw building requires specialist clothing. My back is wrecked and my knees and elbows are raw.

3. Looking at things with fresh eyes has huge benefit. The impossible becomes possible again.

4. I catastrophize. A lot. “It’s going out the bloody window!!”. “There must be pieces missing!!” “I AM DEFEATED”. “SEE, I TOLD YOU I CAN’T DO A TIMETABLE!!”

5. There are some things that just need time and patience.

6. It is ok to ask for help. Although I did the lion’s share, the bits I did with my children kept me going and really helped.

A ridiculous waste of time? Maybe.

But a good opportunity to reflect on how my mind works and why the how of doing is often as important as the what.

And also an excuse to feel thrillingly, childishly and overwhelmingly proud of what we have achieved!!!

Now, any suggestions for the next one….?



Lena Carter · 10 months ago

I am ill. I have a raging sore throat, swollen glands and head cold which has left me dizzy and with a strange ringing in my ears. To add insult to injury, I have hurt my back through coughing.

But I don’t do ill. So yesterday I went into work, took lots of painkillers and drank lots of coffee and soldiered on. No other option with staff off left, right and centre and no-one else to cover their classes.

Today I have tried to carry on too and have cleaned the house and done the washing, hobbling and sneezing for Britain…

But now I have realised that enough is enough. The sofa is the only option for the rest of today.

I hate to admit defeat but I am defeated.

Lemsip. Duvet. Hot water bottle and rest.

And probably a bit of much-needed reflection on why I have let myself slip so far backwards into martyrdom again……



Lena Carter · 10 months ago

The more I work with teenagers, the more I am inspired and intrigued by them.

My Friday thoughts to staff today were as follows…..

I have been involved in a lot of workshops with our pupils in making wise choices recently . A slight frustration has been that, in spite of the interventions, some of our pupils have not seemed to be able to heed the messages and have still been engaging in risky or short-sighted behaviours. I have been reflecting on some of the work I did while on secondment around teenage behaviours and wanted to share with you some of the ideas of Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, a neuroscientist who specializes in the teenage brain and has appeared in the following TedTalk:


Her research shows that the teenage brain is still developing and changing.

Key issues raised are:

• Peer influence (the crowd) is very influential

• Risk taking is key part of being a teenager

• The pre-frontal cortex, the bit that deals with planning and consequences, takes much longer to develop than the reward centre, the part of your brain that makes you want to take risks and have fun, which is particularly developed in teenagers.

She says:

“I’m not an evolutionary biologist, but it makes sense when you think about the need, the drive to become independent from one’s parents, to go and explore the environment, and to affiliate with your social group during this period of life. One thing I’m not saying is that risk taking is bad, or that peer influence is bad. It’s probably an important and adaptive process that we all need to go through in our transition between childhood and adulthood.”

Relationships in the teenage years are complex – teenagers need to rebel and partially un-attach from parents/carers in order to become independent, they need to attach to their peers, they may even need to attach to a baby as a parent or as a childcare worker….

There is a lot of biological and psychological confusion!

This is not about excusing inappropriate behaviour but about helping teenagers and those who work with them to understand some of the influences on their behaviours. Developing self-regulation skills and the ability to make safe and informed decisions are key aspects of teenage learning. Mistakes will be made as this learning occurs and it is crucial that adults are there to provide boundaries and provide a safe space within which risks can be taken.

Perhaps remembering this when we feel frustrated with our pupils may help…….

Image courtesy of Pixabay.


Lena Carter · 9 months ago

Friday thoughts to staff after workshops  in school:

I was incredibly privileged to be able to sit in on workshops with Tony from Tree of Knowledge this week.

I thought that it would be useful for you to know the key messages so that we can re-inforce them. Inputs from external providers only really have impact when they are integrated in the work of a school. There is a real power in being able to make connections between the different learning experiences that pupils have.

This workshop was based on the psychological models developed by Steve Peters and ideas expressed in the book “The Chimp Paradox.” More here: www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/…

Tony talked about how pupils need to develop awareness of their motivations and emotions. He explained that, whilst we may want to show a happy side to others, it is important that we are honest with ourselves when we are feeling stressed or upset. He talked about the three types of stress that we experience:

Real stress (eg when we have a crisis or need to escape danger)

Good stress that is motivating (eg the stress that Usain Bolt feels when about to run in front of millions.)

Silly stress. The things that we get anxious about in the modern world that really don’t matter – eg wrong colour lids on pens.)

He explained that stress affects the body in the same way, whether it is real or silly; cortisol increases, we cannot sleep, eat, enjoy things.

We need to learn to control our stress and to be aware of what matters and does not matter.

Tony also talked about the idea of us having a ‘chimp’ brain which is the impulsive emotional part of us that we need to train and keep in control. (Steve Peters idea.)

He explained that we ALL have this chimp brain but that successful, happy people have learnt to control it and keep the chimps in the cage when necessary. If we don’t the likelihood is that the chimp will escape and do damage.

