Headship often reminds me of the text adventure games of the 80’s and early 90’s. Games like Zork and The Hobbit which had real character and charm but often left you with a sense that it was only through trial and error (and luck) that you ever really managed to accomplish anything.
If only headship was as simple as typing, “Lead school really well.” (“What? Like writing a blog OPH?” I hear the cynics shout… “YES!”)
There are other times where headship reminds me of an Xbox One game. It looks and sounds great, it moves fast, it has colour, lights and action… but deep down, after the gimmicks have worn off, it is no better than the old text adventures.
As a school leader I have made some pretty impressive mistakes…
This is usually when I am trying to be too clever. I have created data systems that make no sense, written reports about reports, created a policy on policies, created vision statements that no one remembers, written rules that were impossible to follow, given out directives that when applied took 10 hrs to see through. On all those occasions I had forgotten to keep it simple.
So, here’s my point. Keep it simple. This is not to be confused with, it is simple. Headship is not but when you are brutally honest, what is it you have to do?
Lead a school so that all the children are coming in each and every day and learning. Simple!
Until some bright spark asks, “But learning what?”
This is not the blog to discuss my thoughts on the curriculum in a knowledge making world. Though to answer the first question and keeping it simple, “Children do need to learn to read, write and do arithmetic… even if you don’t think they do.” You will not be in leadership long if you ignore this. Keeping things in leadership simple is about ensuring you are doing the absolute core things expected of you. Some of these are about ensuring children can get through tests (Sadly, these are given more importance than MANY other things).
There is more but this is the ‘Rational Head’ bit. Keeping your focus on the core things you need to do, through allowing teachers to teach and children to learn. Not getting too prescriptive with the ‘how’. That is often where it goes wrong. The everyone MUST write with a pen initiative, or do X whilst juggling Y. Go back to the core. What is happening to the learning in the school? How do I know? How am I enabling teachers to do something about it?
I always feel this goes back to the Rational Head understanding the teaching and learning in their school as well as ANYONE else. No one on your staff should have a better understanding of the data or teaching strengths and weaknesses. That’s not to say others shouldn’t know. They should, but so should the head and they should know it in their sleep. Keeping it simple – knowing your data.
I read the @iQuirky_Teacher post on Staff Meetings and INSETs this week. The frustration many teachers feel when faced with meetings that waste their time. I feel for this perspective. To overcome this more and more staff meetings need to be about the ‘doing’ of stuff, the inputting of data, the work scrutiny and planning elements. The staff meeting should be the time to reflect and do these things as a collective, sharing experiences and knowledge. If you find that your staff meetings just deliver more training and more initiatives (learning the new lingo or memorising the 15 tiers of our new ‘NOT LEVELS!’) then imagine what it must feel like to be a member of staff sitting through it thinking about tomorrows lesson? So often in leadership I have walked around exclaiming my genius idea but I am effectively a sentinel being watching from my ivory tower and my perspective is very different. It is worth remembering this from time to time. Staff meetings should be practical things. They should be about getting some time to practice and review what it is you are doing rather than what it is you are GOING to be doing. It is common sense… I think that too many of us like the sound of our own voices and think that the staff meeting is a chance to show everyone why we are the ‘great Ted Talk’ no one has heard (usually for good reason).
In The Hobbit text adventure that was one bit that I could never get past,
Some Pale Bulbous Eyes watch you…
If you do nothing they eventually jump on you and kill you. The simple escape was to either, Run away” or “Put on the ring”. You can’t do that in school leadership. But when faced with problems type in,
“Keep it simple”.