This post is my reflections for my NPQML School improvement unit. In it I have tried to be honest about the struggles I faced early on my leadership journey. A journey that probably started without a map, direction, or appropriate footwear. I think of myself as a learner. I am here to guide and support my teachers to provide the best environment for the students we work with. To do this I need to be constantly reflecting on my practice and admitting (at the very least to myself) when I have made mistakes. I have based this post on an article Becky Powell posted on Sec-ed.co.uk entitled
Despite the vast differences between our settings, like Becky I too found the move to middle leadership empowering. I enjoyed being able to focus my ideas for improvement onto my key stage and as leader of that group of teachers was able to start shaping how effectively the curriculum worked for the students.
It is hard to run a department without having a clear vision – and I was thrown in at the deep end when I first took my leadership post.
This mirrors my experience. I took the job with little experience of leadership and no professional development in this area. I had ideas but these had not formed into a clear vision for my department they were more a collection of projects.
My initial style was consciously the opposite of the micromanagement symptomatic of my predecessor. A good teacher, well meaning but inexperienced at leadership, and under pressures from above, was that of what one of my PGCE mentors would describe as Seagull management. Swoop in squawk (well he said poop) and fly out again. Leaving you with a deflated feeling and an additional admin task or two.
However my new laissez faire approach (to make use of my business studies A Level) wasn’t overly effective either. Strong personalities, a lack of drive to improve, staff expecting me to solve their problems. Combined with my lack of experience in dealing with the administrative workload led to a rocky period with little cohesion between classes. As well as a lot of stress for me which for the first time affected my enjoyment of teaching. Although difficult I learnt a lot from these mistakes, lessons that served me well through future turbulence. I think your leadership style changes as you develop. Eventually you are able to change and adapt your style to fit or react to differing situations. In the same way you are able change your teaching style as you become more comfortable and confident in the classroom. It is through modelling of your values and personal ethos that will determine how effective these are.
The following year I changed my approach, unconsciously. I was not really a reflective practitioner at this point. This combined with a change in staffing led to the first year I felt like a leader not a manager. I became more adapt at completing the paperwork (Management skill Check!), more focused on which projects where achievable and of benefit to the students, and more confident in communicating. As Becky says
Everyone values good communication,
This is an area the NPQML has helped me with considerably although I still have room for improvement. The following couple of years have been filled with ups and downs both for me and the school. Many more ups than downs and we as an organization have come out stronger with the focus always on what’s best for the students. As a leadership team we are more confident and more capable of dealing with issues that arise. I have come out much more focussed on the impact of my leadership than consumed by completing the management tasks I am responsible for. Part of this is confidence and part, as boring as it sounds, is prioritising and effectively completing those essential tasks. Using ideas similar to the eisenhower box below.
The greatest and most positive change this year has been the empowerment that came with promotion to Assistant Head Teacher working directly under the Head Teacher. This has helped be see the reasoning behind many decisions and helped me rationalize my role and purpose in the school.
It has also served to clarify the roles of our AHT team allowing us to work together more effectively. The greatest benefit of this has been to start creating an ethos of collaboration that I hope is beginning to filter into our teacher’s pedagogy. The cycle of feedback is the next area we are looking at improving, changing the negative connotations of lesson observations into a supportive prospect see my previous post of subject leader evaluations.
I am enjoying my Job more than ever both the leadership and teaching sides of the role. I can see much more clearly the areas I need to improve in but also the areas in which I have improved. I am sure it is empowerment that has helped me grow and empowerment of my teams that will ensure they grow.