How should teachers prepare for stepping up into the working life as a school leader?
Generally, there is very little preparation given for teachers stepping into school leadership. Of course, there are professional development courses and promotions, but how do schools create opportunities in-house, sustainably?
Encouraging those new to leadership
In my life as a school leader, there were highly performing teams and the not-so-productive.
Regardless of the context, there was always a moment when every team needed to reflect on their priorities, roles and responsibilities, and the kinks in the wheel.
This required a review of leadership values and consistencies in order to become more effective.
Supporting leadership teams
Today, with limited resources, the biggest challenge for schools is the current leaders having the capacity to ‘grow your own’ and create systems to allow potential teachers to have some form of exposure in their work.
When thinking about the highly-performing teams I’ve worked with, and where we sometimes fell apart, below I’ve gathered a number of key leadership consistencies my teams discussed for all school leaders to work towards.
Last week, I published a couple of resources to help schools become more transparent with their teacher training pathways. I also shared shadow leadership opportunities for teachers who want a flavour of school leadership life before they consider doing the actual job.
Not only do both ideas give a current school leadership some capacity, but it broadens the perspective of the teachers who gain from these experiences. The result? Transparency and shadow-leadership opportunities, whatever the position, offers collegiate voices around the school if or when those teachers step back into their former role. It also gives any current leadership team members the opportunity to mentor somebody else.
Are you working consistently, together?
These ideas build upon an amalgamation of past leadership roundtable summits I’ve sat on.
As a member of the senior team
- First loyalty is to the school and the team, individual responsibilities come second to collective responsibility.
- Express your views in the meetings; open discussions lead to better decisions.
- Live the vision and the school’s values.
- Keep your door open/radio on and respond when appropriate.
- Put your hand up when help is needed. Everyone is busy.
- Be on time.
- Presence matters – lesson change, corridors, on duty all make a difference.
- If you see it, deal with it, and then follow up.
As a lead professional
- Be a role model professional at all times, including your classroom practice.
- Never forget that the ‘stadium is always looking at you’. Your body language and tone has an impact on others.
- Know the names of the staff and students. All of them.
- Keep your ear to the ground and listen to staff and students so you know what is ‘really going on’.
- Be a good member of the other teams you are in and a colleague to all.
- Be relentlessly positive, find opportunities to praise, send those appreciative and ‘thank you’ emails.
- This is a rewarding and enjoyable job. It is important others see it, particularly those considering senior leadership.
As a manager
- Be approachable, reliable, objective, clear and transparent.
- Work on the balance between support and challenge and never forget wellbeing.
When school leaders reflect on the individual and collective reputation of the team, trust amongst all teachers sitting around the table enables a school to thrive.
This is specific advice for aspiring leaders, and serves as a useful reminder to all.