There have been many Twitter conversations and debates of late about the qualities and the failings of Senior and Middle Leaders. It seems that the experiences teachers have with their SLTs and Middle Leaders varies massively from school to school. I have clearly been very fortunate: I have taught in the same school for the whole of my 15 year career, but I’m now on my 3rd Headteacher (plus an Acting Head for a short while), and the SLT members, and indeed structure, have changed since 2000. In all of my time at the school, I have always worked for a very supportive team. Friends too often share their experiences; many of them have families, but as yet, I’ve not found anyone whose stories match those of this week’s Guardian Secret Teacher.
Reading the story of this teaching mum filled me with horror. You would hope that hers was a one-off story, but sadly, reading comments on the page and those that followed on Twitter, it would seem not.
As I have written before, I am beginning my venture into the world of Senior Leadership this year by taking the NPQSL. I have also taken on the role of Phase Leader for September, so for me, thinking about what will make me a good leader is incredibly poignant at the moment. I’m pretty sure I will make a good leader, but when I tried to think why, I struggled.
This article by John Dunford, outlining what he thinks makes a good Senior Leader, listed 8 skills needed. Although this article is now a few years old, surely the skills and principles haven’t changed?
Dunford’s principles were:
- keep a relentless focus on teaching and learning
- hold to the values that underpin the work of the school
- be visible around the school
- build a learning community among staff, as much as among pupils
- ensure that leadership style suits the occasion
- find good ways of involving parents and the community
- communicate endlessly.
I’m so very glad that I read this, as so many of these are principles that I hold dear. I am desperately trying to promote the sharing of ideas and learning experiences throughout the school; I’m forever talking about the value of sharing good practice on Twitter and want to encourage others to visit other classes in their phase to see what goes on. Parents have had more involvement in the school this year (especially in KS2, and in my year group) than ever before. We have worked hard over the last 12 months to decide on the Key Drivers that underpin our planning, so our values are reflected in everything that we do. Many of the other skills I have blogged about before (here and here) .
For me, the biggest challenge has been my leadership style. Until recently, I’m not sure I had one. I would speak my mind and, although never one for confrontation, I would say what needed to be said and deal with the consequences after, whether it be parents or other staff. I think I have learned to stop and contemplate a little more, to consider what I say, and to perhaps think a little more before speaking. I still say what needs to be said, but in a more measured way. That, I think, is a crucial skill for any leader.
I don’t want to be the kind of leader that the Secret Teacher wrote about. I want to be a leader who gets the best from the people she works with, who is fair and reasonable and understands the demands on staff outside of school. I hope that, by combining my own skills and work/life balance with the support of my school’s SLT, seeing how they work and cope with the demands of Deputy Headship and learning a great deal over the coming year, I can become that kind of leader. Perhaps if more of us shared our experiences of good leadership and how leaders have supported us, then we can prevent more good teachers like this week’s GST from leaving the profession we love so much.