The answers to doing this form the acronym NEAT:

Normal- see your chimp brain as normal and do not try and deny it.

Expect – know what you are likely to feel when you experience certain triggers and then manage the feelings.

Accept when the chimp is out of the cage and recognise it.

Talk and train – ask “why am I feeling like this, what triggered it and what can I do next time?”

He explained that once we are highly emotional it is hard to calm down and be rational and that we need to work on not getting to that point by knowing our triggers.

One pupil asked “so when I am being bad, can I tell the teacher it is not my fault, it is my chimp?”

Tony said no, you ARE your chimp and need to take responsibility. Being emotional is not an excuse. Growing up is about taking responsibility and being emotionally intelligent and resilient.

To go boldly…..


Lena Carter · 9 months ago

#iwd17‍ #digimeet‍ @misswilsey‍

I have spent the weekend at a conference with some amazing and inspiring people. I was incredibly scared before coming and filled with doubt and fear. The chimps were screeching:

What do YOU possibly have to contribute?

How are you going to avoid them seeing how little you know?

Why don’t you just pull out?

To hush them, I wrote a blog before I went (https://lenabellina.wordpress.com/2017/03/03/four-countries/)

This helped me to go into the weekend feeling bolder and confident that perhaps I DID have something to say.

The weekend has been phenomenal. I don’t think I made too much of a fool of myself, or that much we discussed was at variance from my own thinking. I had some moments of self doubt and sheer fear, such as when I had to stand up in front of the assembled group which included Sir Tim Brighouse, Graham Donaldson and (the real) David Cameron and explain Scottish Education. But I found my bravery and did it, albeit with a quavering voice and some mistakes.

The opportunity to talk, share, collaborate and co-create with some incredible people was inspiring and life-affirming.

One small blip came when one of the participants asked me about my blog and advised that I should perhaps avoid being so honest about some of the challenges I have faced, if I want to be a head teacher. I have written about this before but the exchange sent me into a bit of a panic. I considered going and taking down my blogs straight away.

But I haven’t. Because actually, the bravery I think I need to show now is to continue being me. Being the authentic, flawed but constantly reflecting me who will learn from both my successes and my failures.

I have said it before but if being a head teacher would involve compromising my authenticity then it probably is not the job for me.

One of the key themes of the weekend was about education needing to be honest about what its core purpose is, what is working and what is not.

My brave next step will be to strive to be an authentic leader and not to fall into the trap of being the leader that I think others might see as acceptable.

I am so grateful to have the amazing tribe of supporters whom I have found through @womened‍ , @healthytoolkit and the online edusphere.

I only hope that I can sometimes reciprocate and provide them with the type of support that I have found invaluable.

Staffrm Transfer 9 – Just Dance 2, Reasons to be Cheerful, How are You?, On Behaviour Again, Herding⤴


Just dance…part two


Lena Carter · 11 months ago

So before Christmas, I wrote this:


The results are in.  I work with some pretty amazing people and I want to share the joy with you. Listen along, beat the January blues. And just dance!

1. Bob Marley

Everything’s Gonna Be Alright


2. Van Morrison

Brown Eyed Girl


3. Pablo Alborán

Pasos de Cero


4. Johnny Cash

Get Rhythm


5. Carly Simon

Let the River Run


6. Armstrong and Miller’s Farmer’s Market.


7. Nevada Ft Mark Morrison, Fetty Wap

The Mack


8. The Cult

She Sells Sanctuary


9. George Jones

White Lightening


10. The Beatles

Eight Days a Week


11. KC and the Sunshine Band

Give It Up


12. Rupert Holmes

Escape (the Pina Colada Song)


13. Toy Story/Randy Newman

You’ve got a Friend in Me


14. Laura Mvula

That’s Alright


15. Gerry Rafferty

Baker Street


16. Queen/David Bowie

Under Pressure


17. Spin Doctors

Two Princes


18. Rush

Far Cry


19. SABH



20. Journey

Don’t Stop Believing


21. Bon Jovi

Living on a Prayer


22. Patti Smith

People Have The Power


23. Justin Timberlake

Can’t Stop the Feeling


24. Cage The Elephant



25. KLF Ft Tammy Wynette

Justified and Ancient


26. Chris de Burgh

Patricia The Stripper


Reasons to be cheerful


Lena Carter · 11 months ago

Friday 20th January. The day that Donald Trump, billionaire and former TV mogul, is sworn in as 45th president of the US.

Life never ceases to surprise.

I hope that for some of you, this provides reason to celebrate and feel optimistic. For me, a normally optimistic person, it provides something slightly different. But my solution is to remember the words of my very wise dad when I used to worry about Reagan and the Cold War back in the 80s: “don’t waste time worrying about the big things you can’t control. Just focus on making a positive difference in your small corner of the world.”

