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Get what you really, really want

So how are your winter blues? Working for a quality headteacher as I do, I found myself confessing to her my feelings of drudgery. Days seemed as long and dark as the weather and it was getting hard to find the joy, I told her. She listened with customary patience, then slowly won me round with her "positivity", as the Spice Girls call it.

"The key to dealing with frustrations in the present," she said, "is to plan good things for the future." You know, she's right. I look out the window and see rain making puddles as deep as my in-tray. I look into the future, though, and I see the new hope of spring, the promise of the outdoor classroom and even the time for planning ideas for the new academic year. Hark at me, all positive again.

So pick up a pen and write yourself a "utopia statement", a superb planning tool for middle leaders who want to think big, suggested to me by a music advanced skills teacher. The idea is you write a side of A4 that describes exactly what your subject or area of responsibility would look like if unrestricted by budget, curriculum pressures, accommodation or any of the other factors that affect us.

You should write in the present tense to give a sense of now to your dreams: "Music is the pupils' favourite subject because it is taught so well in every classroom"; "Classrooms in our year group have high quality displays that celebrate and stimulate"; "Pupils and staff treat each other with mutual respect."

Focusing on the ideal need not make the present seem miserable; rather, it can help reveal the next step that will move you closer to your goals. Like a train going uphill, stopping inevitably leads to a downhill slide. Instead, find something to aim for and let high hopes stoke your boiler.

Peter Greaves, Deputy head, Dovelands Primary School in Leicester.

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