Dare to be Different

A leadership fable about transformational change in schools

By: Will Ryan


£12.99

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Ebook


Size: 216 x 140mm

Pages : 224

ISBN : 9781785832765

Format: Paperback

Published: January 2018


Will Ryan's Dare to be Different: A leadership fable about transformational change in schools tells the fictional tale of Brian Smith – a primary school head teacher who listens to what his political masters have to say, but then sets out to inspire real transformational change by doing the exact opposite and leading through his own values and beliefs.

Writer and novelist Michael Korda claims that the fastest way to succeed is to look like you are playing to someone else's rules whilst quietly playing by your own'. Dare to be Different illustrates how real transformational change can occur when a school leader does just that, as Will Ryan shares the trials and tribulations of the story's fearless protagonist, Brian Smith, as he endeavours to take back ownership of what happens in the classroom.

Exploring the significant challenges that school leaders often have to overcome in order to turn their dream into a reality, Dare to be Different lays before the reader a model of inspirational school leadership in this engaging and humorous take on life in modern schools. The story is told through the eyes and experiences of Brian as he resists top-down government directives on how his school should be run and instead strives to build a vibrant curriculum with which to hook the imaginations of today's children. Scattered among the narrative's twists and turns are deeper insights into the nature and purpose of schooling that are sure to rekindle school leaders' passion for pupil-centred education over policy-led prescription, and which will motivate them to dare to be different' in standing up for the education they believe in.

Whilst it may be a fable with fictitious characters, Dare to be Different is based on real schools: schools in which the author has worked with leaders and teachers who, by applying their deeply held educational beliefs, accelerate learning and provide exciting learning opportunities for their pupils. Will Ryan has condensed and interwoven his forty-three years' worth of accumulated experience of going in and out of the UK's best classrooms into this book, in which you will find:

  • At least one-hundred-and-eighteen tips that are based around exciting primary practice and which should make the hairs tingle on the neck of the most wizened school inspector.
  • At least forty-five significant ideas that will strengthen leadership and have the capacity to transform your school as a learning community.
  • At least fifty quotations that will make you think about how our most inspirational leaders create inspirational teachers who get an inspirational response from their learners.
  • Compelling pieces of evidence to demonstrate that primary school teachers are doing a fabulous job, despite what any politician or tabloid reporter would tell you.

Suitable reading for all school leaders ' at both primary and secondary levels ' who are looking to promote excellence and raise aspirations within their schools and wider communities.


Picture for author Will Ryan

Will Ryan

Will Ryan has worked in schools in South Yorkshire for over forty years as a teacher, head teacher and local authority adviser. As a head teacher he led a school that prized itself on genuine pupil creativity and was described by Ofsted as outstanding'. He is a speaker and Associate of Independent Thinking Ltd.


Reviews

  1. "The current educational climate has become obsessed with data and the collection of evidence, but what does having this information actually achieve?

    Will Ryan considers himself to be a very lucky man. He has now spent forty-three years going in and out of this country's best primary schools and classrooms, and if there is one thing he has discovered it is that these wonderful places tend to make up their own rules. In fact, it was Michael Korda who said, -˜The fastest way to succeed is to look like you are playing to someone else's rules whilst quietly playing by your own.'

    The problem in education is that politicians and administrators have constantly been changing and making up rules, leaving behind a workforce that is committed to the children in its care but worn down by political meddling. Will seriously believes that a significant proportion of these actions have been taken by politicians driven rather by a quest for power than by a deep concern for the welfare of children. Indeed, sometimes children's wellbeing has been totally neglected.

    If this is the case, then it really is time for brave school leaders everywhere to start playing by their own rules. However, this can be easier said than done. Will has always been impressed by the influential leadership fables of Patrick Lencioni. He believes they have the capacity to bring about real transformational change. As a consequence, he has always harboured a desire to write a similar leadership fable within a primary school setting, and here it is ... meet Brian Smith: head teacher, hero in waiting.

    Dare to be Different is the story of a primary school head teacher, Brian Smith, who listens very carefully to the things his political masters say and then sets out to achieve greatness by doing the exact opposite. While the characters in the story are all fictitious, the wonderful Tom Featherstone and the butterflies he creates (i.e. the little things that make a huge difference) are based around the work of Sir Tim Brighouse.

