Authoritarian or Affiliative?

It’s exciting being a Senior Leader. Whatever people think about the hours, the time, the need to be in school in the holidays and the extra dedication, it’s thrilling too. It’s thrilling to be able to influence teachers and the classrooms of your school; it’s also a major responsibility and one that any leader takes seriously. How does one balance the workload of middle managers with their teaching? Being able to improve teaching means that everyone needs time to focus on it and with the amount of regular change and teachers being stretched in three ways at once, tutor, manager and teacher, it is hard to keep the focus.

Part of this is my personal style I think. Having read Debbie’s Blog here I share many of her traits.  I am definitely too emotional.  When I encounter an issue which is hard to deal with, I feel my personal gas flame flare.  This isn’t always a bad thing! In the face of injustice or when a member of staff is ill and insisting on continuing to teach, it makes me get up and do something about it. In the world of leadership, however, I am well aware it is a drawback because you do need to keep a degree of objectivity and detachment to be effective. I am very (!) well aware that isn’t true for me.

The other issue that Debbie also deals with is that of being friendly.  She says it in different and much more eloquently than I do, but I suffer from the same issue.  I always want to know how someone is and then get on with the job.  I pride myself on being open and accessible.  On the one hand, this is great because it means that I always know the issues around me, and in the staff body.  This really helps in terms of being able to manage and help staff morale as well as being able to address them.  Under previous management at the school, issues weren’t open and so this is a strength, but, and it is a big but (reminds me of a song..), I know that this also means that I don’t think I push our standards enough. Just as in a classroom you have the teacher that you know understands you, but are you pushed as much as you are in the classroom down the corridor where you are slightly afraid? I know that I’m the kind one. I don’t ‘let people off’ but I don’t think that I push as much as I should do.  

Having said that I model much of my leadership behaviour on some exemplary members of the SLT in my old school, including the Head.  He didn’t push, or rather didn’t appear to, rather he was open and accessible and it was the SLT who put exacting deadlines and tasks in place.  I think that in this case I am being open and accessible when I need to be more of the bulldog.

Hopefully, I can change this in my second year but it still has to be a balance. I don’t want to be personal or nasty – not at all, and I have seen that too! No, the ideal has to be exacting, perhaps, or challenging? 

That’s two resolutions for the new year…



Vision (or where we’re going)

It all starts with the vision. Where do we see ourselves as a learning community in a year? 3 years? 5 years?

Working collaboratively teacher and pupil to bring every pupil’s jewel to light. If you imagine that every pupil is an uncut jewel, then I think the greatest thing we can do is slowly hone, and grow that talent inside so that person shows their unique nature to the world. It isn’t about honing though – it’s about bringing out the innate.

The question is not the vision; the question is how. Currently we are in a state of inconsistency.  Some departments are outstanding in that they achieve consistently good results year on year, yes, but more than that. They feed the girls that they teach so that their subject becomes ‘the’ subject, ‘the’ passion, the one that they mention to our visitors and that is given pride of place in our marketing brochures.  We are good at those subjects and students shine – why?

I have no evidence apart from the anecdotal for what I am about to say which in itself means that I must quantify it more.

Anecdotally then, it would be high expectations and not letting go until those expectations are met, excellent modelling of what is required; complete creativity for the pupil to pursue their own interest using the skills taught in the lessons; complete commitment from the pupils as well as complete subject knowledge by the teacher who even though she has changed the spec this year has still achieved the complete run of A* at A level.

How can we replicate this recipe for success at A Level across the school without losing the individual teacher’s skills and talents in their own subject?



School Leadership and Learning

So here it restarts…

Having been promoted to a school leader, I want to try to consolidate all my learning and musings on teaching, learning and leadership in one place.

There is so much to do this year and I have read/condensed and thought so much that I need to sort through and organise some of those thoughts and ideas.

Here then is a space for reflection and evaluation.  A space to gather and reflect on all the great current writers on pedagogy and a place to document the journey.

I don’t know where I’m going, but I hope to look back and see the place I was.


One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich

I didn`t expect this novel. When I heard the word Solzhenitsen,I have always expected heavy introspection and connections with the vastness of Russia and its ways. This book is the opposite. Its focus is one day in the life of a gulag prisoner; a gulag is a Siberian camp for those who have offended the state in some way. The book details the day from waking,working and supper through to the final minutes before bed.
The cold is everywhere. From the stretched icy cobwebs on the inside of the room when Ivan wakes, to the ice that freezes the mortar,hot from the concrete mixer to the detailed discussion of boots, we freeze with him. It is a harsh world where men only survive through alliances and services. Here the qualities of unselfishness and thought about one`s fellow man are even more productive than in the modern world. The team leader is vital: he protects and watches for the team. He fights for the right to work on a building site with some cover and the odd scrap of wood or metal to be made into something else. The focus on essentials is such a lesson to the modern reader: bread is measured out in grams; the hot water that passes for soup; the pinches of tobacco which are eagerly passed about and the lack of basic sustenance that we throw away every day.

The lessons are everywhere, and it is this reflection which creates the magic of the novel. I shall never complain about the cold or what I have to eat again, never.

Lord of the Flies.

LOTFDespite many recommendations, I had never read this book before. I finished it last night, and found it alternately compelling and inspiring. For any type of novel, Golding’s grasp of foreshadowing and understanding of human nature is utterly thrilling. I was scared last night; scared, not of the external beasts that go bump in the night, but of inherent evil, violence and the way a pack behaves when rules and individualism are stripped away.

It starts innocuously enough with a tale of shipwreck and a group of boys. How innocent that first sentence sounds, but as the disappearences and the battle for hierarchy take over, the book descends into anarchy and danger. Reading this was much like I imagine playing Russian roulette would be; a dichotomy between the ultimate sign which releases tension and the eternal build up to it.

Only 12 chapters, it only took me a couple of hours, but the shivery ramifications of the struggle between Jack Meridew and Ralph will stay with me much, much longer than that.

So here it starts…

I don’t read enough, and I certainly don’t read enough of the ‘right stuff.’ As an English teacher, and one who takes my vocation (yes, I did use that word) seriously, I believe I need to stay one step ahead, and to remind myself of the wonderful ways authors manage to manipulate words.

So here, I start with a blank page, a subscription to Goodreads, and lots of lists.  The first one is coming up. I hope you enjoy, but even if no one ever reads this little post of the internet, it is my corner with my personal memories of the books that I read.

Welcome along.