As I start my first SLT role, I’ve been reflecting upon some of the leadership teams I’ve worked under and have come up with my ‘Bluffer’s Guide to School Leadership’. This post reflects the things I’ve learned that some school leaders do and things that I won’t be doing in my new role. I hope you enjoy this, my first post on my brand new blog.
Leadership is one of those jobs where, when you’re not a member of the ‘team’ you wonder why and how some of them actually made it on to that team. On a bad day it can often feel as though ‘they’ (and yes we rarely talk about them as though they are on the same team as ‘us’) are weak, ineffective, have the emotional intelligence of a Nazi warlord and spend all their days in their offices with the door closed. Sound familiar?
Please don’t misunderstand me, the good days do exist. I for one have worked with and for some fantastic leaders. I have a huge amount of respect for those that have taught me so much through being consistent, positive and clear in their vision. Those that I can only hope one day to emulate and follow in their footsteps.
Please note that this article is a tongue-in-cheek reflection of a number of different experiences, all true, that I have experienced during my years in the teaching profession.
Welcome to the Bluffer’s Guide To School Leadership
Go to ‘notonthehighstreet.com’ and buy yourself lots of ‘thank you teacher’ gifts and leave them strategically across your office. Additionally, speak to one of your non-teacher friends and ask them to photoshop your face on to an image of someone collecting a ‘teacher of the year award’. Print the photo and put it in a frame in your office. If anyone asks, just say you keep the award at home for safe-keeping.
Have a decent size box of tissues on your desk to give the impression that 1) you’re a caring leader – but 2) more importantly and subconsciously the staff know that if need be, you will make them cry.
Get on Twitter and search for edu book clubs. Find the books that others have read and recommend. Save yourself a fortune by not buying the books but simply reading their reviews and the back covers of the books on Amazon. The ‘Look Inside’ feature is a winner. Then in meetings subtly drop in quotes from their blog posts and bits from the summary on the dust cover. This should successfully make you seem knowledgeable and help to sustain that persona that you love to maintain. Win.
Maintaining your persona
Buy a Castelli or Moleskine notebook. Carry it with your SLT only iPad everywhere. Take photos when walking through classrooms and then nod approvingly/disapprovingly as you see fit. Enter random classrooms with a ‘just passing through’ catchphrase saying ‘carry on’ with a quick flick of the hand as you steam through the room. Before you leave the room, talk to the child nearest the door – have a conversation about football whilst glancing through their book (maybe take another photo) and then leave the classroom without saying anything to the classroom teacher. This should help keep the buggers on their toes.
Spend a significant amount of the budget on coffee for your office. The Nespresso brand is particularly nice. Make sure you make a quick brew just before break time just to fill the hallway with the aroma of your exclusive and expensive coffee. Stand in the hallway with you mug whilst looking smug and going ‘mmmmmmmm’ as colleagues skulk past hoping not to catch your watchful gaze.
To keep up the appearance, spend some money on decent leather chairs for your office whilst telling colleagues it’s because ‘we are a professional school and we have professional meetings in our offices’. This is bound to be very popular with your classroom teachers who get to use the same chairs as the children (particularly popular in the primary classroom).
You might also like to consider turning the PPA room into an ‘executive meeting space’ so that you can commandeer it 24/7 so that teachers have no space to complete their planning, preparation or assessment. Additionally why not catch teachers on their PPA time and ask them to tidy up the room or wash up the cups to get the room ready for the meeting.
Implement a staff dress code and then randomly pick on colleagues as they walk past you in the corridor asking them to do up their ties, whilst enjoying the comfort of your own cheap Matalan suit.
Make good use of the staff room whiteboard to leave messages for colleagues stating there will be an impromptu work scrutiny at random with little or no warning for top / middle / bottom students. If you really want to throw your weight around, make that a 3.45pm deadline for the books. Priceless.
Posture and duty
Practice your best leadership posture and make sure that you use it at all times when walking the corridors. Remember – you can slouch and put your feet up on your desk when you are back in the office but when out and about at least make it look as though you know how a leader walks and stands.
Make sure you regularly do gate duty at the beginning and end of school day and then tick that off as being a ‘visible leader’ knowing that you really do walk the walk. Why not try and get the end of day gate duty on a Friday so that you’re one step closer to your car when everyone else has left the school site.
Don’t learn all the names of the children in school – just pick a handful and talk to them every week so that when needed you can call on them in assembly or in the corridor to make it look as though you know all your children well. Additionally, when on duty, put the fear of God in to all children by shouting, “You child, in the (insert colour of school uniform here) blazer/sweatshirt! Come here!!”
Have you got any Bluffer’s Guide leadership tips you’d like to share? This piece was inspired by the brilliant ‘Think before you teach’ by Martin Illingworth. His introduction to the book about the ‘No-brainer Academy’ chain was inspired and thus inspired this. Thank you Martin.