One of the aspects of leadership I enjoy the most is building capacity by supporting the professional development of colleagues. This can be done in a variety of ways including:
Coaching – proven to be a powerful tool for developing others. A good coach needs training and experience to be able to ask the right questions at the right time to guide the coachee to find their own solutions to the problem/issue arising.
Mentoring – similar to coaching, but using your experience to guide and advise.
Delegation – Delegating tasks and projects to members of your team. Done carefully, this can build skills and confidence and increase the levels of responsibility that staff have. This builds a solid foundation for future career progressions.
CPD – Identifying appropriate courses and cpd opportunities for staff to attend. I turn the clock back to the stage of my career that those in my department are at to understand what might be beneficial for them. Coaching to get staff to identify their own needs is often the best way to go. However, sometimes staff underestimate themselves so don’t consider certain options (e.g. middle leader courses for outstanding teachers only a few years into their career). There are a lot of organisations out there that provide training, but do not always offer quality cpd, so caution needs to be taken (this could be a focus for a future blog post).
Have faith and instill confidence – Supporting ideas and recognising and acknowledging effort. This says “I have faith in you and value your contributions to the team”.
Think big and take your team with you – I love to innovate and try things differently to improve the learning experience of the pupils. Even when things are going well, I feel the need to review the process to see if it can be even better. This is a challenge that all outstanding schools have. It’s a difficult journey to get to outstanding, but arguably it is even harder to maintain and improve from this position. As I embark on this journey, I take the rest of my department with me, giving them the opportunity to develop at the same time.
It is sometimes the case however that teachers (often including NQT’s) lack a Head of Department that lacks the vision and passion to drive forward a department and developing those in their team is low on their list of priorities. There are many possible reasons for this mindset. It isn’t always conscious,and it can sometimes be a lack of skill rather than will.
This post wasn’t intended to be aimed at middle leaders that lack vision, more for the teachers that find themselves within the team and being “led” by said leaders.
Core businessRemember why you are a teacher and ensure that everything you do has a positive impact on the learners in your classes. Relating things to school and department development plans is also a good idea. If you are challenged by anyone on what and why you are doing it, this should keep those middle and senior leaders happy.
So here is a 5 point plan to looking after your own interests to ensure you develop professionally, to prepare you for that next post.
1. Develop a growth mindset (Dweck 2007):
Have the confidence to try out new things. Embrace challenge and change (one day you may have to lead change). Persist in the face of set backs. Learn from criticism. Be inspired by the success of others, not threatened by it. See effort as the path to mastery.
2. Record your progress
There are a few different aspects to this. I have found it useful to record three things;
- what you did,
- what impact it had on pupil learning,
- and a reflection on your own learning. What skills did you develop and what did you learn about the experience that you can take forward into the future.
3. Find yourself a specialism
Try to focus on a specific are of your teaching that you could use as a USP in future interviews. Within my team, Greig has specialised in areas such as leading outdoor activities and running a whole school enrichment programme (amongst other things). Tom has made himself a regional lead in delivering Parkour in schools.
4. Use social media
When I started teaching practice in 2001, I absorbed so much information from so many people. To this day, I always look for good practice, take those ideas/concepts/methods, then mould them into something that fits in to my overall ethos and style. I look everywhere, not just to those more experienced than me. Colleagues in my department, Greig and Tom (5 yrs and 2yrs experience respectively) are always creating brilliant ideas that I constantly take, adapt and use.
I was fortunate enough then to learn from and be supported by some inspirational teachers, many of whom I still work with. Had I not been so lucky, I would have struggled to have found the support I needed to develop into the teacher/leader I am today. These days, I have a device that fits into my pocket, on which I can communicate with thousands of like minded people who provide ideas, inspiration, support, resources and more. This online community is the perfect place to grow in confidence and inspire you to try new things in your lessons that will inspire and engage your pupils.
5. Seek your own CPD
I am a member of the National College for School Leadership (NCSL). They provide a wide range of resources, including online seminars and courses that you can complete. Click here to see a list of courses available. You can also join an online community (see point 4) to discuss various issues in education. There are a whole range of opportunities available and for free! It looks good at future interviews if you have been motivated to get yourself onto courses in your own time. You can sign up for free at https://www.nationalcollege.org.uk/login
Finally, it is worth remembering that your teaching career will span over decades (if you enjoy it as much as I do). If things are difficult or you are unhappy in a post, it will not last forever.