    Those forty-three years of going in and out of wonderful classrooms while trying to make sense of constant government meddling left Will with a story which he has been dying to tell. As Zora Neale Hurston said, -˜There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you.' So here comes the story."

    Click here to read the review on Humanising Language Teaching website.
  2. Although billed as “a leadership fable”, the content of this tale resonated with me deeply, as I know it will for many other school leaders too.

    The book is expertly written from the perspective of a fictional headteacher, Brian Smith, a trailblazer who articulates his trials and tribulations as a school leader, battling against many challenges in search of excellence and ensuring that his school community receives the most inspirational educational experience.

    What Ryan has skilfully achieved is a protagonist we can all identify with.

    Brian's daily thoughts, reflections and challenges with the education system are themes that are prevalent in all schools.



    He's an independent thinker, pulling away from following the crowd and instead creating a school culture and climate that is best for his community, which I found inspiring and energising.

    Brian mulls over all of the pressures we face as school leaders, from high accountability and budget constraints, to education secretaries with questionable policies and leading communities with vision and clarity.

    The book begins with our hero reflecting on the curriculum at his school and why, rather than driving it though knowledge, he wants imagination and creativity to be of higher value.

    He considers the concept of “a fourth-generation curriculum” needed for Generation Z - the new generation of young people who are “smarter and more mature” than the millenials.

    This fourth-generational curriculum would focus on imaginative themes, deeper learning and global citizenship. It would promote independence and ensure learning was always delivered in a social context.

    It was affirming to hear Brian describe his vision for this curriculum so clearly, and it resonated with me deeply. School leaders across our partnership are currently working on refining and redesigning our own curriculum offer for our children and it turns out that what we have navigated our way towards is everything that Brian articulates!

    Throughout the book there are at least 45 significant ideas that will strengthen leadership and which have the capacity to transform your school as a learning community.

    One of the chapters that particularly sticks with me is chapter five, entitled “Wanted: invisible leaders - apply here”.

    It focuses on the differences between managers and leaders and their visibility and invisibility. The invisible leader is one whose vision permeates the organisation whether they are present or not, and who is more ambitious for the organisation than they are for themselves.

    There are endless evidence-based links to educational research and the work of others, including Sir Tim Brighouse, Start with Why, Growth Mindset and The Happiness Manifesto to name a few.

    Personally, I found these references timely and relevant to the point Brian was making; it also prompted me to recall research and readings I have wanted to return to, and referred to new educational philosophy and research I wasn't familiar with and would like to read more about.

    Without revealing too much, Brian takes the reader on an inspirational journey via his headship at Springett Lane Primary School. He reminds us that without struggle there is no progress, and that to create an inspirational learning community takes daring and different leadership.

    Towards the end he encapsulates all that school leaders truly want and aspire to for their communities: “Children should enjoy a curriculum that provides a rich variety of knowledge and experience in school. It is essential to prepare pupils for life in Britain today. Leaders have created a climate in which teachers are motivated and trusted to take risk and innovate in ways that are right for their pupils.”

    All headteachers strive to grow, develop and lead inspirational learning communities, and Brian's journey articulates this with a dash of humour.



    Dare to be different deserves to be read, digested, shared and treasured by all brave school leaders, and should take pride of place on the staffroom bookshelf.

    Click here to read the review online.
  3. "Will Ryan has worked in schools in Rotherham, South Yorkshire for over 30 years as a teacher, head teacher and Local Authority adviser. As a head teacher he led a school that prized itself on genuine pupil creativity. While it is presented to the reader as a fable with fictitious characters, "Dare to be Different: A Leadership Fable About Transformational Change In Schools" is based on real schools: schools in which Will Ryan has worked with leaders and teachers who, by applying their deeply held educational beliefs, accelerate learning and provide exciting learning opportunities for their pupils. What Ryan has done is to condense and interweave his forty-three years worth of accumulated experience of going in and out of the UK's best classrooms into "Dare to be Different in which the reader will find: At least one-hundred-and-eighteen tips that are based around exciting primary practice and which should make the hairs tingle on the neck of the most wizened school inspector; At least forty-five significant ideas that will strengthen leadership and have the capacity to transform your school as a learning community: A minimum of fifty quotations that will make the reader think about how our most inspirational leaders create inspirational teachers who get an inspirational response from their learners; Compelling pieces of evidence to demonstrate that primary school teachers are doing a fabulous job -- despite what any politician or tabloid reporter would proclaim. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Dare to be Different" is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Educational Studies collections and supplemental reading lists. It should be known for the personal reading lists of students, teachers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Dare to be Different" is also available in a digital book format."
  4. Will Ryan's fable is a clever and humorous work of fiction interweaved with real world stories of outstanding classroom practice in the current challenging educational landscape. His sharp-witted creation of his fictional primary school Headteacher Brian Smith is one that will surely engage and inspire any new, aspiring or established school leader.

