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Getting the buggers to communicate…

First, the staff.  

From the start of the year (when I joined the department), I have blocked off some time in each department meeting to share good practice.    I wanted to get us to share more often, so that we were building our team at the same time as developing our practice.  

This term, I have introduced a ‘TeachEat’, once a week.  The whole department (where possible) gather together to eat our lunch – and I bring in some kind of cake – and share ideas / resources etc.   The first week was ‘strategies for dealing with challenging classes’, the second was ‘resources for teaching straight-lilne graphs’, and this week will be ‘revision resources / ideas for Y11’.

So far, it’s been a great opportunity to put our heads together and thrash out a few ideas.   It’s also meant that we could hear ideas from everyone in the department, from TLR holders all the way through NQTs and TAs, and all felt equally valued, because they were all equally useful!

I’ve also changed from my weekly email essay of important stuff (to avoid meetings being all about listening to notices…) to a proper, shiny newsletter.   I saw someone else’s, and thought it was a fantastic idea, so I totally stole it.  Shhh!  Don’t tell on me…   I have a weekly WWW (What Went Well) and EBI (Even Better If) slot for us as a department.  I keep people up-to-date with which Y11 students are getting the small group intervention sessions at the moment, I have a thought for the week (which is usually slightly silly), and an idea of the week, which usually relates to T&L.   There is space then for anything else I want to add, like key dates, a rewards focus for the week, and any other random musings that take my fancy.  

All in all, I think we communicate as a department pretty well.  We also try to go the extra mile, including having a list of birthdays, so we always do cards, and wherever possible, cake! 🙂

Next stop, the students…..!

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I have been reminded recently of a great poster that used to be on the wall of the office in my first teaching job.   It said:

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,  the courage to change the things I cannot accept, and the wisdom to hide the bodies of those people I had to kill today because they got on my nerves.

Also, help me to be careful of the toes I step on today, as they may be connected to the ass that I may have to kiss tomorrow.

Help me to always give 100% at work….

12% on Monday, 23% on Tuesday, 40% on Wednesday, 20% on Thursday, 5% on Fridays.

Help me to remember, when I’m having a really bad day, and it seems that people are just trying to wind me up, that it takes 42 muscles to frown, 17 muscles to smile, and only 4 muscles to extend my arm and smack someone in the face.   Amen.

The latter part is mostly for amusement value, but the start is important.    Change is a vital part of what we do.  We can whinge all day about stuff we don’t like about our jobs, and the frustrations that we face each day, but until we actually stand up and start to do something to change it, we’re wasting our breath.

I also saw a video about followers vs leaders here:   that struck home.  It made me think about who my followers are at work.  I like to think I’m a leader.  I hope I’m a leader!  Who is it that I am currently leading?

I must also confess to having been watching a LOT of the West Wing over the holidays.  I got the box set for Christmas, and due to a pre-emptive duvet day to battle an impending cold, I got through quite a few episodes.    There is a lot to be said for the Bartlett method of leadership.  He has 5 or so people surrounding him who are exceptionally smart people, good at making things happen.  He orchestrates, and enables these people to do great things, and he is there when a difficult call needs to be made.  Each of these people have their own support team, who do the same for them as they do for Bartlett.    I am nowhere near being a Bartlett, but I could be one of his support team.  Within school, I have the ideas, intelligence, and the capability to make things happen.  I can’t make the hard decisions, but I can take them to someone who can.

I haven’t really been in this position before.  Too few HoD’s or higher are open to suggestions for ideas from other staff.  I have worked in schools where I could have had a fantastic, feasible idea for doing something with real impact, and I wouldn’t have had anyone to go and suggest it to, as it just wasn’t something that was done.

I instigated a ‘suggestions box’ at a previous school as a conduit from staff to SLT, to combat just this problem.  I was in charge of the keys to the box, and would anonymise suggestions where needed before taking them to a weekly meeting with the Head.  She would discuss with me the ideas, explaining why they could or could not be done. I learnt a lot from this.  There are plenty of things that you know as a HoD or a Principal that would never occur to you before, which mean your great and feasible idea is actually neither.  The difference with what I did was that staff got an answer.  It may have been ‘no’, but at least I could tell them why.   We got the school bells fixed, maps made showing where everything was (especially the new IT suites that no-one could ever find), and a non-uniform day to raise money for a colleague we lost to cancer.   We made a difference, and that made a difference to morale.

Change is vital.  If you do what you’ve always done, you get what you always got.

Thinking about my little group of followers, such as they are so far, my strongest supporters, those who would try the craziest of schemes if I sold it to them, are mostly young, and mostly newer to the school.   I have decided that it seems to me, in order to really change something, it helps to come in from outside.  If you’ve been inside for too long, you can see too many obstacles to change.  You know the students, you know the curmudgeonly old staff who won’t change for anyone, and you have seen too many people try and fail.  You know that change won’t happen, so you don’t try.   If you come in from outside, you can see the issues, but you carry with you a belief that it can be changed.  You’ve seen it done differently elsewhere, and you have the enthusiasm and the passion to be the change you want to see.

‘Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.’   Henry Ford

 At this time of New Year resolutions, what do you want to change about your school?  More importantly, what are you going to do about it?

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