Belay Your People

Belay your People

KellerNeuroscience, Relationship-based Teaching Leave a Comment

If you are like most teachers, you are surrounded by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. You set incredibly high standards for your own performance.  You set ferocious goals for your students and expect the same drive for success from your colleagues.

Unfortunately, in this profession, those that you surround yourself with, do not usually share the same goals and feelings. 

Instead, you are greeted by staff who are doing the bare minimum, students who appear to have little or no desire to learn and even some who are chronically disconnected from school. Arriving at school, you have no idea what to expect, how you are going to lead and how on earth you can make a difference. 

Rock climbing is an amazing sport to take up. Not only is it a brilliant sport to develop fitness and core strength, but it also provides an intense mental challenge. The sport involves a high level of risk taking, evaluation of choices and trust in ones belayer. 

Rock Climbing
A young lady climbs up a sheer face while putting trust in her belayer

The term BELAYER, refers to the person who is entrusted with the role of controlling the safety rope of the climber. The belayer wears a harness with a belaying pin specifically designed to allow slack for the climber to move freely and express themselves on the rock face, while not providing enough slack for the climber to fall. 

The action of belaying is one of watching, guiding, providing safety and security to allow the climber to take risks, evaluate their own options at the rock face and work towards their personal goals.

In the environment of the classroom, school or organisation, George Kohlreiser in his book Care to Dare, writes about the metaphorical link between belaying and Secure Base Leadership. 

In the volatile, uncertainty of a day of teaching, the teacher has to act as the belayer. He/She has to create a secure base for every single child in their class. 

We need to provide a Secure Base

A secure base is a person, place, goal or object that provides a sense of safety and caring and offers a source of inspiration and energy for daring, exploration, risk taking and seeking challenges.

Secure Base Definition

The teacher (the belayer) focuses on BONDING with the students in their class  because no student is going to climb that rock face, before their teacher really knows them. It requires a trust relationship.

The teacher shows interest in them, just as the belayer focuses on every movement of the climber, knowing when to give slack, when to tighten, when to support and when to give some more rope. 

When the secure base leader (teacher), acts as the belayer in the classroom, trust is built through relationship first. Trust in turn drives engagement. When students are engaged, retention is promoted and stress is reduced.

When we belay our followers, our students and our colleagues we suddenly are inspiring energy without depleting our own. We give those around us ‘rope’ through relationship, trust and engagement and we notice that they have the potential to go the distance with and for you. 

Belay your people.

You simply have to unleash their astonishing potential. 


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