I know that Twitter is occasionally like the online staffroom – that safe haven where teachers and staff can (quite rightly) get things off their chest. And I know that what staff quite often want to get off their chest is the latest initiative that is causing their workload to resemble the never-ending story –except that at the end of term you won’t be flying atop a massive flying rodent with a moustache. Occasionally, the staff room is also the place to (whisper it) BITCH about senior leaders.
It is this element of the staffroom/Twitter comparison that I find the most uncomfortable. Not just because I am pathetically needy and want everyone in the real and virtual work to think that I’m great. Nor because it is necessarily untrue.
No, I find it most uncomfortable because
- Nothing I say about the virtues of my leadership or the fantastic Heads I know will stop others from thinking ‘Yeah but what do you know, you’re a Head…you probably wouldn’t know a successful lesson if it kicked you in the Ed Balls*: you’re too busy chasing the Ofsted golden ticket of outstanding like some deranged OmpaLumpa in a suit: you disgust me.’
- Nothing I say will make those depressed, deflated or damaged teachers feel better.
- Nothing I say will improve YOUR SLTs.
So what’s a Head to do?
Well, all I will say is this:
If you truly see absolutely no value in the people who are leading your school then you should leave. I know, I know: that’s not fair; it’s not you who should have to leave it’s them. But face it, if you’re in a situation where their exit looks unlikely then why put yourself through it? Please don’t say ‘for the sake of the children’. Again, I know that sounds mean and callous but the damage being done to them by poor leadership is greater than the good they have with you for one year. If you want to feel valued as a teacher you must work in a place where you feel valued and where that sense of worth is reflected back onto the SLT. It is the strategic direction of the school that impacts most heavily on the achievement and future achievement of children. I truly believe this.
As a teacher I worked in a school where the thought of me ‘not’ being there for the children sickened me. They were disadvantaged, didn’t see the point in school and were deemed so unlikely to succeed it would break your heart. It was a privilege to teach them and to see them succeed. But when the leadership of the school began to crumble I could see that no matter what I did, no matter what magic I achieved in the classroom: it wouldn’t have a lasting impact. Except maybe in years to come some of them might think back and say that they quite enjoyed my lessons but that isn’t good enough.
So I left. Did I run away? Did I let those children down? Maybe. But not as much as those getting paid a lot more than me let them down. I saw a window of opportunity where I could have a greater impact on more children for a sustained period of time and I took it. And I’ve never looked back-partly because it was too painful.
Ok, let’s cheer things up.
If you really don’t want to leave then try this: Even though I’m a wonderful leader to the point where I’m probably written into most staff members’ last will and testament, I do think that ensuring a school’s leadership team are effective, strategic, good at their job and nice to people is pretty darn important.
So to achieve this in my current school my SLT are at this very moment creating a code of conduct for SLT. I am very happy to share its current daft with you fine people. It is a draft based on discussions we have had about taking the school forward and represents what we want to say about ourselves and hopefully what others will say about us.
You will see that the draft is in two colours: the black writing is the official document and the red writing is the official document but in plain English. I call this version the ‘idiot’s guide to SLT’ and we’re using it to make sure that everyone in SLT gets it…because you can’t be too sure!
SLT Code of Conduct idiot’s guide
So, read it, tell me what you think. If you like it why not photocopy it and leave it in the Head’s office or under their windscreen wipers or use it as their screensaver. All I know is that I’m proud to be a school leader. I think I’m good at it. I think I can unify and lead a load of people in a direction that could help children achieve. But I also respect the job too much to risk it being ruined by some of the behaviours described on Twitter in recent months so I won’t let it happen and here is how I intend to start.
*I appreciate Ed Balls is a rather old education reference but I could hardly have used Tristram Hunt could I…that would be rude.