If there is one thing that teachers can all agree on it is that daily life in our schools is incredibly busy! We have demands from a wide range of sources. There are initiatives a plenty out there tempting us. There are the flyers that come across our desks advertising a programme or a one off course. There are mandated changes at a department or system wide level that have an impact upon the way we live and learn in all our schools. In previous posts I have addressed the need for a strong vision, this takes care of these temptations. We ask do these opportunities align with where we are going? If they do we jump on them if not we stay true to the direction we have set.
There needs to be a discipline of assessing, monitoring and managing potential threats to the realisation of our educational vision. We need to manage this risk and as leaders are the gatekeepers who can deflect a lot of the distraction from the classrooms. As leaders we need to be wary of the temptations of Ministry or Department level offers and how these will play out in our schools. What we as leaders do in the face of these external temptations acts as a cue for our teachers. If our staff see that we are true to the vision, goals and plans we have set for the school then teachers will be more steadfast in their resolve to fulfil the vision at an operational level. Regular ongoing review with an iterative, action oriented approach enables us as leaders to look at our capacity to fulfil our goals.
But how do we check that our vision is being realised each and everyday. Are we agile enough to make changes if our plans and methods are not meeting the outcomes we hope for? These are the threats that can sneak up on us and stop us from making the progress that we desire. As our schools are about student achievement (I mean this in the broadest sense) it is really important to have the finger on the pulse. This relies on good systems for gathering data.
In our place we track our priority learners (students we have identified as needing to make shifts in achievement as a matter of urgency) on a regular basis. Teachers meet in their teams to dialogue where the children are at and their plans for how to take these students to the next level. Teachers identify barriers, additional strategies or support that may be required. These plans are shared in their online ‘teaching as inquiry’ reflective journals. The leadership team look at data trends and identify areas of effective practice so that we can learn from success and spread the knowledge to other areas of the school. Th Board of Trustees have also adopted a Governance as Inquiry approach in order to stay true to the intent of our vision (Read more in Paula Hogg’s posts Gov as Inq 1, Gov as Inq 2 and Gov as Inq 3).
Whilst this approach is aimed at priority learners it has an impact on all students in the school as our teachers are becoming more reflective about their impact in student learning. Our leadership challenge is to create more time and opportunity for teachers to reflect on what they do to meet the goals of the school each and every day.