This is one of the blog posts that is really a “note to self”. Year 2, 6, 11 & 13 teachers are all busy marking mock papers, prepping for early SATs or those at the normal time, analysing gaps in pupils learning, writing reports and all this alongside the usual planning of lessons and marking demands for other classes or subjects.
It’s a stressful job and unlike some of the prevailing educational wisdom I don’t consider I’m doing a good job if staff morale is low. At this time of year that last thing teachers and support staff require is a whole series of new initiatives or demands; certainly anything that would disturb their primary focus of doing the very best for every pupil sat in front of them. The fragility of staff can be witnessed through the very personal tearful individual to the spike in exclusions, particularly permanent ones, which occur in the month of March. As a leader you need to sometimes ask yourself, “Who cares for the carers.” The answer is you do; if not you who else?
From the announcement of a major new policy, to further increased monitoring and surveillance of staff or last minute panic measures; all are more likely to be counterproductive than they are effective in the next few months. In reality they might not be that effective in any month. There is something oddly calming about running around like a demented person doing more and more. You can help and guide but it is the hard work done by pupils over the years and in the coming months which is largely going to determine their success. We have both a radically revised Appraisal Policy and a brand new Teaching, Assessment and Learning Policy I could do with discussing and consulting staff on. The “hurry up” in me says get them out there, get the job done. The leader in me says “wait”, now is not the best time; second half of summer term is soon enough.
John Tomsett has consistently blogged about shifting interventions into the class room. We have taken some big steps forward this year following revision of our whole approach to assessment. The interventions happen in class rooms across the Trust, from Early Years to Sixth Form, from the start of the year as teachers carefully assess what pupils do and don’t know and reteach that which they don’t. Invariably there is still lots of revisit and reteach in the final few weeks before major tests or examinations but are whole approach is now much more methodical. Over time we hope this will have a cumulative impact on pupils’ learning as well as helping us improve teaching.
As a leader this is the time to be positively present and be a positive presence; people want to see you about as an outward sign of support and may need your support whether that is advice, some direction or simply a shoulder to cry on. Leaders need to step forward at the big moments; March and April are big moments in the life of any school when the stresses are highest for staff and pupils. Think about small practical actions you can take; more time on the corridors at lesson changeover; cakes at break; a couple of supply teachers in rather than more cover for teachers; reducing some of the calendar demands … small sincere actions to lighten the load or mood matter.
This Sunday’s blog is the #MeltdownScenario we may well be approaching as an Education System. I may not be able to change the direction of travel of all schools but I can influence the three I’m directly involved in. There is a serenity in accepting this and channeling all my efforts into making these places where I would choose to work and send my children to. Frazzled, short tempered, exhausted staff in front of classes isn’t good for anyone; please don’t drop any bombshells on eggshells.
#SaturdayThunk is based on something I’ve been thinking about, discussing, working on or has been topical that week. The thunk is designed to be bite sized and will deliberately be kept short. It will take one small issue or an aspect of something much bigger. The intention is for it to be read in two minutes as you’re relaxing or busy running around on you day off.