Reading this brilliant post from Paul Cline (@PaulCline_psy), inspired by yet another excellent post from Dawn Cox (@missdcox), made me reflect on my many years of experience as both a middle and senior leader. This is part 2 of my reflections on how to drive teaching and learning as a middle leader. Last week I talked about establishing common ground, sharing vision and making meetings meaningful. This week’s post focuses on two other ways: making monitoring developmental and promoting reflection in your team.
Monitor to develop
I believe monitoring is key to keeping T&L at the heart of everything you do as a middle leader as long as the monitoring is developmental. We complete regular book looks, one per year group a term. You can read about how we make these developmental in my older post here. As we do those, we collect examples of effective practice, which are later shared in meetings, through the bulletin and a Moving Forward folder with examples of impactful marking.
I also believe in managing by walking around, looking into the classrooms as I wander around, popping in to chat to students. When we see something we find effective and impactful, we invite staff to share and show it off. The idea is that it comes from staff for staff. We just curate it and amplify it. I always follow up my visit with an email to the teacher highlighting something positive about their practice and offering them an EBI. It is their choice if they take it. Next year, we will be moving to instructional coaching (I can’t wait!) but for now this formula works.
However, it is not just about leaders walking around, it’s about giving staff the opportunity to do the same. Hence, once a half term we host an open door week. Yes, it is an artificial way of encouraging visits but we have to start somewhere. In the week running up to the open door week, I email out a timetable document with empty slots for each period and a simple message:
Next week, … to …, is an Open Door Week.
Please indicate on the sheet which classes you are happy to welcome visitors in. If you need someone to cover your lesson for 10-15 minutes to enable a visit, email Tyla.
Visit a few teachers staying in each class for around 5 – 10 minutes using the timetable below. Send the visited teachers an email letting them know what you enjoyed about their lesson. CC Tyla in.
Every teacher who opens up 5 lessons or visits three teachers will receive a coffee shop voucher.
Yes, I use bribery. In the UK we used to hand out funky stationery, here where the faculty budget allows for all the funky stationery one may dream of, a coffee voucher is a much better bribe. Being CC’d in the emails allows me to keep track of who gets involved and who doesn’t but also to spot any effective practice others are picking up that we may ask staff to share. Doing this once every half term has definitely opened doors and got the teachers talking and swapping impactful practice.
We regularly hold reflection sessions in our meetings, reviewing schemes of learning, analysing data and reflecting on the interventions held. Personal reflection is also key. This final idea is something that I originally started as an AHT in my previous school to promote the skill and make the last meeting meaningful. Having seen the impact of it before, I decided to do it at a faculty level. As with all of these activities, doing it once a year or after key training that you plan to go back to later works, doing it too often loses its impact. Here we go. Just make sure you have plenty of funky or inspirational postcards.
In the very last meeting of the school academic year, I asked the teachers to reflect on the year they just had and write themselves a postcard with a highlight of the year and something they would have done differently. I assured them that these will be stored safely over the summer and not looked at by anyone else, even me. You may choose to collect them in a big envelope and seal them in front of teachers if you want to reassure them further. Hand these out back in the first meeting of the new academic year asking staff to remind themselves of what made them happy the year before and set themselves a target based on or inspired by their past experience and reflection. It is a great way to set the learning tone for the rest of the year.