For the last couple of years I’ve been working with quite a few people who are new to role – whether that be new to the profession, new to middle leadership or new to senior leadership – and I’ve noticed there are a number of things which no one ever tells us when we step into these roles and it makes our jobs so much easier when you work it out. I’ve read leadership books and I’ve had coaching over the years but I firmly believe I became much more effective as a teacher and a leader when these things clicked – and that was before I read them in a book 🙂
…always start with outcomes
I sit in a lot of CPD sessions or scroll through Twitter and continually come across “my SLT said no”, “my line manager doesn’t listen”, “my school won’t let me take students out of lessons to do fieldwork”, “my SLT tell us we have to do this”, etc. As a Senior Leader is really gets me rattled – SLT being presented as the enemy who stifle and prohibit subject areas (particularly when linked to fieldwork) – and only being trapped in the middle of a full row stopped me from walking out of a keynote presentation last year in which the speaker said “just do what you want and ignore your Senior Leaders – they know nothing”! No one suggests it might be that they have a different (and equally valid) view and it’s actually quite an easy perspective to deal with – everything is going to start with outcomes.
As a Subject Leader I’ve never had an issue with getting students out for fieldwork when I’ve shown how it would close a gap in outcomes. Unpicking performance on questions about rivers showed this was an issue so changing our fieldwork (which at the time was an urban study – when we were in London so urban issues were just part of daily life for our students) to visiting a local river and investigating processes and landforms first hand would help close this gap. More recently, teaching coasts to students in the West Midlands who live about as far away from the sea as you can get in England threw up some interesting challenges and misconceptions so planning residential fieldwork in Dorset significantly closed the understanding gap and their mock grades are already showing a difference. I know the value of fieldwork is much wider than grades but I also know it’s pointless trying to get students out on fieldwork if I can’t show a curriculum or attainment link.
As a Senior Leader I have had many people come with their ‘bright idea’ for making learning fun and engaging and, while I can see where they are coming from, I have said no because there was no clear link to outcomes or learning. I wish someone had told me from the start that I had a greater chance of someone saying yes to my ideas if I presented it to them in a way that met their priorities (even if my actual reasons weren’t quite the same!).