Every school is on a journey; it’s the very nature of what we do that means we’re always looking for more. There’s new specifications and syllabi coming through, new initiatives to drive our students to further success, ever changing targets or even the challenges of special measures. It doesn’t matter which school you’re in, there is always going to be constant change. These are just a few of my thoughts about managing that change.
1 – Know WHY you’re going
The reality is that you will generally know where you’re going, there will be targets, action points, strategies and many ways to measure progress. These are important but when it gets difficult looking at numbers and action plans doesn’t relight the fire that’s needed to make real change happen.
The real why is your motivation. We all have different reasons for doing what we do and motivation is rarely about one factor but knowing why you are working towards that goal will keep you going. You might be hugely motivated by equity and want children to be able to access a better future than they would have had without coming through your school, a real belief that education transforms lives. It could be pride; just taking real satisfaction is a job well done means a lot to some people. Others may be motivated by wanting a quiet life and knowing they’ve done what they need to do not to be pestered about it. It could just be fear of what will happen if they don’t succeed, Ofsted can be a real motivator, rightly or wrongly.
There are many motivators, some noble and some quite dark, but if it drives you to make change for the young people in your care I’ll put aside the moral judgements in exchange for the greater good on this occasion.
2 – Small Steps
Team Sky call it Incremental Gains, Zoe Elder Marginal Learning Gains, the Japanese called it Kaizen, but the idea is the same and a simple but effective one. Excellence comes in small steps, little things making a difference, many little things making a big difference. Quick wins are great and you’d be wise to get that momentum going but remember that true excellence take a lot of small steps, all of which matter as they all move you forward. As I was told on my first teaching placement many years ago “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.” Make the small steps and make them count.
3 – Be Like Vanilla Ice
I’m not suggesting that his hair style is going make a comeback. It’s more about the Stop, Collaborate and Listen.
To be more explicit, STOP being busy for the sake of it, make sure the things you are doing to make a change are actually going to make a difference; otherwise you’re just working hard for nothing.
COLLABORATE; there’s no point creating everything from scratch or solving all of the puzzles yourself. For every problem and challenge there’s a fair chance other people have already solved it or are working on the same idea. I know the depth of the talent pool where I work could have the kraken lurking at the bottom of it, if there’s something I want to improve on I can rely on my colleagues and I’m confident that many schools are in a similar position. There’s also the wider community of Teachmeets, Twitter and local networks. We’re fortunate to teach in a time where there is so much access to support you’d be foolish not to use it.
LISTEN because you might be wrong, there will always be someone who knows more than you and new research is going on all the time. Stay humble and be ready to learn. If you’re teaching the same way in ten years as you were today would you be happy?
4 – Embrace Evil
It might be the parts of the job that you don’t enjoy that are the final piece of the puzzle in making you a truly amazing teacher that changes lives. It might be that you hate marking, but if done well that feedback might be what finally pushes a student to realise their potential. It could be that you dread the difficult class, your positive attitude towards and influence on them might be the only one they have all day. Break duty might be when you could have had a quiet coffee or get a bit of marking done, but it makes children feel safe to have you around and cements those relationships that allow you to ask more of them in lessons. I’m not saying enjoy these things but understand the need to do them and do them well as part of your journey to excellence.
5 – Don’t be a Wildebeest
On the great plains the majestic wildebeest grazes on the grasslands, a lion appears on the horizon, they scatter wildly until one of their number is taken down. After the predator has claimed its prize they return to grazing as if nothing has happened.
In many ways this could describe how some schools deal with stress, it builds, there’s a lot of running around, someone goes under. It’s terribly sad but everyone continues on as normal.
You need to be a seal, and I’m not talking about circus tricks and smelling of fish. I’m talking about the Navy SEAL leave no man behind mentality. Look out for your colleagues, if someone needs support or help be there for them. If you’ve got a great resource or idea, share it. If someone is struggling with part of their practice you’re good at show them your tricks. Sustainable and significant change happens with people working together and looking out for each other.
Enjoy the journey.
Barry Dunn @SeahamRE