10 Risks A Senior Teacher Could Take This Academic Year

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If you are (or know) a senior teacher, what ‘risks’ could a school leader take this academic year?

In most schools, I suspect senior leaders are very good at their jobs. They work tirelessly for their staff and community to get the best out of everyone to ensure the students have the best start in life. However, I suspect this is not the case everywhere. As in every industry, there is a minority that victimise others; who choose to ignore evidence and what research says about what works – they plough on regardless of morale and wellbeing.

Here are my suggestions for those school leaders who choose to ignore the evidence. Pass this blog on to one of your school senior teachers and see if they can ‘tick-off’ all ten risks listed below. I suspect they will be able to get over half marks …

1. Observations

Invite teachers into your classes. Why not? After all, we all learn from one another and we should never stop learning.

2. Marking

Leave your books in the staff room and allow teachers to look at your marking.  Why not? After all, with fewer classes to mark, you should be on top of your classroom workload, right? Keep the most important aspects of your leadership role in tip-top shape and give other teachers that chance to learn from you. How does ‘the work of that student’ appear in your lesson?

3. Cover

Volunteer to do another teacher’s cover lesson. Oh, go on! Make someone’s day; take the stress off your cover manager and give them some capacity. You have much more time to ‘cherry-pick’ when to do things, whereas teachers have 90% of their timetable flooded with contact-time. If that scares you, spot a teacher with a 5-period day? Ah, okay. I forgot. That’s most of the teaching staff. Well, maybe then just once a week, volunteer to do their break-duty spot … 

4. Evidence

50% of schools are reporting that they do not grade lessons or individual teachers. That means over 12,000 schools in England still do! If you’re one of them, insist that your school stops grading lesson observations and promise to ‘mention it’ around the leadership table, every week, until it is actioned. 

5. Stop Grading Things

If your school is also grading teacher’s marking, continue to look in students’ books, but refuse to give it a grade. It’s utter nonsense to judge something that can always be improved, especially without the teacher or student present to explain the back story.

6. Anecdote

If you’re helping form an appraisal judgement about another colleague you’ve not observed or line-managed, avoid anecdotal opinions and let the facts do the talking. Does that teacher turn up to work every day? Are they committed to the school? Do they have a good reputation with students? Are their results in line with subject national averages (give or take)? Are they engaged with professional development? That’s good enough for me. Don’t leave appraisal decisions to guesswork.

7. Banners

If you see an OfSTED banner on your school gates, ask some of your students to tear it down at the weekend. Go on, I dare you.

8. Wellbeing

If an impromptu meeting is called after school, let your headteacher know you’ve ‘got to leave’ at 4pm to pick your kids up from school. It’s a wellbeing and safeguarding matter …

9. Walk The Talk

Have just one day away from your desk. Send no emails and read none. Instead, walk around the school during any non-contact time you have and seek out the reasons why teaching is a great profession. Share this evidence widely. Be known for the compliments you give and have a catchphrase that you become well-known for – even if it’s a ‘thank you’ or a ‘well done’.

10. Comfort Zone

Tomorrow, test a fellow senior leader with the names of 10 other members of staff. I wonder how many names they will know? In my experience, we would do this once a term around the school leadership table – particularly with newly qualified teachers to help senior leaders understand the trials and tribulations new people faced as they entered the profession. It’s too easy to forget names, as well as general teething issues! This exercise created a healthy dialogue around the table, much more than ‘just the classroom’. Knowing a colleague’s name is a stepping stone closer to asking ‘can I support you?’

If you are a senior teacher reading this, go and say ‘hello’ to your site staff or catering manager; your classroom cleaner or the school receptionist. Let them know that the school cannot function without them, and that you appreciate the work that they’re doing to make the school as good as it can be. 

Go on, take a risk this year. How many can you achieve?

@TeacherToolkit

In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account in which he rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on social media in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated for '500 Most Influential People in Britain' in The Sunday Times as one of the most influential in the field of education - he remains the only classroom teacher to feature to this day ... Sharing online as @TeacherToolkit, he rebuilt this website (c2008) into what you are now reading, as one of the 'most influential blogs on education in the UK', winning the number one spot at the UK Blog Awards (2018). Today, he is currently a PGCE tutor and is researching 'social media and its influence on education policy' for his EdD at Cambridge University. In 1993, he started teaching and is an experienced school leader working in some of the toughest schools in London. He is also a former Teaching Awards winner for 'Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School, London' (2004) and has written several books on teaching (2013-2018). Read more...

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