Friday, 14 December 2012

Leadership Philosophy: A first stab

Week three of my ASLDP course, and I had my first chat with my coach afterwards, the venerable @Plestered, and a number of themes are starting to emerge from these sessions, to whit:
  1. I will never get the course acronym right
  2. I will never remember my ID badge to sign in with
  3. Leadership is about moral purpose. And data. And not necessarily in that order.
  4. Leadership is about vision, and knowing how you want to run your organisation
  5. Ok, I only thought of four, but the whole numbering thing got the better of me...
I was discussing this with my coach, as well as talking about the various blogs we're both reading on leadership at the moment, and a recurrent idea seems to be this need to develop one's vision for leadership. At which point he told me I should write mine before my next coaching session.

Let's rewind here: I should write mine before my next coaching session.

OK, rewind a bit further...
I should write my vision for leading a school before my next coaching session.
While I'm still a middle leader.
Before I've learnt anything substantial on this course (and there are those who've rightly expressed doubt that I'm capable of that alone!).
Before I've even started my leadership secondment.
For a theoretical job as a potential Assistant Headteacher.
Before all that, I should try and formulate my vision for how I would lead an entire school.

"Excellent idea!" I said. 

Sometimes I can be a pillock...

This is what I've come up with so far. With virtually every blog I read and every conversation I have nowadays, I learn more and more, and I'm certain of nothing if not the fact that this wil change drastically with that learning. But every journey starts somewhere. So here are my thoughts on the tools I would use to run a school well:

1) Authenticity and integrity, from top to bottom. From leaders, staff and students. We will not produce a generation of people who have genuine integrity if we don't have it ourselves, and model it day in, day out. It's about people, stupid. And those people need to be valued and supported. If you are not able to value and support the people around you, and the students, and have that principle at your very core, why would you work in this profession?

2) Teaching and learning, curiosity and discovery, should be at the heart of everything we do. We should be a discovery community, staff and students alike. We should be learning from everyone around us, and we should create a system where that is systematically facilitated and celebrated. We should be learning from each other, we should learn from external sources, from business, from the community, from anyone who has something to teach us. We should create time within the curriculum where staff development, research and collaborating on best and next practice is not only prominent but a professional expectation.

3) High expectations. It's not OK for a student not to try their best in your class, is it? But teachers get paid to do their job, so why would it be any more acceptable for us not to give our students our best? I agree that you can't hit Outstanding every single lesson perhaps, but we need to find a sustainable way to give at our highest level as much of the time as possible. And make it sustainable for a whole school year, rather than having people break down due to ill health at the beginning of every holiday.

4) Use the strengths of the people you have. Good managers should manage, good teachers who are at the chalk-face day in day out should be listened to, and should have every possible obstacle to outstanding lessons put aside. Use the talents you have well. I'm sure someone even wrote a parable about it, it's that important. I think it was probably Jesus.

5) Openness and open doors: If anyone fears me coming in to their classroom, they will get more defensive. Staff and students have to know that failure is a crucial part of the learning mix, and that they should be doing it together. Failure is fine, as long as you learn from it, and progress from it. Consequently all feedback should be developmental. The same principle applies to those at the top of the teaching ladder, with large amounts of expertise, and a desire to experiment and hone their teaching skills, sometimes even try something outlandish. They need to be trusted. They need to be given the freedom and autonomy they need to develop. But that freedom is always coupled with accountability. One is the Yin to the other's Yang. Or vice versa. I can't remember.

6) Curriculum: We are in an unprecedented era of political interference in education, but we are also in an era of considerable freedom. If we allow our freedoms to be curtailed by our response to how others will perceive us, based on league tables and spurious measures of what constitutes a rounded education which we don't agree with in the first place, then we have lost our moral purpose. We need a curriculum which allows every student to find their light, to find the spark that sets their futures alight, and is right for that individual. If we don't provide that, we fail the students. By consequence, we need to be clear with parents what the rationale behind our curriculum decisions are, and we need them to support us in our attempts to give their children what's best for them, rather than what responds to flavour of the month. The students who leave our gates should be as ready as they can be for their futures, whatever that might entail.

7) OK, I know what I'm like if I get a list that goes beyond seven, so let's not push this. There's bound to be more to write in the future, and I'm likely to be changing my mind very soon about all this anyway, so let's stop here. Treat number 7 as your video at the end of term. And as an explicit statement that anyone who retweets to me any more "1047 new ways to enrich education with a pencil sharpener" will be shot! Malice aforethought. No early release from prison.

You've been warned...

(And as for Michael Gove...)