As I read more and more of the blogs by current education leaders (Heads, SLT, Middle managers and classroom teachers), I constantly think that the system is blessed to have such an articulate, committed, thoughtful and reflective group of professionals, prepared to put their thinking on-line, with the potential for others to comment and further develop ideas. The value of the sharing is that, even if you disagree with them, they have shared, made you think and, more often than not, nudge your thinking subtly in a positive direction. When OA produced a list of education bloggers, this list ran to several hundred. That’s a huge volume of shared thinking, from NQTs to school leaders.
With internet communication being instant, and the ubiquity of social media, it is possible to bring together a large number of professionals to discuss a common theme, as happens with #SLTchat and the other Twitter based formulations; it can, at times, be hard to know which to join. Twitter is also an “advertising space” for bloggers, who link their writing to tweets.
Twitter allows for continual themes, such as the #teacher5aday initiative, from @MartynReah, and my own #edn1000years, both of which, starting in December, have taken on a life of their own.
I don’t think the same can be said of the Government, or of the other political parties, all of whom seem to be following slightly varying versions of the same policy, with sound bites trumping coherent policies at every step.
The box at the header of this blog talks of leaders working through the efforts of others and that looking after the team is a significant aspect of the leader role.
As a life-long multiple sports fan, former player and coach, I am acutely aware of the need to ensure that each player is fully fit. With the Five Nations rugby on our screens at the moment, it is essential for the coaches to be aware of each player, so that they are each at peak fitness in order to play a full part in the game. To not do so could put the team under strain, which is why judicious use of substitutes can play such a key role, in the same way that cover arrangements need to be effective.
In a school setting, the leadership role is to ensure that the environment is conducive to maximising outcomes, to provide the best possible spaces for teaching and resources that enable the teacher and the learners to make best use of them. Allocating appropriate time for learning is a key function of management. If lessons are too long or too short, there can be shortcomings.
Everything has to tie together.
One weakness in the system is often a lack of awareness of external issues that might impact on performance. This can affect leaders as well as others. Leaders need to reflect on their own strengths and limitations so that they don’t become the weak link. I blogged about this, to some extent in “When a school gets sick”. Life happens to everyone, from the common cold, to “man flu”, broken bones, broken spirits/minds and more.
The ability of the team to “carry” a member not fully functioning can be diminished if the carrying begins to weigh another down. Whole team awareness is therefore essential.
I have been reflecting that, while the need is for the “system” as a team to grow, on behalf of all children, there is the potential for those schools in a sufficiently fortunate position to be at the top of the current pile to be making great progress, as a result of a fit team capable of promoting that growth. By default, though, that growth and success might, in itself become demotivating to others, in the same way that in a class where the same child always comes “top” can become demotivating to the rest of the class.
The only real way forward is to see education as a whole as a giant team, all working to the same ends. Sadly, the constant fragmentation of the system, with schools pitted against each other rather mitigates against that ever happening.
The one way that this could have been enabled has been removed with assessment being devolved to schools. Just working out what “good” looks like, as learning outcomes could have been the common thread that held the whole together. Now we have schools competing to have their assessment models replicated throughout the country.
If there is, therefore, the need for each school to think for themselves, then I think schools should take that luxury unto themselves. Organise the building, the teaching spaces and the available resources to maximise potential. Think, envisage possibility, plan effectively and efficiently, put in the necessary support, mentoring, coaching and oversight to see through the plans, with set review points. Celebrate positives at all stages, Value contribution and say thank you, individually and collectively properly. Unpick the successes and the areas for further improvement, learn from the process and repeat with the next project.
Build on success, even small successes and be able to share the development narrative, the rationale and the outcomes to the wider audience. Learn from the best, yes, but also think for yourself. Learn from doing and reflecting.
Remember; teaching is a team game. Pull together, or you can pull apart.