I’ve reached a cross roads in my teaching career. I’ve been teaching for 12 years and I’ve either got to fully embrace the profession, look to develop my weaknesses and become a better teacher or I need to leave. I started blogging last month to share my thoughts, help me reflect on my practice and get feedback from colleagues outside of my school.
I have to say I’m a little disappointed that the blog post that has got the most attention was basically a rant to make me feel better. There was nothing informative, reflective or worth sharing. It was self indulgent. It got more hits, comments and feedback via Twitter than all my other posts together. Whilst I know I’m probably not going to set the blogging world alight, I felt my other posts at least had something interesting to say. It seems negativity doesn’t just breed negativity, but interest!
However if I’m truly going to develop and become a better teacher and use blogging to reflect on my personal practice and leadership then I need to use these interactions with others in a positive manner.
So what have I learned from this incident?
1. A duty, is a duty, is a duty. If you have a duty, then this is the same as having a class. You have a professional responsibility to attend and ensure the children under your care are safe and well look after. As someone with responsibility within school, and someone who wants more I need to keep this in mind. You can turn it into a positive and see it as an opportunity to build reputation and relationships with others. Check out this excellent blog from Mark Anderson on how to see duty in a positive manner.
2. When planning for duties, try to ensure the teacher, where possible is free before hand. Whilst you might not be able to do this for every member of staff, ensuring they aren’t teaching before, or after will probably help. Placing a teacher on duty who has a very heavy teaching load that day will probably not be beneficial for anyone involved. Although Employment law means you do not have to do this! ensuring you give staff a ‘comfort break’ will help. Approaching things in this way will show you value your staff.
3. If a colleague fails to attend a duty, or fails to meet other professional standards and expectations then my first approach would not to belittle them in front of others. A reminder ‘you know you are on duty now’ or my preferred method would be to quietly to take them aside to check if they are alright and give them a reminder. I’m sure most colleagues would be mortified once they realised they had forgotten.
4. Use of email for disciplining is morally wrong and dehumanising. I think it’s acceptable to clarify and remind staff of duties, expectations, routines and standards via email. However to use it to name and shame is totally wrong and unprofessional. If you want colleagues to meet professional standards, you must meet them yourself and demonstrate it in what you do and what you say.
5. If a colleague does something where you feel it’s important enough to pick them up on it, then it’s probably important enough to speak to them individually about it and not send a group email. With this approach you can find out if there was anything wrong, remind them of their professional duties and make them feel valued in the process. It also allows you to double check the facts of the situation as getting it wrong can ultimately lead to negative feelings and the opposite outcomes of what you wanted in the first place.
6. Blogging in anger is hugely therapeutic. My previous strategy was to write an email and then delete. It never had the effect I hoped for, but pressing the publish button, I was able to leave my emotions behind and enjoy my weekend without dwelling on work. What I didn’t expect was how the interaction with the twitter community allowed me to reflect on the event! once the emotion had gone. Normally I would bottle it up, wait till it goes and then move, without really trying to understand. I would see the event as another chip on my shoulder and poor management.
Blogging and then Interacting with other colleagues on twitter has made me view things from a different point of view, and allow me to consider the event on how I would approach it if I had the responsibility. This I hope will help in my development both as a teacher and a leader within my school in the future.