After a growing enthusiasm for Twitter sparked by @mrntandl, a chance meeting during the summer of 2018 with @teachertoolkit and school closure high in my consciousness I decided to document the final chapter of Haig School via a blog – an unfamiliar, but intriguing medium.
Where to start? An ongoing question that reverberated in my mind; I was trying desperately not to be consumed by the fantasy and reality that exists within Twitterworld but instead participate in family activity. We were on holiday after all.
Whilst the lure of Twitter remained, a quick email to myself of the questions I seemed unable to answer quashed the desire to lose myself in a renewed enthusiasm for research, knowledge and debate.
The email was brief to say the least:
“open house once a week – educational theme for discussion 3:30 club Haig 50
Blog – why am I thinking about education and leadership now more than ever? why am I unable to switch off?
running a thriving school in a draw down context (making it count – shouldn’t we do this every year?, do we? We do?) – avoid the potential to coast – where does the challenge come from? how do we know we’re responding and evolving? do we believe our own hype? what underpins resilience and sustainability?”
Questions and thoughts I am determined to respond to throughout the year ahead.
Pedagogy and talking about teaching has always been a significant feature of my leadership. Acknowledging that I am not the font of all knowledge, it is vital to me that the team I lead are able to confidently discuss, challenge and support so that we get it right for the children in the school. Paramount is the notion that getting it right for children goes hand-in-hand with getting it right for staff too. All staff. And, for that matter, the community in which we serve.
This deep seated driver is what motivates me – that and developing others to visualise and realise their potential.
So, how was this reflected in the ‘final’ first week back for our school:
INSET: I tweeted ‘Revisiting our core values, a bit of Peter Kay to reinforce the importance of communication, a buffet lunch and an afternoon in classrooms for us!’
On reflection, as a novice tweeter, I was worried this may be interpreted as fairly shallow or worse still, flippant. I then remembered I barely have any followers anyway!
However, it did cause me to justify and analyse the day we had to myself:
Core values: they are what we stand for and are absolutely the foundations from which we build. Our values permeate every aspect of our school; they are used in conversation with adults, children and parents and they are intrinsically linked to our learning and behavioural expectations. To revisit them is important, particularly in our last year – as a team we buy into the notion that children will leave the school with a legacy. The legacy will be the core values which are instilled within them; respectful, independent, resilient, inquisitive, confident. Our INSET focused on how these values would continue to be promoted, encouraged and celebrated throughout the curriculum and what that would look like (how it could be measured) in each area of the school.
Communication: paramount in any organisation. In addition to the ongoing day-to-day communications, we will expect communication from a plethora of sources focussed on drawdown (closing) over the year ahead. It will be a huge period of change for everybody and we will need to communicate this as a clear message. The session on communication sought to reinforce this using Peter Kay’s brilliant skit on mis-heard lyrics. Essentially I wanted to put the point over that if communication staff were hearing didn’t sound right – it probably wasn’t and they need to seek clarity. Communication is two-way after all. Whilst set in a humorous context, the serious side of this message was heard loud and clear – it gave scope to address misinformation and rumour which had already started to grow over the summer leave period.
Middle leaders: they started off the day by leading discussions with regard to their curriculum areas, picking up on priority areas for further development. These were interactive sessions with opportunity to discuss, challenge and practice – keeping the focus on learning and further improvement. This set the tone that, despite going into the final year, we were not resting on our laurels; but rather pushing forward with development. Teachers worked cross-phase and engaged in high quality discussion about learning.
Afternoon session: classroom preparation. I will always build in this valuable time to prepare, think and ‘get back in the zone’ – it’s crucial if we want teachers to hit the ground running. And, yes teachers will have been into school beforehand, but acknowledging this time to reflect and prepare following INSET pays dividends in my experience. I was able to talk and listen meaningfully to each individual teacher during this period.
In conclusion, reflecting on my reaction to Twitter, has it in fact made me feel inferior to those who I admiringly follow or has it empowered me? I would argue the latter. What I like about this new world (to me at least!) is that it challenges perceptions, but also comforts in that I recognise philosophies, practices and leadership traits that I share with celebrated others. It now strengthens those aspects of my leadership by identifying the evidence to support it!
Are you new to blogging or tweeting? – Has it changed your outlook or challenged your perceptions? I would love to hear your thoughts @bctingermany