Last Saturday I went to a leadership event where I heard, amongst others, the inspirational (real) David Cameron. I have heard him speak several times and he never fails to entertain or provoke thought.

The focus of what he said largely mirrored the words of my dad. He spoke about the challenges of education, the huge changes ahead and the tyranny of conflicting initiatives.

But he also highlighted the reasons why we do what we do and how we can focus on the things that matter in our own schools and contexts. There is a summary in my blog here:


Remember the children.

Remember each other.

Remember why you chose do to this sometimes awful but mostly awesome job.

Keep on keeping on.

How are you?


Lena Carter · 11 months ago

How are you?

No, really, how are you? Have you stopped to notice?

Chances are you are a bit tired and run down. It’s that time of year when we maybe don’t think about our wellbeing as much as we should. The busyness around Prelims, reports and parents’ evenings; the dark mornings and evenings which stop us from seeing much daylight; the world courgette crisis and the imminent onslaught of February flu…..all these can serve to leave us vulnerable to illness.

We need to remember to look after ourselves, both physically and mentally.

So, here’s a quick rescue plan if you need a bit of a reminder:

1. Move for ten minutes each day. Walk, dance, vacuum, cycle, whatever works for you.

2. Get outside in the fresh air for 10 minutes each day. (Where possible combine with 1).

3. Think of three positive things each day before you go to sleep and again after you wake up.

4. Listen to a motivational song.

5. Eat and sleep as well as you possibly can.

Take Care.

On behaviour…again


Lena Carter · 10 months ago

Friday thoughts

A few thoughts on behaviour, most of which you will know and some of which it may help to be reminded of:

• Every so often we need to remind pupils about our classroom expectation and boundaries. The best time to do this is at the start of each term but it may be needed at other times. One of my S2 classes has needed it recently. I got too soft with them (due to them having been though a hard time emotionally) and they had begun to push things. So I got tough, reminded them about the fact that we need to learn and went back over the rules and sanctions:


Follow instructions first time

Listen to the speaker

Keep hands, feet, objects and comments to yourself

If not:





In 25 years of teaching, I have never needed any other rules or sanctions than these. They work with any pupil AS LONG AS I REMEMBER TO USE THEM and to stay calm, assertive, adult and model the behaviour I want to see.

• Behaviour is always communication but it is rarely personal to us. When a pupil who has had Adverse Childhood Experiences behaves in a way that is challenging to us, it is not about us; it is about them needing to have boundaries re-enforced, possibly over and over but in a calm and consistent way and until we re-assure them that the world is safe and that some things in life are ok. Some children may not find that re-assurance before they leave school.

• The effects of trauma in a child may take years to surface. When we feel that a particular child has no ‘reason’ to be behaving in a particular way, they may well have a very good reason that we just can’t see right now.

• We all get it wrong sometimes and it is ok to say sorry. I had to do that last week when I got frustrated with an S2 boy and showed it by snapping at him. I found him later in the day to apologise. I said “sorry, I did not give you a chance back there” and he said “sorry, I was tired”.

• Children who want to change their behaviour are often trapped by the expectations of others. The ‘bad boy’ who has always been so will continue to get blamed even once he is no longer guilty. It is the hardest thing to suspend our judgements and see every day as a new opportunity. If you have not seen this, watch it:


If you want more great ideas on behaviour, this is fab, from Bill Rogers.




Lena Carter · 10 months ago

Today we had a staff development day.

I put on my brave pants and was 10% braver.

I talked to middle leaders about what I have learnt from Karin Chenoweth


and David Cameron


and laid my cards on the table about what kind of Head of Teaching and Learning I am, why we need to assume that 100% of our pupils can and why excuses are no good. Some voices in the room challenged me but the voices of my virtual PLN spurred me on.

I talked to all staff about our ethos consultation and why it is all of our job to celebrate the greatness in each other and our pupils.

I encouraged 2 colleagues to be 10% braver and they were phenomenal.

I apologised quite a few times. We laughed quite a few times.

I learnt that, when you have bought a cardigan from a charity shop, it is not a great idea to wear it for the first time in front of an audience only to discover it has holes in.

I am starting the long weekend (no half term in this part of Scotland) with hope.

I feel positive about seeds sown and although I am tired, it is the tiredness that follows working hard to achieve something.

I am hugely grateful to @womened, @SCEL, @healthyteachertoolkit and @malCPD.

I am feeling less of a tired old giraffe and more of a zebra in my herd……

Staffrm Transfer 8 – Stop Talking and Listen, Change is Gonna Come, I’m a Survivor, Be Amazing, Happy New Year.⤴


Sometimes we need to stop talking and listen.

Lena Carter · 1 year ago

I have blogged and said a lot over the last year.

I have decided to pare it back a bit and do more listening and watching. Because although I hope that what I write and say contains some elements of originality and inspiration, I think I need to go back to finding inspiration and re-assurance in the words of others.

