Before I go on, let me say this post isn’t bad news and probably not what you’re assuming from the title … gosh that sounds almost like “I think you need to sit down”. I should also say: I am not posting this “for effect” (that’s not my style), or looking for sympathy (I don’t!) nor is it because I’ve had a particularly bad day (I haven’t, but we all have them) and neither has my thought process been triggered because I hate where I work (I don’t) or my boss is an ogre (he’s not!) it’s just a series of incidents that have got me thinking … which is always dangerous.
With all the kerfuffle over Ofsted last week, and having time to read (lots! and lots!) more than I usually do, it would appear everyone is seeking answers about why we observe lessons the way we currently do and where we go next. To be honest it doesn’t take long to realise, that this just scratches the surface in terms of the questions being raised in the blogosphere – if you dig a little deeper, it would appear that our whole education system is in a state of flux and its got me questioning “what is the purpose of education?” Don’t worry I’m not going to go all high falootin’ and get all philosophical … at least not yet.
I came into teaching to “make a difference” but I can honestly say that I have struggled. Not with the teaching – ok, so initially it was the teaching, but it’s sometimes everything else that comes with it. In just five years, I can see that all this “stuff” on the periphery has changed the job – I speak/email/tweet lots of people (and I mean lots!) and I see increased accountability everywhere. Accountability in itself is not a bad thing, but let’s get it clear that there is a massive difference between being accountable and being responsible ….. I will say it again … a MASSIVE DIFFERENCE!. School leaders are accountable. I have no issue with that – someone needs to held accountable for the overall running of the school, and this I think (and its just an opinion!) is where a lot of the admin/processes and policies that are introduced as the “next big thing that MUST be introduced” stem from. Many leaders introduce these ideas/policies as if they were responsible for them. It’s a subtle difference, but a shift needs to happen for their sanity, but also for the sanity and well-being or their teams. Let me explain:
School leaders, and I include SMT are accountable (obviously the Head Teacher is ultimately accountable) for the results and outcomes for the students (amongst other things). Basically they have to answer for them.
The rest of the teaching and support staff are responsible for the results and outcomes for the students, which means we basically get it done.
Progression in teaching is quite linear, there are of course exceptions but it usually goes TLR->2iC->HOD->AHT and then onto Deputy and ultimately it could go onto Head Teacher. Most SMT having gained promotion will have been the “go-to” people who get things done, but once you get promoted you can no longer get “stuff” done by doing it yourself, and so a shift has to happen where the people around you are given responsibility for certain things and should be allowed to decide how to achieve those results. In order to grow and be an effective leader, SMT etc need to let go and trust teaching staff to be responsible for what they do (obviously if you are joining a new school or its a new member of staff this will take time). Teachers are professionals, and almost all (99.99% up until now) will have degrees and a teaching qualification and most will want to achieve the same thing as you .. better student outcomes.
In a previous life I was a “go-to” person who got stuff done (I’m not implying I don’t do anything now) and as I moved up the greasy pole I learnt that I couldn’t do everything myself. I was also lucky enough to have a great team who I came to trust implicitly .. ok so they wouldn’t design the “whatever”, or do that “task” in the same way as me .. I came to accept that it would be different, but it would get done and ultimately that was a good thing as I was accountable for it. They were responsible for getting it done and as long as I was really explicit about what, we were trying to achieve – more importantly they needed to know the “why” – they always rose to the challenge.
I’m aware that a high proportion of teachers leave within the first five years. My 5th anniversary is looming this Summer, and after all this time I find that I still struggle with having a boss, I still struggle with getting directives, I still struggle with not being told the “big picture”, I still struggle with “a one size fits all” solution to everything that is introduced … basically I still find myself kicking against the education system and it feels like I’m 14 all over again. (and I say that in the knowledge that some of you who read this work at my old school with some of my old teachers!) Now where’s this bloody 5 year wall that is so well documented …. I need to get some practice in to get over the ruddy thing!!