Creative Teacher Support

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#Nurture1314

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New Year’s Day isn’t too late to complete the nurture post, is it? It’s fair to say that blogging has been a tad neglected in the last term, new post and all that, so when the topic came up from @ChocoTzar I made a mental note that I needed to update last year’s post which was, to say the least, bleak.

I will even attempt to follow the format this year. 13 things I’m thankful for from 2013 and 14 I’m hoping for, or aiming for in 2014. Here goes.

2013
1. I took up my new post as Assistant Principal in September. Its fantastic. Tiring and exciting in equal measure. A breath of fresh air.
2. New build. My new post, fortuitously, came with a brand new building. It speaks for itself. It’s an opportunity and a challenge in equal measure. All the while the poetry of the old building gradually being levelled and reduced to hardcore to create the car park and grounds continues. In a couple of months we will literally be standing on the foundation of the old building.
3. Free reign. Space to bring myself to the job, in fact, actively encouraged to with no indication that the “right way” to do things is the way that someone else would really want it done.
4. Learning every day. My previous post was as an AST. A colleague of mine has characterised the move to SLT as no longer being the, “guy with a good idea”, trying to encourage others to “buy in”. SLT is a more directive role. There are some things that I will direct and they will have to happen. Not always easy to adjust to.
5. The SLT. You never know quite how you will fit into a team. You have an idea, and you may work to fit that way but you never quite know. I can honestly say I have landed cleanly on my feet with an outstanding Principal always keen to hear my opinion and very approachable when the “stupid questions” arise, two VPs, one who line manages me in a way that easily gets the best out of me and another who is a good friend and a support at all times. The other Assistant Principal, it would be safe to say, has looked out for me in my first term and is always on hand for a chat and to provide the “inside track” on many a topic of internal politics. I’ve been around enough to know whether or not this is first term rosy spectacles – it isn’t – we differ enough to make debate useful and, it’s been clear how we stand together once debate has been had.
6. Eyes opened. I’ve written already this year about learning about what being a member of SLT really is like. The idea that, as we say in interview, “I’m already doing parts of this job…” You’re not. You’re really not. You’re probably close, but you really don’t know until you’re in it. I have loved almost every minute. Almost.
7. New colleagues. With some tests and challenges coming as standard, my new colleagues, quickly becoming friends in many cases, put me to shame in their professionalism, candour and expertise. I’ve been lucky to land where I have.
8. Old colleagues. Well wishers have been common since September, which is lovely. Often, before things are better, the day to dayness of our experiences of each other make you underestimate the good wishes people have for you.
9. Leading in my areas of “expertise”? The question mark may be self deprecatory but it’s true. You are appointed to lead and quickly find out that the expertise of those around you become almost more important than your own abilities.
10. Line managing. I line manage a Literacy Coordinator who could do the job with minimal input from me as well as two curriculum areas outside my expertise as an English specialist. I’m lucky to be working with leaders who are keen to be line managed and work collaboratively. I’m a big believer in line management. It’s refreshing to work with people who value this input.
11. External Review. A “Mocksted” with a team of real live inspectors felt like a real introduction to my job. A tough two days that brought home the gravity of the job I now have. I’m “in the room” when they deconstruct my day to day work and that of the team of which I am a part. That’s tough.
12. TLT13. Credit here resides completely with David Fawcett and Jenn Ludgate for their organisation of such a wonderful day and for allowing me to be a part of it. It’s always wonderful to get to meet those whose blogs you steal and admire and just get a chance to meet some folks you’d love to meet: Lisa Jane Ashes, Chris Moyse, Vic Goddard and Sian Carter to name but a few.
13. “Representing”?! There are few moments that bring home your new responsibilities as that moment when you attend the school show and have to “say a few words” on behalf of the school community. I’m not averse to talking in front of a crowd, but this was nerve wracking. It went well though, I think.

2014
Here’s where I outline the 14 (14!?!?!) things I’m looking forward to about 2014. As a dour Scot this may be a tall order. Despite our rather “glass half empty” approach to life, I’ll give it a go.