I need to find time for the words of songs, literature and poetry, rather than making more new words and re-investing the wheel.

This really resonated with me yesterday:


I love the idea of a curriculum built around wellbeing and stories and literature that give important life lessons.

Last week I watched Arthur Christmas with my son. A literary great? No. But an amazing tale of love, passion and why we have to fight for every child.

The stories are there, based on hundreds of thousands of years of human experience. But we need to take time to find and hear them.

Change is gonna come.


Lena Carter · 1 year ago

We are at a time of great change in our school community. Some endings, some beginnings and some inevitable uncertainty.

Change is part of life. Some changes come unexpectedly and others are changes that we bring about ourselves.

Some of us will thrive on change. Others will find it unsettling, worrying, challenging.

Let’s remember that and watch out for one another. Let’s not be critical, judgmental or expect everyone to respond in the same


If a storm is raging around us, we can all feel re-assured if we know that we can rely on the support and kindness of others.

A few words from people wiser than me:

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”

Lao Tzu

“You can’t stop the future. You can’t rewind the past

The only way to learn the secret…is to press play.”

Jay Asher. Thirteen Reasons Why.

“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.”

Paul Coelho

“The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not fighting the old, but on building the new.”


“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead

I’m a survivor.


Lena Carter · 1 year ago

I have survived.

A week ago I was DHT pupil support in my school.

On Monday I began as Acting Head of Teaching and Learning (Secondary). And I carried on being DHT pupil support.

I quickly learnt about staff cover. I have personally covered 10 classes.

I have been decisive and spoken of a desire for high expectations and for every child to find their amazingness.

I have created a new whole school calendar.

I have been out on duty a lot and tackled unacceptable behaviour.

I have participated in the school concert and directed a short nativity involving second years.

I have bitten my tongue a lot.

I have apologised an awful lot.

I have not slept much.

I have asked for help and received it in bucketfuls.

I am exhausted, exhilarated and hungry for more. I am also just a little bit terrified.

I know that I can’t do it all at once and that my Achilles Heel will be in trying to.

I need to remember the people who need me back here at home as well as the ones at school.

And I need to remember myself.

I am grateful and blessed.

Be amazing.


Lena Carter · 1 year ago

So the contract has arrived and it is official. I am acting Head of Teaching and Learning (Secondary) at my school until June.

This was my address to our whole school Christmas assembly today:

Over the past weeks and months, I have experienced and heard about some amazing things in this school.

• Amazing work going on in classrooms and a real commitment to learning and achieving the best.

• Amazing music and drama performances in the school concert and at other events in school and the community.

• Amazing results by our pupils in the maths challenge.

• Amazing sportsmanship and skill at sports events and tournaments.

• Amazing behaviour and representation of our school on trips such as the Manchester football weekend and the Outward Bound residential.

• Amazing demonstrations of friendship and support for one another in the difficult times.

• Amazing dedication from staff in this school both in and outside of classrooms

• An Amazing Snow Ball last night.

I could go on but I don’t have much voice left. So I will say this:

Christmas and the New Year is an opportunity to stop and reflect. To look at where we have been over the last year, to reflect on our successes and mistakes and to decide where we want to go next year. Every single one of you was born with the potential to be amazing at something. Take some time over the holidays to think about what you will be amazing at in 2017 so that when you come back, we can help you work towards it. Happy holidays, stay safe and see you next year.


Happy New Year


Lena Carter · 11 months ago

This week I wrote my end of year Wellbeing update. https://lenabellina.wordpress.com/2016/12/28/final-wellbeing-reflection/

I just love @staffrm‍

I love that I can come here to feel inspired, validated, informed and supported.

That’s it.

Thank you ALL for making it so.

Happy New Year.

That feeling.


Lena Carter · 11 months ago

So, I have that feeling.

Back to school on Monday and I feel a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

And although I know that ‘it’s normal’ and ‘all teachers get it’, for me it can be debilitating. It could, potentially ruin the last three days of my holiday by making me irritable with the ones I love, sleepless and physically unwell.

So I am fighting it.

It tells me that I can’t do all the things I have to do in my new role and that I should never have thought I could.

But I am telling it that I can. In 2010 I went back in January to a new promoted post for which I was far less prepared and qualified and I did a good job.

It tells me that I will never be able to implement the things I want to in my school. But I am telling it that I will. I have already worked with others to make significant changes and can do more. It won’t be easy and I will need to stay true to our school values and my vision…. But having support from my virtual clan and being provided with videos like this to watch (via Suzanne Zeedyk) will keep me focused: traumasensitiveschools.org/why…

It tells me that I should have done more work in the holidays to get ahead.

I am telling it that I needed time off. To give attention and love to my friends and family. To fill my reserves. To get over niggling health issues. There would have been work to fill a hundred weeks of holiday but I need to work smarter, not longer.

It tells me that I can’t write a school timetable, my major task in the months ahead.

