Not sure if you remember? I write a blog. It used to get a lot of praise, sharing and admiration.
The words associated with it… and therefore I guess with me…. were mainly “honest” and “brave.”
Now I know that lots of people would see those words as a good thing; those people who I would consider to be part of my tribe; those who live by the values of Brené Brown; those who want to change the world and stop us from living a life of artificiality and dishonesty; those who, like me, have valued the quote attributed to Tom Hanks: “The only way you can truly control how you are seen is by being honest all the time”.
But I have come to realise recently that for many, those words trigger an underlying suspicion that I am foolish, a loose cannon, difficult, unable to understand that my way is not the only way.
You will notice that I haven’t written much lately. The wellbeing updates, the honest reflections, the analyses of the type of honest school leader I want to be have stopped.
Because I don’t think that people want to know the honest truth about some things.
And because I have realised that my truth is not absolute and that sometimes I need to accept that other truths are equally valid.
Rest assured that this is not about my current situation or my current school. I absolutely love where I am and what I am doing just now.
But it is a reflection about the world.
It was just over thirty years ago when I experienced the sense that I had misjudged the appropriateness of honesty.
I was head girl in my school and the MP David Mellor had come to speak to our sixth form.
He began to talk about the benefits of grammar schools and I challenged him, asking how he could possibly dare to do so while speaking in a comprehensive school.
The daughter of a Lithuanian peasant and working-class-boy-made-good who had both devoted their careers to teaching in comprehensive education could not hold back. This was much to the delight of my socialist/pacifist/revolutionary friends at school.
But the disappointment on the face of the headteacher and senior staff in the school and the feeling that I had somehow done something distasteful remain abiding memories of that day.
There is a time and a place to be honest.
As a school leader you have to be skilled in exercising selective honesty. I don’t think that this means compromising on values as long as you stay true to the fundamental value of ensuring that every child is happy, healthy and doing the best they can.
But it means knowing which battles to fight and when, knowing when to speak and when to be silent and knowing that sometimes sensitivity towards the feelings and beliefs of others must take priority over self-righteous impatience.
Sometimes you can’t afford to be too honest about the things that you can’t change.
But let’s also remember that we need to be honest about the word can’t.
Is it that we really can’t? Or simply that we don’t want to?
Because in all honesty, we need to do what is right and not what is easy.