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Leadership

Dysfunctional and Responsive Leadership #ThursdayThunk

There’s a storm coming; are you going to survive or create it?  This was a tweet I sent out as part of the EoS Conference 2016.  A couple of great days including a visit to Hartsholme Academy, Lincoln followed by the conference on the second day.

Photo Credit: Gian Luigi Perrella via Flickr cc

Photo Credit: Gian Luigi Perrella via Flickr cc

There’s lots of talk about the forthcoming “perfect storm”.  The storm centres around issues of sufficiency in particular: enough school places for pupils, enough teachers to teach the increasing pupil population and enough funds for schools.  Sat beneath this is a deeper issue of a corrosive culture in schools and the system more widely; compliance out of fear, debilitating apathy or people simply walking away.  These are the products of dysfunctional leadership in which people’s purpose and passion is no longer supported or at worst crushed by a school or the system rather than being enhanced.  The focus is too narrow or the wrong one, there is too much measurement of the wrong thing or at the wrong level and micromanagement is driving people to despair.  This is the storm that too many are trying to survive.

Teachers come into education because their purpose and passion is teaching pupils and teaching them well.  Imagine as a school leader creating an alternative storm which enabled teachers to thrive as teachers; was responsive to their needs, the things that matter to them, at just the right moment.  Rethink data so it is focused on what pupils do and don’t know captured in such a way that it is useful to a teacher, in the class room, close to the point of actual teaching.  It may not be written down in order that it can be checked; the teacher is focused on the pupils’ learning not the leader’s monitoring.

Going to watch a teacher is about helping her/him analyse, identify and improve an area of practice.  Trying to make any kind of summative judgement doesn’t make sense; the grain size of seeing just a few hours out of hundreds of hours of teaching just doesn’t make sense.  We’re inappropriately measuring far too much as leaders; now’s the time to step back and focus on improvement.

Reviewing schemes of learning or lesson plans produced by teachers or teams of teachers is a collaborative process focussed on improving planning to benefit pupils in the class room; to enhance teaching in order to enhance learning.  Has the “what to learn and how to teach it” been really thought through and an opportunity to reflect on their teaching created through evaluative feedback loops; have the pupils learnt or not?  Will you come and watch me teach this bit and give me some feedback?

Thanks to Carl Jarvis and the company of other colleagues who engaged in the debate; you’ve got me really thinking I’ve been a dysfunctional leader for long enough.  Can I become more responsive to the needs of the people lead in order to help them pursue their passion for teaching with greater purpose and increasing excellence?  This isn’t a nice to have but much more of a need to do,

#ThursdayThunk 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/three minutes as you’re busy running around at the end of the week or relaxing on your day off.

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Discussion

2 thoughts on “Dysfunctional and Responsive Leadership #ThursdayThunk

  1. Thoughtful post. I’m trying to do my bit on the funding side of things, which is critical to a leader’s ability to realise their plans. I’m developing some tools for school leaders to use to plan funding scenarios in the absence of hard facts about how much damage the national funding formula could do. Then some ideas about reshaping budgets, starting with a method to work out how many teachers you can really afford. Surviving the changes will need creative thinking and advance planning. Rushed decisions may not be the best decisions. Waiting until the facts are out could lead to having to make bigger cuts to compensate for the consultation and notice periods for redundancies. If you have plans ready on the shelf you can take advantage of changes like turnover in a way that’s compatible with your vision, school improvement plan and curriculum plan. I’d love to know what else leaders need from this area. What are your biggest challenges?

    Posted by Julie Cordiner | April 21, 2016, 7:34 am
  2. This is better

    Posted by Peter A Barnard | April 21, 2016, 11:32 pm

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