I’ve really enjoyed reading colleagues’ reflections on their past year. I have genuinely been in awe at the achievements of my Twitter contemporaries and have put off reflecting on my own path for fear of it being somewhat lacking. The past year has been a year of two halves, the pivotal moment being moving house during the horrible sticky heat of July.
The first half of my year was as a Deputy Head. Being a deputy is a fantastic job. You know how much Stephen Drew looked like he was having fun as Deputy in Educating Essex, well it’s true. One of the reasons why it is a great job is that you work with so many different people, not just amazing students, inspiring teachers, as you might expect, but also astonishing admin teams, incredible caterers, maintenance staff, medical staff, invaluable support staff and creative gardeners. Every day is different, new problems to solve, ideas to debate, plans to implement. There have been quite a few blogs recently that have really been critical of senior leadership teams. This seems unfair on a number of levels. Firstly, it is so easy for teachers to blame the SLT as some kind of non-human amorphous lump. I’ve even seen tweets along the lines of ‘please let us get on with it’ by poor beleaguered teachers, which makes me feel sad. I have no doubt there are bad leaders, ineffective teams and many, many examples of poor communication in schools where staff are not consulted, involved, listened to or recognised. However, there are some amazing, inspirational examples of leadership out there – you only have to read some great blogs to see that.
The second reason I find the ‘us and them’ approach sad is because it seems to be contradictory to the values and morals we are all trying to achieve in our work. Even on twitter, regulars will know of examples of snide comments, gossipy side conversations when hashtag chats are in full swing, it is so boring. We would challenge that in the classroom, but if we don’t challenge it in the staff rooms then we are surely guilty of hypocrisy. Finally, I think that there is a danger that sniping at senior leaders might put teachers off going for promotion – do they really want to take that on?
Before you think I’ve veered too far away from the path of reflection let me say that what was particularly important in that first half of the year was circumstances that convinced me of the importance of research in developing educational theory. Reading educational research on leadership and management in schools inspired me to be constantly reviewing and auditing what it means to be a leader. If, as a teacher, you inspire one child to think for themselves then you’re doing your job well. If, as a leader, you inspire one teacher that they should aim for leadership then you’re doing your job well.
To reflect on my time as a leader in the first half of the year, I hope I did my job well. I really enjoyed working with staff, training on a range of different topics, with the aim of encouraging leadership in others.
This leads me to the second half of the year. I decided to start this blog to accompany the exchanges I was already enjoying so much on Twitter. I continued to write training material on leadership, mentoring, differentiation and have been able to deliver these to different audiences, gaining so much from interacting with teachers in the process. I have also been able to return to writing about RE matters as well, a subject so close to my heart. I have been privileged to be able to carry on my work nurturing trainee teachers, embarking on PGCEs, either at the start of their careers or early on as a way of securing foundational skills. This at a time when the training of teachers is being questioned and PGCE courses closing. Crazy times. With education constantly changing, technology advancing faster than we can keep up with it, new educational theory challenging us, this is a time for more teacher training, not less. We shouldn’t think we know it all, there is so much more to know!
For my whole career to date I have been proud to see being a teacher as a profession. I liked that I ticked the professional box in questionnaires about occupations. What surprised me early on and continues to surprise me is the way that many outside of education seem to think anybody can be a good teacher. Even after the actual demonstration that being a good teacher is not about what degree class you have with Jamie Oliver’s academy, we still hear that content knowledge is the same as delivering knowledge. It seems bizarre to me to not see delivering knowledge, enabling learning in others, is a craft, a skill that can constantly be developed. This inspired me to pursue training others. Conversations with others also inspired me to continue to pursue my area of research interest, that different personalities have qualities that lend themselves to certain leadership roles. Women in education can sometimes be forced into certain gender stereotypes which makes them less likely to consider certain roles. Even this week we have been hearing about women in education sometimes being fearful of joining in fully with Twitter debates.
It wasn’t an easy year. It was a year of challenges but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing does it?
Looking ahead. I wonder.
Continue to read and write, but more so. Continue to work with teachers, trainee teachers and mentors, but more so.
Research leadership in education.
Try to paint more.
Stay true to my guiding values and vision.