A message to myself
When I embarked on my leadership journey I was encouraged by Teaching Leaders, now Ambition Leadership, to write a message to my future self that would remind me why I do what I do. I could only assume that the rationale behind such a task was motivational, especially in the dark, cold and windy January days following a particularly challenging day.
Having encountered one or two challenging days since – they are most certainly not exclusive to January – I have revisited this letter myself, and I can honestly say that the words I now share with you have brought perspective, laughter and reminded me of my moral purpose…
“Just in case you forget, make a positive difference to as many people as possible, especially pupils, by ensuring they get the very best education they possibly can. This will allow the next generation to open doors that could have otherwise be shut to them. Being the best that you can be every day will inspire those who you work with and in doing so will motivate them to teach the youth of today to unlock their potential. Inspire everyone to do what they really want to do in life and provide them with the tools to enjoy the process of learning and ultimately the fruits of their labour. Also, as a side note, just remember that the youth of today are going to be paying for your pension!”
I wrote this message to myself in the summer of 2014 as a head of department. During a recent coaching conversation, I was asked if I would make any amendments to it now that I am a senior leader. My response was as ambiguous as always: “yes and no”.
“No” in respect to the moral purpose behind the message, as I strongly believe that education and learning are the gateways to success coupled with resilience and hard work, but “yes” because I would like to add one more thing:
“Trust – trust yourself in the decisions that you make and develop trust between you and your colleagues by being open and honest whilst retaining confidentiality, your modesty and your class. Trust yourself when giving honest feedback – especially to power, as receiving honest feedback is a true gift.”
Schools are incredibly complex organisms that are continually growing, changing and developing at a frightening pace. As leaders of such complex organisms, we have some control over the velocity of change, and I truly believe that it is our responsibility to remove the barriers that are making teaching such a difficult profession. It is our job to make the lives easier for all our colleagues so that they can concentrate on planning, delivering and providing first quality feedback to pupils which enables progress to occur. It is our job to ask ourselves, “how do we do this?” and “what systems are in place that support outstanding teaching and learning?”
Middle leaders have been described as the engine room for driving school improvement and I can honestly say having worked with so many middle leaders who are outstanding, I would have to agree. Middle leaders receive pressures from senior leaders as well as from colleagues in their own teams, and more often than not teach on an incredibly high allocation load. An important and pertinent question needs to be posed: “How can senor leaders support middle leaders and remove some of the barriers which are leading to unmanageable and unrealistic workloads?”
Finally, to all those middle leaders aspiring for senior leadership positions, I would unreservedly encourage you to do so. The pressures are different however your teaching load does decrease, which grants you the time that you so valuably need to strategically steer the direction of the organism in which you are leading. And don’t forget the additional pension contributions!
Assistant Principal, Kenton School
Ross completed the Teaching Leaders programme and was the winner of ASCL’s Leadership Prize in the North East. Applications are now open for the 2017 middle leader programme. Register your interest.