And I agree that I can’t. Not yet. I have done some training but need more. And I will need to ask others for help…. Which is very hard for me. But I know that I must.

So, I will do a few hours of work today and on Sunday. But I will also make sure that I watch some of the family films we recorded over the holiday. I will #exercisegently, #connect and #notice.

And I will finish my book, the Goldfinch.

And when the feeling comes back, as it inevitably will, I will remember the story of the King and the Ring (find a version here: coaching-journey.com/coaching-…), know that “this too will pass” and take a deep breath in and out to help it on its way quicker.

Staffrm Transfer 7 – Such stuff that dreams are made on, When Everything is Awful, Friday again, Can I Talk to You, Let the Music Move you⤴


Such stuff that dreams are made on.


Lena Carter · 1 year ago

This week has been one of the hardest ever in my professional life, even though we only had three days in school. Suffice to say that our community and school community are struggling.

My job has been to support staff and pupils as best I could.

On Friday we also had Active Girls Day (http://www.sportscotland.org.uk/schools/active-girls/active-girls-day/) which meant all of our girls were in sports activities while all the boys stayed in classes.

Period 6 came and I had planned a Halloween themed drama scriptwork activity with my second year class. I felt tired beyond belief and had to dig deep to find the energy to teach the class.

The group of eleven boys were unsettled when we started the lesson, entirely understandably. A room displacement from our usual space added to the disruption and of course the lack of girls created its own dynamic.

I explained the task but their attention wandered and I was not optimistic that they would be able to achieve what was required: small group rehearsal followed by a performance without scripts.

A couple of the boys seized on the fact that there were guitars in the room and asked whether they could create some spooky music to go with the script. I reluctantly agreed.

The rehearsal began. Noisy, chaotic with guitar music providing distraction. Boys falling out and blaming one another for not getting it right. Piercing screams (as per the stage directions) which had concerned colleagues looking through the door to check if all was ok.

(I have ongoing issues with colleagues judging me because of my noisy drama lessons when I am supposed to be a DHT with exemplary discipline. But that is probably for another blog post)

I sat at my desk, feeling anxious about the chaos, berating myself for my lack of classroom control. But then I looked again and saw, within the chaos, boys playing, interacting, being creative and imaginative. And I remembered why I am a drama teacher and why these creative spaces are so crucial.

And then it was time for the performances.

Pure gold. Funny, confident, with all engaged and doing the best they could. Lines almost perfect and with added improvisation. A dream rather than a nightmare.

“And Miss, we never giggled once! That was our target from last time.”

Life is messy. Learning can and should be messy. Let’s never forget that, even when out internal chimps and the external critics try and tell us otherwise.

When everything is awful.


Lena Carter · 1 year ago

This post is an edited version of today’s Friday Thoughts email to staff in my school.

Good morning.

A slightly disconnected series of thoughts today. Please forgive and bear with me. It has been another hard week.

A university friend, Charlie Harthill, took his own life some years after we left university. It shook those of us who remained very much, particularly those who had know him since school days. His death made many of us more committed than ever to get mental health, depression and suicide talked about. This PDF was shared by one of those friends a year ago today and it popped up in my memory feed today. Please read it, use it, share it. If it does not resonate with you, there may be colleagues or pupils for whom it will make perfect sense:


Next week is dyslexia awareness week and I am doing awareness-raising on dyslexia and different ability throughout the secondary school. Please look here to remind yourself about what you can be doing to support pupils: www.dyslexiaaction.org.uk/page…

But please also remember that differentiation is about more than bits of yellow paper. It is about not judging, about using labels discerningly and about seeing, hearing and knowing every child in front of you to help that child thrive. No two dyslexics are the same. No two children are the same.

This is a charity that works to promote this message. Have a look at the home page and individual pen portraits: www.mindroom.org/

After our difficult event this week, I set about getting on with work. I was told that two pupils were looking for me to give me ‘my hugs’. They were seeking out all the members of staff who had been involved to check they were ok and to give them a hug. I was so impressed and touched by their mature, caring, thoughtful attitude and actions and reminded of the importance of watching out for one another.

Take care of one another, today and every day. Take our pupils’ example and check that someone is ok. Give them that hug (or metaphorical hug.)

Take care.

Friday again.


Lena Carter · 1 year ago

Today’s weekly Friday thoughts email to staff.

So, the news from the US has been a little unsettling this week. It has been quite hard to know what to say when pupils have asked about it.

On a positive note, I heard an incredibly inspiring American educational speaker last Saturday.

Her name was Karin Chenoweth and she talked about schools which had achieved success for all pupils. Her ideas are based on work in a range of schools across the US.

I wrote up my notes for my blog.

Although they make for a long read and are partially about what school leaders can do to turn schools around, they are fundamentally about teaching and school ethos.

