I was recently asked if I would contribute to some training on leadership. I was asked by a friend who lives and breathes it and is very well versed on it and the training in it.
I guess it felt like a premier league footballer asking for haunners from a Tuesday night 5s player.
My initial reactions were:
1.are you drunk?
2.I have nothing to bring to this table so chase yersel.
However, I guess, sometimes hearing from someone who has actually had the experience is more helpful than books and a day of trust exercises as you let your team mates fall in the river. So perhaps against my better judgement I agreed to do the first session of what looked like a very busy and intense day.
I was asked for the title of my talk. Eh? It was bad enough I was potentially going to be caught out by my professional friend never mind a serious title.
After much deliberation, I opted for leadership in the time of cholera, hoping there might be a few who would get the link.
Much like myself, I decidedly keep the presentation low tech, and talk from the heart. With a bit of HGIOS organisation to keep me from wandering off the track, I spent 35 minutes attempting to do justice to the rock stars I worked with and the most wonderful time that we had.
The link to leadership In the time of cholera was both about taking the path less travelled and despite dalliances, that eternal hope of true love. The doing what society expects even if it makes you miserable for years but eventually a happy ever after.
It was also the notion of being ragin’.
You see when I had the privilege of being a leader,to start with,everyone was ragin.
Weans were ragin as they were not having the best experience they could. The department were ragin as he we as were ragin and the senior management were squeezing them for results, numbers and being encore annoyed that a discipline policy was not working and the walls were getting decorated in referrals. And….the senior management were ragin as the weans were ragin and the staff were ragin.
Leadership?it was a UN peacekeeper and the winner from the bake-off that was needed.
1.1 Self evaluation for self-improvement.
My question to the girls was – what do you want when you come to work?
The answer was very surprising: I would like to enjoy coming to my work and I would like more learners to achieve.
So I had to set about creating an environment where people were happy to be at work ( bake-off champion time) and where they had the space to teach in a way that would engage our learners and give them every chance to achieve.
( my honest evaluation was a bomb under the department for improvement)
1.3 Leadership of Change
We had to establish a shared vision that I constantly reassured my girls I was carrying the can for. I needed them to believe in me, my ability to lead, manage and most importantly care for them. Cannot have inspired learners without inspired teachers.
We looked at the pressing needs for change particularly in the curriculum and teaching and learning process and made a short-term development plan that we could actually do! That would have an immediate impact. That was a real working document we could continue to reflect on and work with. And a realistic timescale, with measurable outcomes.
1.2 leadership of learning
For me, it was about the leadership of the learning of the teachers first. My girls were amazing but there were holes in their CVs and teaching toolkit and that gave me the opportunity allow them to develop both as teachers but as leaders too.
A few of them had maybe been treading water for a bit and needed a new challenge, and that’s what we did. I needed help to sort out assessment, mentoring and new approaches to teaching and learning,and the girls were delighted to be asked. And for want of a better phrase, got tore in, Heid first.
Not because they had to,because they wanted to. They were part of the change. They were the change.
We created a silent revolution and it did not go unnoticed.
We looked at the learning of our children and young people and listened to them. The ethos of the place changed. Staff were happy to be there, learners were happy to be there, we had a curriculum that we liked, staff had the freedom to teach in a way they wanted. I took as many of the challenging sets as I could, took all the detentions, and let my staff do what they did best, teach.
In turn, we developed a sense of trust with each other and we moved forward together at a frightening pace.
I suppose that combines well with
Our curriculum was exactly that. Ours. It was relevant and up to date, which in turn engaged the teachers. It was flexible and reviewed constantly. We had lively debate about what was going well and what needed chucked out the window.
We created pathways for every single learner and witnessed a shift in attitudes from school staff. Maybe our subject wasn’t actually as mince as they thought.
We began to see a real change in engagement from learners and staff. People were curious.
What is it you do? Why are you doing it? Who do you think you are?
1.4 leadership and management of staff.
“You stopped me being a screamer”
It’s amazing what happens when you de-escalate a situation. We had difficult conversations about acceptable use of ICT, about neck lines that were too low ( Washin was indeed flashed) and how it was never acceptable to say certain things to students. We had conversations about professional judgement, heated discussions about behaviour, tears and snotters when needed it and we had days when I felt all I could do for my staff was make tea and feed them cake.
Any opportunity that came to my department was offered to staff, they were given all the CLPL they needed and some. A few of us were working parents and we often felt we couldn’t be part of the school community after school. I decided that I would do Saturday school in the morning and took my daughter with me, the girls got involved top, bringing their wee people too. This got up the nose of other staff who thought we were trying to create a 6 day standard working week. Aye. As if.
My job was to set an example of what we could do and work my derrière off to prove to the staff that they mattered.
We mattered. Our learners mattered and we were there to put a dent in the establishment.
In a good sense.
2.3 Learning, Teaching & Assessment
Weans learned. We taught and learned. We assessed. In a manageable, real way. We changed the format of pupil profiles a million times. We stripped out CfE jargon from Pupil work. We talked about teaching, we were observed teaching from all over the authority. What is it we were doing that was getting such a reputation?
We enjoyed teaching. We created an environment where we were engaged, hence our weans were.
Assessment – stripped it back and changed the format. I refused to do setting exams at the end of a stage and annoyed a lot of people. My challenge to that was if you want to know about the weans- come and ask me. Data was demanded, I stuck my head, shoulders and Latina Ass above the parapet and said no. That divided the SMT….half of them thought I was a lunatic, the others thought I was a demented genius. Jury is still out.
We developed the curriculum, taught the weans and reported to parents.
3.2 raising attainment and achievement
Flexible curriculum. Top quality teaching and learning, weans at the centre. 3.2 sorted.
Regrets? Hunners of them. Leadership style? All my very own. Transformative change? You better believe it.
Where did I learn?
I watched and listened over the years. I got to know my staff, and I listened.
An absolute joy.