1. Carrying on with all of the above. I took up blogging to resurrect a flagging interest in my job and to deal with a bleak situation and prospects at the time. It provided me with a real outlet and a virtual “staff room” of supportive colleagues. My new post has done this in the real world. “Doing” my job is something I’m really looking forward to.
2. Lesson study. Despite my grudging admittance of my love of an audience, I’m certain that the input-output method of CPD or “sage on the stage” is just not effective enough to do what I need it to do. It also doesn’t fit with models of adult, or self-directed, learning. So, thanks to the work of people like Rachael Stevens and what she has shared, I will be implementing lesson study in my school with the staff under no illusions as to where solutions to issues with Learning and Teaching will come from: themselves and each other. Re professionalisation.
3. “Tiered” approach to CPD. Our external review made it fairly clear that our staff had an inconsistent understanding of our core values, vision and strategy. Before my arrival at my school, the Herculean task of bringing it out of special measures was completed. It seems fairly well accepted that there is a “formula” of sorts to this process, which seems to have mostly resulted in leaders removing barriers of any kind from teachers – ok, you may say, that’s their role. However, it can leave aspects of a culture in which teachers don’t expect to have to deal with the day to day aspects of the job and may even feel removed from a culture of decision making. As part of number 4, I want every member of staff involved in a working group that impacts on and informs policy. Combined with Performance Management, any whole staff input and lesson study as well as, potentially, departmental and individual CPD, I hope this creates layers of involvement for all that makes them active participators.
4. Re-professionalisation. One of the Inspectors from our external review pointed us in the direction of some documents that have helped us to begin to hone our vision for the direction of the school. Part of this is “re-professionalisation”, allowing teachers, colleagues to take responsibility for major aspects of their own practice. In many cases, a simple re calibration of the basic expectations for all teachers.
5. “Getting to Good” or “A Trajectory to Outstanding”? This is the question at the heart of what we’re doing. Do we simply want to get over the next “hump in the road” or are we in this, ultimately, to be outstanding?
6. Creating a culture of literacy? At a recent Ofsted conference, the question was raised (by Ofsted), how do you, as a school, communicate your values about Literacy? How do you ensure that any visitor is crystal clear about what the school vision and values are about this integral skill? Not and easy task, safe to say that the stock images of teachers reading up around school were not considered enough. We’ve got some great ideas and the canvas is blank. This may involve projections onto massive blank walls in the spaces in the new build. It’s exciting.
7. Collaboration. Being in an academy that’s part of a chain offers an inbuilt opportunity to get out and see what else is happening.
8. Seeing improvement through to consolidation. It’s already been a privilege to see teachers taking part in improvement programmes improving and demonstrating their learning, impacting on the kids they teach and their colleagues.
9. Gaining some ownership. Even the external review team acknowledged the fact that a lot of the data I had to present to them was “someone else’s”. I’m looking forward to having some data of my own, that represents my own work at the school.
10. Solidifying a reputation. One of the first things I had to do when I started was an Assembly for each year group. It was partly so they knew who I was. I was, and am, acutely aware that, starting as a member of SLT, it was imperative I was able to support staff with behaviour and make a reputation for myself with the kids. This is going well, but, again, it’s always a work in progress.
11. Blogging and contributing to more conferences like #TLT13. With the pressures of starting a new job, I haven’t given the blog as much attention as I’d like to. I want to work this into my planning as much as I can.
12. Seeing the new build complete. As February and March approach, the final phases of the new build should be at least nearing completion. It will really be something to see it completed.
13. 10000 steps. The first thing I realised in taking up the new post was the amount of walking we do. New shoes bought and a gadget pedometer, on an average day at the moment I’m on over 10000 steps.
14. Fruit. I need to eat more fruit. Bananas and grapes to start. Maybe a fruit bowl in the office, who knows?

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Author: Gordon Baillie

I am an Advanced Skills teacher in a large comprehensive school in the North West of the UK. Trained in Scotland, I have worked in a number of different settings in my almost fifteen years of teaching. I have been working with both my own and other local schools and their teachers to both enhance and improve learning and teaching for a number of years now. I am an experienced trainer of both trainee and experienced teachers and have contributed to both local and national conferences around learning and teaching, particularly around Assessment for Learning as well as being asked to contribute to keynote addresses around other, more generic areas of teaching. I believe that teaching and particularly learning are deeply creative pursuits and that the only way to continue to enhance them and the practice of teachers is to collaborate.

4 thoughts on “#Nurture1314

  1. Good stuff-look back look forward. The Janus Effect.
    You will continue to grow & achieve. The Fortune Cookie Principle.
    Eat more fruit. The Digestion Impact.
    Keep ablogging, One of the Wellwishers Team.

  2. I enjoyed this, Gordon – great to see how much you’re learning and how you’re growing into your new role over time.

    I think one of the big challenges of moving into an SLT role is pacing yourself and working out priorities. You see how much you want/feel you need to do, but have to work out how much you can cope with so that you (and those you’re leading) do it well. Sometimes that means making a conscious decision NOT to do certain things, or not to do them now. “Core values, vision and strategy” are really important here, as that’s what helps you decide on the priorities – what does need to be tackled now and what can perhaps be put on hold/picked up next term/next year/even the year after that.

    The issue of how far you ‘direct’ and how far you coach/question others to work it out for themselves is also key, and in my experience new SLT can err on the ‘over-direction’ side, often because they’re so keen/a bit impatient and eager to make their mark. I heard this from Professor Robert Kaplan the other day: ‘Leadership is about asking the right questions, not about having all the answers’ – in case that’s of any use….

    So congratulations on all you’ve learnt and achieved in year 1 and I hope year 2 is similarly energising, rewarding, productive and positive. And YES to the bowl of fruit in the office! I had one as a head and it helped me (sometimes….) to resist the biscuits and chocolate which appeared periodically in the staffroom!

    • Thanks for taking the time to make a comment Jill, I really appreciate it and having your perspective.
      I am loving my role and all the challenges.

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