If you don’t have the time or inclination to read them, here are a few key ideas:

The 5 factors that make schools successful in raising attainment (based on observation and evidence from schools studied over 20 years):

1. What pupils need to know is clearly defined and teachers agree on this.

Karin said that often, there is too much confusion around this- teachers teaching what they want to teach and what they are comfortable with. The timetable must be structured around what pupils need to know in order to succeed in life.

2. Teachers collaborate on what they need to do to improve teaching and learning.

The most important factor in learning is the class teacher but the paradox is that no one teacher can do it all. C.f. the world of medicine- no one surgeon can do all surgery. She may be able to do heart surgery but not knee surgery. Teacher learning communities are key.

3.Teachers assess frequently- not to grade but to get feedback. AIFL all the way.

“Did they learn what I taught?” If 50% did not get it, you are not a bad teacher, you just need to try again. The “I am a bad teacher” approach allows excuses.

4. They use data to inform instruction.

Do not stick with what is easy / convenient. If it is not working, do something different.

5. Relationships are key.

Adult to adult. Adult to pupil.

Some other important ideas and challenge concepts:

· With the exception of pupils with complex additional support needs, we should believe that 100% of pupils can read to a nationally agreed standard. If they don’t, we need to teach differently. Educating 70% is not enough. Many who cannot read end up in prison.

· Differentiation can be the enemy of equity. (!)

· Belief that every child can learn and succeed is crucial but not enough. Belief needs to be backed up with hard work and a constantly reflective mindset.

· Teaching and learning can change a society.

· Keep trying and trying and trying.

One last thought from another inspiration from across the pond, though Canada not America:

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in”

RIP Leonard Cohen

The full post is here: https://lenabellina.wordpress.com/2016/11/06/it-can-be-done-inspiration-from-karin-chenoweth/

Can I talk to you?


Lena Carter · 1 year ago

Next week we launch our “Can I talk to you?” campaign in school.

This is the email I sent to staff today. Feel free to use/adapt:

Following discussions at the last parent council meetings and discussion with some other parents, we are going to have a “Can I talk to you?” campaign next week.

We all know that our pastoral team do a phenomenal job when pupils ask them for support.

However, there are some pupils who will not feel able to talk to someone in school, maybe through a fear of stigma, maybe through shyness. They need to know that there are other options and so we are going to issue all pupils with the information below on a flyer on Tuesday during period 2.

The information will also go on the school facebook page and I hope that it will get shared on other social media platforms.

If you are teaching a class on Tuesday when the flyer come around, can I please ask that you read it aloud to your class. It does not need any other explanation but please ask each pupil to take the flyer and keep it safe. They may not feel they need it just now but they may in the future.

Many thanks for your support in this matter.

Kindest regards


Can I talk to you?

Sometimes we all get worried or feel down about things. You will know that talking things through helps but it is important that you talk to the right person.

The best people in the first instance might well be your parents/carers. Although it might not seem like it, they probably understand you much better than you think they do!

If that doesn’t feel right, you could talk to someone in school: your guidance teacher or any member of staff with whom you feel comfortable. They may be able to help you and if not, they can find someone else who will.

If that still doesn’t feel right and you want something more confidential, there are a number of excellent organisations who can help – either via a phonecall, email or text message:

• Breathing Space is a free and confidential phone line for anyone experiencing low mood manned by trained advisors with mental health, counselling and social work backgrounds, who provide advice, support and understanding. Also provides support to family members, partners and friends who are concerned about the wellbeing of their loved ones. 24 hours at weekend, 6pm – 2am Monday to Thursday Tel: 0800 83 85 87. http://www.breathingspacescotland.co.uk

• Childline is a 24 hour helpline for children and young people needing help with problems however big or small. Calls are free and confidential. Tel: 0800 1111. http://www.childline.org.uk

• Samaritans provide a confidential, non-judgemental emotional support for people who are distressed or experiencing feelings of despair, including those contemplating suicide. Tel: 08457 90 90 90 (UK). http://www.Samaritans.org

The hardest thing can be starting the conversation. Just try “Can I talk to you?”

Let the music move you.


Lena Carter · 1 year ago

We are off work today and Monday. A quirk of the Scottish holiday system.

For me, some much needed family time and catch-up.

Those familiar with my blog will know that I send a weekly “Friday Thoughts” email to staff. Usually it contains a bit of reflection and it challenges others to reflect; CPD on a budget. This week it was Thursday Thoughts and took a slightly different turn. I got a greater number of responses than I have ever got from an FT email and spent my day sporadically dancing in my office as each response popped in between the phonecalls, classes, crises and attempts at strategic thinking. I could hear odd snippets of Justin ringing out through the school and even witnessed an S5 class allowing themselves a little shuffle as their teacher shared it with them……

Magic stuff. Creativity unites.

This is what I wrote:

Good morning

What? Friday thoughts on a Thursday?

I’m a rebel, me.

Something a bit different this week. Here’s how it works:

· Think of one song that makes you feel happy and/or motivated.

· Send me the title or, better still, a YouTube link.

