This month’s Featured Teacher is Simon Smith, Principal at East Whitby Academy, who many of you may know through Twitter (@smithsmm) or through his blog.

Simon has spent 25 years in teaching (well, apart from a couple of years as a consultant), almost entirely in deprived communities. He is a self-confessed picture book addict (‘I'm pretty sure I could be mortgage free if i didn't buy so many books’) and took the scenic route to becoming a head after years of saying 'I don't blummin' want that job!' and 'Why on earth would anyone do that?' He is now a firm believer that it is the most amazing job in the world.

Simon’s knowledge of picture books is extensive and impressive, we caught up with him to hear about his approach to leadership through picture books.

So “Why picture books?” I hear you cry. Well, Matthew Tobin, senior lecturer in English and Children's Literature at Oxford Brookes University, sums it up perfectly:

“There is an accessibility to picture books that the written word cannot offer,” he has written. “With the very best picture books, our reading and interpretation of both picture and word can lead to a deeper response than a novel.”

And as Martin Galway, English teaching and learning adviser with Herts for Learning, says: they provide a swift democracy, a shared world and experience that can mitigate and compensate for varying levels of experience of the world. They can provide a unique common starting point that levels the playing field. The best picture books give us that wonderful opportunity to talk, explore and interpret.

Picture books are way more than they seem. Anybody who dismisses picture books as for kids has missed a fundamental truth that the carry universal lessons for us all. With that as my starting point I decided to explore leadership through the medium of picture-books and to discover the key messages they can tell us in leading our schools.

1. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak - Build a culture of trust. Let people feel safe in taking a risk

Sendak is the godfather of picturebooks and Where the Wild Things are is undoubtedly his Masterpiece. For me it is a book about unconditional love and care and more importantly trust. When Max sails away ultimately he knows and believes that his mum will be waiting. In Leadership terms it has a simple message about creating trust and belief. I know my school has been a better place for the development of trust both in adults and children. Staff free to take risks. Systems built around trust and beliefs change the dynamic of your work. So many systems in school have been set based on not trusting the staff. Performance management, data drop, excessive marking policies, lesson observations and much more based on the belief that staff aren't doing a good job. I genuinely believe staff come to school to do the best job they can. They almost always live up to that trust. Trust is equally a two-way street, staff believing in you is equally important and that takes time to get people to authentically believe in you. Running alongside that is honesty. Creating a climate where honest discussions about children inform the work should surely be the goal of every school. I've sadly seen too often spurious data used as a stick to beat up staff and the data increasingly become a nonsense. Trust and honesty solves that.

2. The Promise by Nicola Davies and Laura Carlin - Grow the seeds, even if others come and pick the flowers

The Promise is a stunning book about changing our world, growing and nurturing things and the impact the can have on our spaces and our lives. As a Leader in a school this is one of the most important things we do. Growing our staff to be the best they can be. That doesn't necessarily mean Leadership. Helping your staff take the career paths that are right for them is and supporting them to do that is a key part of what school leaders should do. Sadly this means that sometimes those carefully nurtured plants are picked for other gardens. That 's OK though you get to plant the next seed and do it all again. Having just appointed two new staff for September I am really excited to start that process all over again.

3. The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito and Julia Kuo - Make the space to think about and reflect on your actions

Sound of Silence is a quiet and contemplative text about the hunt for that moment of true silence. It’s thoughtfulness and calm completely hits its target. As a bit of advice for Leadership, it's simple really, find your space and time to think about your work, both to reflect and plan. Stepping back, sometimes is vital. If you don't do this your leadership can become reactive rather than pro-active. So whether it’s bobbing on a surf-board in the North Sea of sitting on a hill. Find the place to step away and think.

4. Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems - Listen and pay attention. Don’t ignore the signals

Knuffle Bunny is just one of the most wonderfully funny books ever. A simple tale told well. The frustration of the child as her Father both doesn't listen or understand what she is saying is fantastic. The facial expressions are just magnificent. For a Leader again the message is simple. Just look, listen and read the signals.  Ask questions, pay attention and be sure to read between the lines. Almost anything can be solved with clear open communication and honesty.

5. Zoom by Istvan Banyai - Pay attention to the detail but keep an eye on how it fits in the bigger picture

Zoom is one of those books that completely blows your mind when you first see it. It completely pans out and out and out, going from micro to macro. As a leader it's vital you have an eye on both. The clarity of the big picture and what you are trying to achieve has to be supplemented by an eye on the detail. Precision actions and getting the detail right will make it stick.

6. Don't Cross the Line by Isabel Minhos Martins and Bernardo Carvello - Understand that sometimes the apparent rules are there to be broken  and we need to be brave

The book 'Cross the Line' is just the most brilliant book about breaking the rules and standing up for something The fantastic use of the gutter to create a barrier sets up the story perfectly an creates a moment when the pressure becomes too much and you have the character have to stand-up and break the rules.

The same is true of leadership. Sometime you just have to cross the line and break the rules. Sometimes things are thrown at you and you have to know when to say NO. Pointless data is one such line, lots of people ask you for pointless stuff, being brave enough to not do it for the right reasons is vital and scary in equal measure. I have often said NO. Sometimes it is blummin' scary to do so.

7. The Yes by Sarah Bee and Satoshi Kitamura - Remember one Yes is stronger than countless Nos. Don’t let detractors stop you doing the things that are needed

The Yes is a cheerful orange creature who sets off to explore the big wide Where. But the Where is home to the “Nos,” who travel in packs and discourage the Yes at every turn. The book has a great message about overcoming obstacles and not being put off.

Do I really need to explain this one? Essentially just keep focused on where you’re going and the reasons why and you will get there. Equally stick to the things that are important to you and you won't go far wrong. Finding the important things is the challenge.

8. Town is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz and Sydney Smith - Understand and know your community both its strengths and its challenges. Schools are not islands

Town is by the Sea is a melancholy, wistful delight. It talks about lack of choice and how destiny and future is set. Most importantly it evokes its community. I was struck on reading it to the parallels to the community my school is in, the rhythms and the potentially limited futures. Knowing and understanding your community is key to truly making an impact. Getting your community to support and believe in the work you are doing can significantly change the work you do.

9. After the Fall by Dan Santat - Be honest when you get things wrong, take the knocks then get up and try again

A brilliantly clever picturebook that uses all the tricks to get the reader to truly understand the dilemmas faced by Humpty Dumpty following the 'fall.' Colour and perspective are masterfully used to draw us in.

The message is simple. Get up and go again. If the mistake is yours, then own it. Be honest! Equally make sure the successes are shared. The true job of a leader is to create the space for your teachers to do the best job they can.

10. Love by Matt De La Pena and Loren Long - Don’t forget what the job is really about... Children. Put them at the centre of every decision

“In the beginning there is light/ and two wide-eyed figures standing/ near the foot of your bed, / and the sound of their voices is love,”

This is a beautiful book about the true meaning of Love with children at its heart. For me as a Leader it's that signal to look at the choices we make and to make sure that the children in our school are at the centre of those actions and decisions . This doesn't mean increasing workload in fact it means the opposite. It's about doing the things that work and getting rid of the rest. Equally the best deal for our children is teachers who aren't worn-out and exhausted. Children should always be the lens you use to look at your work. Sadly they can sometimes get forgotten.