    Although it's an educational leadership textbook that will serve to help transform schools in this challenging educational climate, this is a work of fiction.

    It's about being brave, challenging the status quo and about inspiring teachers to “dare to be different” and supporting them in these endeavours with a road map for successful school leadership with practical solutions.

    You relate to the fearlessness of the protagonist, you support his questions, you challenge your own beliefs and want to embark upon your own journey of transformational change.



    This is a must-read for any school leader. I was underlining passages, writing notes and scribbling down the hints and tips as I enjoyed Brian's inspirational tale.

    Click here to read the review online.
  5. Working within schools, it is easy to be scared, follow the crowd, and dance along to a tune which you know, deep down, does not resonate with the values of teaching and learning you have inside. Examination systems, accountability structures, and whimsical policy changes all make individual teachers and school leaders look like rabbits caught in headlights, being easily bemused by the latest initiative they are expected to put into place, whilst ensuring exam outcomes are higher than last year. No one can deny that high standards and outcomes in schools are bad - we all want the very best for our pupils - but the narrow pursuit of results can lead to despair and conformity.

    Let me introduce you to Brian. Brian is a (fictional) primary school head teacher in England, UK. Well, maybe not fictional, as many working in schools will relate to the story created by Will Ryan in his -˜Dare to be Different' book. Following the internal dialogues, reflections and incidents that Brian is faced with on a daily basis, the story unfolds telling how an individual can strive to take back ownership of what happens in the classroom and build vibrant curriculum with which to hook the imaginations of pupils. How? Will has cleverly inserted over 100 tips based on exciting primary practice, along with nearly fifty significant ideas to strengthen leadership, and accompanied a similar number of inspiring quotations throughout the story that encourages head-teachers to be brave and follow their own rules for what is best for that school community.

    Without spoiling the plot, or ruining the ending (this is not a spoiler alert!), the book concludes in a reflective manner, reminding the reader that without struggle, there is no progress. Offering staff the opportunity to participate in hubs of excellence allows individual teachers to keep updated with pedagogical advances, a strong sense of efficacy, and the opportunity to value and celebrate their own learning. Also, offering three-generational lessons within a fourth-generation curriculum (earlier discussed in the book) allows for a rich, experiential and inspiring learning opportunities. One of Brian's final reflections in his notebook concludes:

    Children should enjoy a curriculum that provides a rich variety of knowledge and experience in school, no matter what their skills and abilities, and regardless of their personal circumstances-¦

    -¦it is vitally important that schools offer a broad and balanced curriculum that contributes to the social, moral, spiritual and cultural development of pupils.



    Ask yourself-¦.does your school reflect this?

    We are usually confronted with books that can sit on shelves and be picked up, dipped into and used for pithy activities whenever suits. Very few books demand to be read from start to finish, but Will Ryan's book tells a story and deserves to be given time to follow the flow, absorb the advice, and learn from the lessons underpinning the narrative. If you are the teacher, or school-leader who doesn't want to follow the herd, satisfy the policy-makers, but take action to do justice to your colleagues and pupils, then this is a story that should encourage and inspire you.

    PROS:

    An easily readable storybook entwined with inspiration and lessons for leaders.

    Told from the perspective of a Primary School Head-teacher in England.

    Calls for school leaders not to follow the crowd, but do what's best for your pupils and community.

    Click here to read the review on UKEdChat.
  6. If you want to create a school in which everybody thinks they can achieve, and in which they have both a duty to achieve and to help others achieve, then this could be the book for you.

    Set within a compelling fable, Dare to be Different promotes strategies that inspire transformational school leadership approaches, high quality literacy and numeracy teaching, outdoor learning, a genuine twenty-first century curriculum, and ways of teaching those lessons that will last a lifetime.



