This year has seen me begin my role as Middle Leader in a small Infant school in West Essex. I am in charge of Maths but with an extra focus on developing general Teaching and Learning within the school. Last week I begun my long year Middle Leader Programme run by WETSA.
However, dear reader, you must hear my honest truth.
I feel unsure about every facet of my role.
There. Got it off my chest. Down on paper. Honesty is better than pretending in my humble opinion! There was a large amount of my role as defined on the job description that I didn’t know how to do nor what they actually meant. It’s a feeling I had in my first two years of teaching. There was a lot of pressure and I didn’t want to admit to anyone that I didn’t know what I was doing.
Here is a list of how I tried to represent myself (but what was actually going on).
Wanting to do well (survival), enjoying 9-3 (was very good at building relationships with children but often poor teaching), observing a range of lessons and developing my own strategies (copying what I was told was good/outstanding teaching without any clue why they were done; again to ensure survival)
Returning to now, and I am pretty certain that my strong desire to learn, grow and develop are the main reasons that I received in-house promotion for this role. Within class, I plan, teach, assess, evaluate, keep/discard strategies constantly whilst reflecting on their impact on children. Question: How well do these skills transfer themselves to Middle Leadership and beyond?
The first step was filling in a 360 diagnostic to assess leadership skills. Being in this role for 14 weeks has not given me all of the answers I was looking for. I filled it in. Some colleagues, including SLT, filled in a diagnostic with their views on my leadership. It is obvious that we both agree that my leadership skills are at a basic level. Bonus: we both agreed on strengths and areas for development (or weaknesses in less PC money).
I have been to my HT a couple of times since September to ask if there are certain things I am not doing, should be doing, and if I don’t get them done by next Tuesday, will my backside be on the line? Every time, I am told to relax (the grey’s will take over otherwise), enjoy working in my new classroom and given a time frame to start taking over more of the responsibility of the job.
I am not daft(ish). I worked in my first school for two years and didn’t know whether I was coming or going (as above). Starting my third year at this school, I have been carefully guided down a well planned, personal CPD programme that I believe gave me the vision and skills to do my job well. Without my Head teacher’s intervention, I would not be where I am today.
Interestingly, the first session of the course focussed on the difference between leadership and management.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand what is very poor about this cartoon. I find it odd that it represents Management as mindless enforcing of reactive policies. It may become something like this in poor situations.
I am just beginning to dip my toe in to “Leadership”. Luckily, I truly believe in the wonder of growth, empowerment, questioning and enjoying challenge and change.
Again, I can’t stress enough how important the HT has been on my learning journey. I have always been taught to question everything – a father interested in conspiracy theories helped me there. What my Head teacher was able to do, was guide my focus and energy to the greater good of my teaching and children’s learning through building my skills but especially vision.
I can immediately see where she took the role of Leader, developing my values, innovation and questioning through coaching, literature and carefully planned opportunities for me to reflect and learn from (courses, observations and chances for collaboration).
At the same, there have been times where I have needed structures, specific training, analysis of performance to (hopefully) lead to better standards. These have usually been agreed on through a mentoring process but have also been invaluable. Putting on a Management hat, wouldn’t you agree?
Something to ponder:
Would you rather work in a school that is inspirationally led, but badly managed or a school that is efficiently managed with no vision?
Most colleagues from the course would prefer to work in the second one if they had to choose, as they felt individual teachers could bring their own vision to their teaching. Well, what about my first two years of teaching? Here the situation arises where the Class teacher has no vision and what happens now?!
Clearly, just like I have found in my current school and role, there needs to be a balance between managing and leading. Unlike the picture above, there needs to be (apologies in advance for the use of another vague buzzword) a synergy created. It shouldn’t be Leadership vs Management, it has to be linking the two together. My HT has clearly worked hard over the years to be this effective and combine the two roles.
I do not yet (and may never) have the answers, methods, models or strategies to be like my Head teacher and create a synergy between Management and Leadership, but…
I sure as hell hope that I have the principles to go some way to being half the Leader that she is.