Tag Archives: Leadership

Leadership in the time of cholera

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
2.2 curriculum
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.
Leadership…….my way.

You’re not from around these parts……

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On Friday I managed to catch up with a dear friend from my uni days after spending the day in meetings. I was getting the coffee in and there was a chap straight out from the  Gillette adverts. All chiseled and clean cut buying his latte and books on leadership. One about your first 100 days in leadership and the other was on being a motivational leadership.
Seriously, the authors of these books must be raking it in.
I also see the amount of pressure people put themselves under to be moving for promotion and being the leading light in something or other.
I also the amount of money they spend on books and courses.
I suppose leadership takes on many different forms but for me it has always been about being empowered to really engage with teaching and learning and that first level, be able to be that leader that the children need. My experience in the UK and further afield has given me the experience to know what good teaching looks like. Executing that of course is a different thing.
However, there is a big bit of me that is desperate to scream just bog off and let me do my job.
I have found myself in leadership roles where I am leading teams, groups, staff and in some cases bigger groups on a bigger scale and so far so good.
Have I read any books on leadership? Eh no.
Have I been to a course on effective management? No.
Have I studied all the theories on management and leadership? Yes. No, I haven’t really.
However, I have watched and learned. I have listened and I have taken the things that work for me and tried to build on them to get the best from anyone I work with.
Interesting thing is that I have always had really strong female role models as leaders and my style has been very much influenced by that.

Today I was in a department with a male PT and it is really interesting to see how he manages compared to how I managed my department. Very different dynamic and different ways of handling situations to get the same outcome. We were both invited to go and speak to a group of headteachers, mostly women and he quickly passed to me to speak. My opening gambit was to apologise for the state of my hair and shoes ( yes, in trainers) then carry on with business. My colleague laughed at the end and said he loved the way I had broken challenging news and got everyone to be calm and agree to move forward. All that because I was wearing trainers and needed to pin the unruly curls up!

My day finished with a quick dive into a music shop to pick up a new capo for my daddy. I walked into the guitar shop and honestly, it was the most uncomfortable situation I have been in for a long time. They might as well have shouted out ” you’re not from around these parts”
4 pairs of eyes staring at me had me convinced I had had a fashion malfunction. Were my leadership knickers on show? Did I have a zip down? Eh no.
I dared to be a female in a guitar shop who knew what she wanted.
Apparently they had not heard of the type I wanted, so I asked them to check if they could order it for me.
Oh, imagine, they could. He then proceeded to try and sell me the cheapest as that would be best.
Eh? Hello? What about aiming high? What about knowing your customer?
I didn’t buy the cheap one but didn’t feel the need to explain who it was for ( the legend that is my dad)

Aye, maybe they needed a leadership course on how to breathe and give good customer service.

I’m off to do some effective management of the washing now, and a packet of malteasers.

Mammy points: 8/10 ( a bit late in tonight)
Manolo points 5/10 ( outrageous trainers)
Methodology 7/10 just for getting on my soap box

Keep calm and dae wan…

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https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=cFkoYE2yEiM

When my precious little lady was born I did things as a mum that I had seen my mum do. Some things I did because I had read about them and some things I did because it just felt right. Particularly when it came to well being of the wee lady. I was feeding her myself and of course she was nowhere near the wee point on the graph she should be and I started to get real heat from my health visitor to move on to the bottle so that the wee lady would gain weight more quickly. That stressed me out even more.
I asked for support and was referred to the most fabulous feeding advisor who took one look at me and one look at the wee lady and asked if I had any concerns about my daughters progress.
Someone asked me……
I didn’t have concerns but I had begun to doubt my ability to make the correct judgement. All I needed was someone to give me that wee bit of confidence and keep me on the right path.
She didn’t dress it up, she didn’t use terminology I had no clue about: she listened to me ( not on a time frame) valued my opinion and helped me to plan how to best manage my stress levels to make sure I was still being the best mum I could be.

We are constantly surrounded at the moment with jargon, must read articles, pressure to constantly be better as teachers, to be better leaders, to be better blah blah….
Do you ever feel like telling people to keep calm and dae wan? Even just for five minutes.
I love being a mum and I try my very best to get it as right as I can. I still ask my mum her advice, I still read things but most of all I do things with my daughter because they just feel right,
I love being a teacher and I try really hard to make it as enjoyable for the young people or teachers that I work with.
I do things because they feel right, because I have observed them and sometimes I read things and want to try it.
This constant rally call of get better quick jargon busters makes me want to poke my eye out with a fork.