    Dare to be Different is based on real research in real schools with real children, and I am proud that our school has been a part of this process.
  7. We often talk about -˜sugar coating' as something to be critical of, but not in the case of this book. Always worth listening to, being one of the best presenters and trainers that I have come across, Will Ryan has done a remarkable job of combining a passionate educational polemic (and a distillation of other thinking) with practical advice on leadership, curriculum design and practice, and wrapping it up into a story.



    Dare to be Different is quite an achievement and is a treasure trove for anyone interested in education.
  8. During the final inspection at my school the lead inspector said something which I have never forgotten: he told me about -˜the inspector's prayer'. -˜As the team pull up on the car park on day one of the inspection,' he said, -˜you will see that they appear to be talking to themselves. They are not. They are uttering the inspector's prayer, which goes, “Please let me discover something different in this school today, amen”, but invariably there never is anything different - everyone wants to play it safe.' Well, this is not the case in Will Ryan's inspiring new book, Dare to be Different.

    Will Ryan has broken the mould when it comes to educational leadership textbooks! He skilfully weaves a believable and engaging work of fiction with a golden thread of truly inspirational educational philosophy which will appeal equally to the newly qualified as well as battle weary school leaders. Will's sharp wit and insightful take on current challenges facing schools makes this a very easy read. By lampooning the pomposity, hypocrisy and shenanigans of politicians both locally and nationally he strikes a blow for freedom for those willing to -˜dare to be different' and take up the very practical ideas which fall from every page. Through his apposite quotes, reference to current research and exploration of the mythical -˜golden age' of education he is able to convince the reader his ideas are a worthy road map for successful school leadership. He lays before us a concept of leadership he encapsulates in the -˜brave school leaders' who play by their own rules.

    Will sticks to what he knows best and what is proven to work well, good old-fashioned fun learning which engages and excites the children to discover and causes parents to have to listen to -˜what we did at school today' open mouthed. Above all, Will inspires teachers young, old or anywhere in-between to -˜dare to be different' and get back to enjoying the job they are proud to hold as a vocation in life.
  9. Sure to stimulate debate, reflection, laughter and hope, Dare to be Different is a fascinating potpourri of a book that abounds in insights, questions, challenges, ideas and stories.



    Combining acerbic political commentary with professional wisdom and a compelling storyline, Will Ryan builds a powerful model of the possibilities of authentic education through a judicious blend of theory and practice within the context of deeply held conviction and a firm grasp on the real and possible.
  10. In Dare to be Different Will Ryan uses his many years' experience and his wide range of school contacts to present his take on the current state of primary school education.

    By utilising headlines and reports from the national press and analysing their influence upon a hypothetical school, he is able to highlight the changes which have required implementation since 2010 and their impact upon head teachers and staff. His views on these changes will resonate with those who despair at education's increasing reliance on data, the shrinking of the curriculum and the -˜one size fits all' approach.

    Following his well-thought-out analysis, incorporating evidence from educational and various other sources, he then offers a wide range of ideas and strategies to meet -˜real life' situations.

    Laced with humour and good practical advice, Dare to be Different deserves to become required reading material in staffrooms for years to come.
  11. Will continues to inspire us to be different: to play by the rules but to make the rules fit to what we want. Ever the coach, he recognises teachers' gifts and - in the most skilful way - draws out the very best ideas from deep within them. These then become an unstoppable force as ideas become topics, and topics become a way of school life.

    For too long, possibly due to the fear imposed by Ofsted and ruthless heads, teachers have stuck rigidly to schemes and objectives which have been thought up in Whitehall. Will's take on twenty-first century learning, however, is inspirational:  -˜Dare to be different!' Simple in some ways but always with the child's engagement at the centre, he can take the most boring topic and - with a few tweaks - bring it to life. Will gives you the confidence to not be bound by whether an objective is from the national curriculum, but to ask instead: -˜What value will this idea add to a child's life? Nothing from a textbook; just planning from the heart, for the children.

    These are the three-generational lessons - lessons which children will be talking about to their grandchildren. These are lessons which impact children not just in terms of their learning but also their feelings, their take on life, their future. These lessons do not get a grade in the Ofsted handbook, but if there was to be a grade it ought to be called -˜life-changing'!
  12. All heads hope to lead an outstanding school; to do that we need to think like Brian Smith and think wider than the national curriculum, allowing teachers to collaborate and create excellence in ensuring that the learning opportunities being offered are exciting, engaging and enthral children to reach their full potential. Read Dare to be Different and you will completely rethink your approach!

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