· I will put them together into a playlist and share, ready for us to listen to when we come back in January (oh, to have a whole school tannoy like we did in my last school!)

A chance for us to share a bit of joy with each other and share a bit of ourselves.

Here’s mine; it makes me smile and want to dance every time I see it. Much to the embarrassment of my daughter.


(Justin Timberlake Can’t Stop the Feeling)

Have a restful and incredibly well-deserved long weekend.

Kindest regards


Staffrm Transfer 6 – Celebration, Blogging as Reflection, Optimistic October, Disconnect Time, Post-holiday Post⤴


Celebration time.


Lena Carter · 1 year ago

I am going away to the wedding of my step-son and his partner tomorrow night and am already in holiday mode. I am getting ahead of myself and blogging tonight instead of on Saturday.

I have written a reflective post here:  https://lenabellina.wordpress.com/2016/09/22/inclusive-cpd/

But for this post I just want to share the three songs that went with my CPD on Monday:




Wishing my fab lone lunatic colleagues a brilliant weekend when it comes.

See you on the other side!

Blogging as reflection

Lena Carter · 1 year ago

Today I am leading a learning conversation at Pedagoo Muckle on Blogging as a reflective tool

I am a little apprehensive. These are the notes I have made to help me:

I am a newbie blogger: celebrated the 1 year anniversary last month: ResearchEd.

Blog – what on earth is that? Had to google it.

Section from my Into Headship Journal – September 2016.

“But within the Standards there is also the reference to the need to ‘to ask critical questions of educational policies and practices and to examine our attitudes and beliefs. Values, and the connections between values and practices, need to be regularly re-appraised over the course of teachers’ careers as society and the needs of learners change and as understanding develops.’ (GTC 2012, p6).

“I think that, a week ago, I would have said that I am a reflective practitioner but my reading over the last week has challenged me to think about the quality of my reflection. I have found that Gray’s ideas on the difference between reflection and critical reflection (Gray 2007), alongside Brookfield’s writing on hegemonic assumptions and the need to look at practice for what it really is (Brookfield 1995) have made me realise that often my reflection is uncritical. I mentioned in the webinar on Tuesday that I have a tendency to overthink and allow irrational worry to infiltrate my thinking and that this may well lead to what Brookfield refers to as ‘self-destructive workaholism’ (Brookfield 1995, p16). There is a need for me to adopt more rigour in my critical reflection and analysis of the tools described by Gray (Gray 2007) lead me to believe that this can be achieved by use of a reflective journal and critical incident analysis.”

Tentative start.First blog post was others’ ideas.

Husband – what do YOU think?Me?!? Who wants to know what I think?


Support structures:





Pedagoo – excellent support to start

#Teacher 5 a day





Honesty? How honest? Maybe too honest?

Links with current thinking on authenticity and vulnerability: Brené Brown. TED talk – The Power of Vulnerability:

“Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”

“To me, a leader is someone who holds her- or himself accountable for finding potential in people and processes.”

“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day.”

What type of role models do we want to be?

Optimistic October


Lena Carter · 1 year ago

Optimism. Glass half full or glass half empty? Maybe a bit of both. Not pretending that life doesn’t have difficult moments but accepting the ups and downs.

Passion. Find that thing you care about and plan to do more of it in the future.

Thrive. Rather than survive. You owe it to yourself.

Inspiration. Connect with others and fill your world with positive reinforcement throughout the day.

Music. Have songs at the ready to help you stay hopeful. My favourite album for this is ‘Like Comedy’ by The Proclaimers.

Involve yourself. Join in, sign up… for events, concerts, lunch dates, drama groups, sports teams. Having things to look forward to in the diary helps a lot.

Start something. Once you have started plan how to progress it further into the future.

Trust. In yourself. In others. In humanity and in natural processes.

Imagination. Picture what your ideal future looks like and set off towards it.

Celebrations. Plan to celebrate as much as possible. Eat cake, drink wine, dance and sing. Celebrate each new day if you feel like it.

October. Has been the happiest and saddest of months for me. The month my daughter was born and the month I lost my lovely Grandmother aged a magnificent 100. The highs and the lows.

Connect. The more people you get to know, the more perspectives you will come to understand and the more you will see how diverse and amazing the human race is.

Teach. Children are the messages we send into the future (Brent Davies). Make them good ones.

Obstacles. Embrace them and use them to develop resilience and courage.

Blessings. Count them. Friends, family, the autumn colours, the sunset.

Explore. The world is a vast and exciting place. New vistas often offer new hope.

Reflect. Look back and learn so that you can move forward.

Disconnect time.


Lena Carter · 1 year ago

Today I start my holiday. I won’t be around on here for a while. Time to disconnect.

I wrote this to staff in this week’s ‘Friday Thoughts’:

Thank you:

For supporting all of our pupils to thrive and shine.

For taking extra care of our most vulnerable children.