I studied the theories about communicative methodology, good teaching,child development etc,- there is the reading bit. I have observed some of the most phenomenal teaching and it’s had a massive effect on my classroom but most of all, I have developed a set of skills for teaching and learning because they feel right and work for me.

I’ve decided that the best I can be is me. I try my best to get it right, to encourage others to do so and create the climate where they can be themselves. Being a manager is a bit like being that brilliant woman who took me in hand and asked ME If I thought there was anything wrong with my daughter as she wasn’t progressing the way the paperwork said she should. The woman who asked me if I needed help and if so how could she tailor it for me? The woman who called up my health visitor and told her to calm down and support me rather than stressing me out.And most of all? She listened.

What a difference she made. Leadership – empowerment – belief.

Mammy points 9/10
Manolo points 7/10
Methodology points on hold

A mi manera…..

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=avGAe9EVkjc

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( if you are not a Spanish speaker, the tune will help for the post today!)

So why have I decided to leave the best department in the land and weans I love from the bottom of my heart? Because I need to learn.
Oh aye, and I did it my way.
Let me tell you about the last 2 1/2 years. I took post in a department that had the talent, the resources but had been given such a kicking for years that confidence, vision and passion was barely flickering. My job was to get that ignited again and of course shake it up. Standing back and looking at the work my team has achieved in that time is nothing short of breathtaking.
I remember the interview as clear as day, my hair was being its usual unruly self and was straining to escape the pink flower trying to tame it. I left thinking that was ok, no hard questions.
Being offered the post was just what I needed and little did I know what an adventure it was going to be.
I moved my stuff in over the holidays and I remember thinking I felt like I had come home.
I liked the feel of the place – sure it needed a bit of fairy dust but potential was there.
First day meeting staff was a hoot, most eyed me pretty sceptically and that has not left. Her from HQ was the quote.
The department was ready to be taken forward and I swore I would.
I asked them what they wanted from their work and the answer : more kids passing exams and to enjoy coming to work.
Cards on the table? I wanted to put a stick of dynamite in the base and shout there was a new sherif in town.
I refrained from that. It I did have a Great Wall of China to pull down.
I actually did, and got a doing from the janitor for scraping the floor. Aye.
We overhauled the curriculum and little by little, demystified the teaching and learning of languages for staff and more importantly the weans.
The new intake just thought it was always like that but existing students were delighted with the changes.
Other staff in school were suspicious of me and what I was doing. The department were fully on board and the creativity started to flow, and the happiness too.
The kids enjoyed lessons and were engaging in this new modus operandi. Discipline took care of itself and people started to realise there was method on the madness.
Personally, I took an absolute kicking. Established staff didn’t like that a department who previously has been off the radar was now coming into its own and operating with a higher profile.
It’s easy to criticise when you don’t know but some of the chat was outrageous, from who did I think I was to we don’t do it like that here.
Really? Is that right?
We rode out the storm and do you know what? kept our dignity.
It’s easy to lose sight of what is important. The weans. Every time.
Our kids love our subject and they never let us down.
We took wider achievement and removed it right up, we had theme days, visited restaurants, worked with uni,booked cinema trips, told everyone and their granny about the kids and stood back and watched the magic happen.
Why?
Because that’s why we teach.
Don’t get me wrong, I cried, I swore a lot, I questioned but I worked with a team who bought into the madness and I had support from my headteacher who believes in my vision for language and for weans. Despite telling me when he first met me he wasn’t convinced about languages.
We’ve transformed our corridor into our story, our base is open and seniors have their coffee and come for a blether.
We’ve made it their home as much as ours.
These kids have left the biggest footprint on my heart,and humbled me on a way I can’t even begin to describe. They’ve taught me so much about myself that I feel I was the student. Their love for the subject and my team came to the forefront at national teaching awards last year and what a riddy that was.
I received a card from a former manager who told me to stop greeting and to say I knew you would do it, the department has become the beating heart of the school. My ladies did that.

As a leader I’ve pretty much played by my own rule book but I’ve tried to support, inspire and look after my girls as much as my weans and lead from the front. Can’t expect them to dress up in the Spanish frock and shake their maracas when I won’t,
( not a pretty sight I tell you)
My job went live on Saturday and whoever comes in to take over will have an early Christmas.
So why am I going?
Because I love it, but it’s time to pass on the baton. It’s also time for me to learn. I wrote during the week about pushing myself out my comfort zone, and now it’s time to do that. In a big way and as I feel almost bereft and a bit wobbly. I know it’s not only the right thing for me, but the right thing for my family.
It was indeed my manera. With trainers. And yes, I am getting that star tattoo.