Time is a precious resource. When I started teaching, Tesco’s didn’t deliver and Amazon was a rainforest under threat, and all of my time belonged to me. Time was at my disposal. I had no personal commitments. I taught PE, coached for Southampton Academy (Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Sundays), played football (training Monday evenings and every other Thursday, and Saturdays) and had a busy social life. When I reflect, I had successfully completed / survived my PGCE and NQT year and yet, at no time had I been shown how to plan my teaching, manage my time, prioritise my professional tasks or make good personal / professional decisions.
Working with business minded, entrepreneurial Trustees and advocating for The Education Support Partnership, has heightened my interest in operational, financial and organisational management and developed an awareness of the importance of personal effectiveness and staff well-being. This raised sensitivity or awareness has required me to think more deeply about my own personal effectiveness, how I employ my time and importantly, before I advocate for anything NEW or IMPROVED, let alone NEW and IMPROVED as a leader.
Second, that as a leader, I have a responsibility to protect staff from broad-brush organisational decisions. What Jill Berry would call “management filtering”, as opposed to being merely a “management umbrella,” managing up as well as down. I have to accept responsibility for my decision errors, and on some occasions, communicate an apology and row backwards. Occasionally, I have the responsibility to step in and to protect staff from themselves. Time is a precious resource and can be a cruel dictator, if you let it. (This post, which was left in draft connects with one two others, still in draft, on change and personal management).
With the raised awareness around work-life balance (particularly at this time of year) I paused to really consider how we prepare and then support and develop our teachers. It worries me deeply, that in this modern, connected era, we have not yet found a way to upskill teachers with the fundamental personal-professional skills required to be most effective? Rather we continue to focus of a single point of address, reducing the very real consequences of teacher workload. From my perspective, the Workload Reduction Toolkit recognises the symptoms and suggests remedies. To a lesser extent it recognises some of root causes and attempts to navigate of the a strategic way forward; the use of written feedback is a good example. I am suggesting we need to do go further and that is back upstream.
The metaphor describes a dangerous river in which several people are drowning (teachers) and some have perished (exiting teachers). Rescue workers struggle to pull them out and come to realise that no matter how hard they work they cannot rescue or resuscitate (return to teaching) all the victims. Courageously, they discuss how to raise funds to hire more staff and suggest that warning signs be installed.
For me – that is somewhat the approach we are adopting in education. Somewhat the approach of the Workload Reduction Toolkit. We are addressing a self-created problem.
By contrast, upstreaming suggests that we go upstream and figure out why people are falling or jumping into the river in the first place.
I am heading upstream. Here you will meet other protagonists like Chris Moyse, Georgina Young and Jan Rowe. If I were a new or recently qualified teacher, I would seek this educators out and look to work with them.
I moved this paragraph to the end as it is the least important. Reflecting on my own experience, I was sorely ill-equipped. Personal effectiveness and planning skills developed haphazardly. A nudge here, a comment there, minimal co-planning, copying other more experienced teachers, and a pinch of coaching – “come over here and take a look at this Kristian.” It took ten years before I encountered any formal personal effectiveness development in the form of Leading from the Middle (NPQML). I still have a copy of my summary report outlining my Personal Impact, Leading Learning, Leading Innovation and Change, and Building Capacity and of cause the blog posts that accompanied the experience. (Few practitioners, I would think have a ten year professional diary and I note my initial disdain for coaching.)