For going above and beyond in difficult times.

Please, this holiday,:

Take the time to make sure that you thrive and shine.

Take care of yourself.

Go above and beyond for YOU and your family.

Thank you again.

I need to follow my own advice. Those on holiday too, have a great one.

Post holiday post

Lena Carter · 1 year ago

I have been on holiday this week.

I have switched off.

I have started a mindfulness course which has really opened my eyes: www.futurelearn.com/courses/mi…

I have started each day by dancing to Justin Timberlake: m.youtube.com/watch?v=ru0K8uYE…

I have eaten well, walked a lot and connected with family.

I invented a game which we played: You need access to Youtube. Each person shares and plays their “favourite song at this moment in time”. It is brilliant to play in an intergenerational group as Grandad gets to hear Green Day and daughter gets to hear Bizet. And no one day is the same as the next as it is mood dependent.

I have had a couple of days of feeling utterly wretched.

I have reflected a lot. I also wrote a blog post, even though I had not planned to.

I have devoured ‘The Hours’ by Michael Cunningham.

I now have 4 days left.

I need to go into work on at least one, probably one and a half.

But I plan to hold on to feeling calm.

I plan to stay mindful, multitask less and be more focused.

And I plan to keep dancing.

Have a great break, if yours is just starting. Xx

8 blogs that I am glad I wrote in 2017.⤴


There seems to be a trend that people are sharing their top 10 blogs from 2017.

I l blogged less in 2017 than I had in 2016 and lost my way a bit.

I nearly gave up blogging altogether but I am glad I didn’t as writing keeps me sane, helps me reflect and most importantly connects me with others.

To buck the trend of top 10s, here are my top 8. Thanks for reading my ramblings, for engaging with them and for challenging me when I talk nonsense.

I will probably carry on in 2018 and I’d love you to keep reading.


This one is about keeping on top of things when life seems to be against you:



This one is very long and probably quite boring unless you are interested in timetabling from scratch:



This one is a reflection on the nonsensical nature of judging children through exams:



This one is about why we have to teach about mental health:



This one is about our why:



This one is about caring:



This one is also too long but talks about my latest obsession and a revolution in kindness:


8. And lastly, this one is about honesty.


Have a great New Year celebration and a magical 2018.



And so this is Christmas.⤴


And so here we are. A late break-up on Friday, a mad panic now to get it all done……and I sit once again on my exercise bike and ponder.

I have the usual side throat and swollen glands. I have the usual feeling of panic at the days of enforced eating and relaxation ahead. I am beyond tired and the cosy film-watching in front of the tv has already been spoiled by my inability to stay awake for more than 5 minutes: “Mum!!! Wake up! Stand up! Drink coffee!”.

But I also have an unusual sense that things are ok.
That I am ok.

I have achieved a lot this year. I have been a success in my role as Acting Head of Secondary Teaching and Learning, I have written a school timetable which works (my first), I have started to make changes in the teaching and learning culture at school and I have submitted an application for the post on a permanent basis. Wish me luck.

As for any school in Scotland this year, we have faced significant challenges in terms of staffing and austerity measures and it has been a very challenging period.
We have come to learn that the much-needed mental health support for many of our vulnerable children now on the whole has to come from within the school. I have worked hard to ensure that all of our staff work in a way that is nurturing of pupils who need unconditional love, aspirational role models and positive regard if they are to thrive.

I have worked very, very hard this year. But that is ok. Because as well as the bigger achievements outlined above, I have some smaller ones squirrelled away in my heart that I can’t tell you about in detail. They involve unexpected thank-yous, achievements and attendance from pupils who without our support might have given up or been given up on.

Below is the address I gave to the school on Thursday.
Achievements, mistakes, learning, fun and kindness. What else is there?
Happy holidays to all my wonderful friends.


“And so, it falls to me, at the end of this assembly, to say thank you.

First of all I want to thank all those who have contributed to this fantastic assembly.
But I would also like to thank you all, for everything you have done over the last year to make our school the respectful, achieving, happy and safe place that it is.

This time last year I talked to you about the fact that you all had the potential to do amazing things in the year ahead. And over the last 12 months we as a school have achieved some truly amazing things. From the academic successes in qualifications achieved by our senior phase students last year, to the brilliant achievements of our pupils in sporting activities, to the outstanding musical performances such as those in last week’s concert but also in the social events that have taken place including last night’s fantastic Snowball, you have shown that you are truly amazing.

Of course there are some of us in the room who have not always got it right, who have made mistakes and who have needed to move on from these mistakes and learn from them. And as a place of learning, our school will always support you in that.
As the great Nelson Mandela once said:
“I never lose. I either win or learn.”

Thank you for making our school a place of great learning over the last year.

And thank you especially from me to all of the staff in the school who have made that possible.

Finally I would like to take this opportunity to wish every one of you a wonderful Christmas.
Be kind, have fun and stay safe.
Happy Christmas.”