Archive for August, 2012

An INSET day to get the year started

August 29, 2012

My memories of the 1st day back in September …

  • Quick catch-up with colleagues; sometimes relaxed, but usually more hurried than if we’d met during the holiday in school  … a general sense of purpose in the air
  • Whole school staff meeting; taking the form of a Welcome Back from the Head, welcome to any new staff, and a sharing of key diary dates & time tabling information … planned to be 1 hour, but usually ended up being 2!
  • Key Stage meeting; often included sharing some last minute planning, but usually relaxed
  • Individual time; prep time for all staff to put the finishing touches to their rooms / their planning / backing display boards / making resources, etc.

… Plus the photocopier would be working to capacity, and there’d usually be a queue!

In terms of a positive start, most staff would be upbeat about the term and about generally making a fresh start … “This year I’m going to do ‘X’ better!” Although this sometimes depended on which class you had, and whether a tight budget meant that class support would be thin on the ground.

If you’re a Head / School Leader / Principal, what would make that first INSET day a really positive start for your school?

Ideally, some time spent with all staff together is a good idea. But if this needs to be kept to an hour or two, how best could you use it?

Here are some thoughts …

  1. Use to re-group, welcome new staff, and remind staff of successes from last year and next step targets for this one
  2. Communicate changes in curriculum / leadership / key stage roles – so all staff are aware of roles and responsibilities of their colleagues. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how often this is overlooked – either as it’s not felt to be important or it’s assumed people already have this information. The clearer staff are about each other’s responsibilities the less the opportunity for misunderstandings later along with wasted time spent sorting them out
  3. Remind staff of the school vision (unless you are using this INSET time to create the vision) and provide a few minutes for discussion in pairs on how their individual roles contribute to it. It’s a great way of getting that whole staff feel of “we’re in this together” from the start of the year.

So how will you be using your INSET day this autumn?

What needs to be included to ensure it’s a positive and productive start?

Photo credits: FreeDigitalPhotos.net and nokhoog_buchachon

Taking on a leadership role this autumn? (Part 3)

August 27, 2012

In this 3rd and final part of the current ‘Taking on a leadership role …’ series, the focus is on confidence.

3. Confidence

So, how ready are you, and how confident do you currently feel about your upcoming leadership role? Give yourself a score out of 10, with 10 being most confident…

In a previous blog  – Want more confidence in the workplace? – I suggested some tips to give yourself a confidence boost at work. In addition to those more general tips, for a confident start to your leadership role, I add the following.

I often find that confidence comes from knowing what to do and from experiencing the ‘do-ing’! So …

  • Know what you want to do with your role (get clarity)
  • Know what you expect from others and communicate this clearly
  • Know what others want. What do your team members need to do their job effectively?
    • Ideas / resources / time to talk through their concerns?
    • Mentoring / coaching / training?
    • By setting aside a few minutes each week in the first few weeks to identify staff needs, you can address these quickly. Even if you aren’t able to provide for everyone’s needs, you can at least tell them why, and they’ll hopefully respect you for it. It shows you’re listening and doing what you can.
  • Know how to create opportunities for early wins, for yourself as well as relevant stakeholders. Building on this success helps build confidence – both in yourself and others’ confidence in you!
  • Know that it’s OK for things not to go according to plan – you can make adjustments and get back on track. Learning from these types of situations increases experience, which builds confidence.

If you scored yourself less than 7/10 earlier, try some of the confidence building strategies suggested above.

These are only a few suggestions.

  • What others can you think of?
  • If you have some leadership experience already, how have you ensured a confident start to that role?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Taking on a leadership role this autumn? (Part 2)

August 26, 2012

So how’s your preparation going for the start of the new term (if you haven’t already started!)? And does it include prep for a new leadership role?

In Part 1 I introduced the first of 3 key areas that will help to ensure a successful start. This blog looks at the second.

2. Communication

Once you’re clear about your leadership role, what’s expected of you, what your goals/targets are, and what their achievement will look like by the end of the year … what’s the 1st thing you’ll want to communicate to your peers/team(s)?

  • Your plans for the term/year?
  • Your expectations of all those involved with your leadership area?
  • Targets and deadlines?
  • Ideas, hints & tips, expertise sharing?

What you choose to communicate first may depend on your circumstances, what your leadership role is for, and your style of leadership.

For example …

1. If you are new to the school and taking on leadership of a Key Stage, you may decide to ask lots of questions – for information gathering purposes – before you decide how you want to develop this area of the school/the staff.

2. If you are leading a curriculum area and you have already established expertise and experience in that area, you may want to offer help/guidance to other staff as part of the planning or assessment process.

3. If you are taking on a new headship, you may already have a clear vision which you want to communicate from the start (or open up to discussion and development with all staff).

As you will have clarity for yourself about what you want to achieve, help others be clear about what you need from them…

  • When telling other staff what they need from them, it’s easy to forget that people have preferences for learning and retaining information; most common ones are Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic styles (more on this in a couple of weeks). For the moment, remember to include showing as well as telling them what you need, and where possible provide opportunities for staff to learn by doing, experiencing or trial & error methods.
  • In order to meet your own deadlines, if these involve relying on others for data, policy input, work samples etc, it makes sense – where possible – to provide them with a deadline that is about a week before yours, to allow for any unforeseen delays.

What do you think is the most important thing to communicate at the beginning of a leadership role to ensure a successful start?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Taking on a leadership role this autumn? (Part 1)

August 7, 2012

Whether you’re taking on a new curriculum area, a key stage responsibility, leading a specific project, becoming head of department, assistant head, deputy head, or head this autumn, you’ll no doubt have already started thinking about (if not planning too) what you’ll be doing.

So how will you ensure a successful start?

Whatever role you are taking on, there are 3 key things that I believe will help to ensure you make a successful start. This blog looks at the first one.

1. Clarity

Making a good start involves having clarity from the knowledge of what’s expected of you. The number of senior leaders I’ve worked with over the last few years who have had that clarity about their leadership role have been outweighed by those who haven’t. In the hussle and bussle of school life, where everyone has their own list of jobs, it’s easy to assume that colleagues and team members know exactly what is expected of them.

So, some key questions to consider …

  • How clear are you about your new role?
  • How clear are others about your role?
  • Do you have a job/role description?
  • If this is generic, where can you get further clarity about what is expected of you by all stakeholders?

If you have some flexibility with the role, and can mould or create it as you see fit,  identify what you want to achieve … for yourself, the year group, key stage, curriculum, the school … and set yourself some goals for the year. Then break these down into manageable chunks for each term. Ensure you are clear about what a successful year/term will involve.

  • What do you need to do?
  • What do you need others to do?

Linked to this is setting the success criteria. What will a successful start look, feel and sound like. Identify these from the start, then you know what you’re aiming for, and there is less chance for misunderstandings and disappointment further down the line.

Finally – being really clear about your leadership role will be time-saving in the long run. It will reduce the time spent re-doing things, smoothing over misunderstandings and spending time doing things you didn’t need to do in the first place!

Part 2 looks at communication. In the meantime I’d welcome your comments on this topic 🙂

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Connecting with the real you

August 1, 2012

When we’re in the thick of it at work we often find ourselves being pulled in different directions, with different demands on our time and energies. We are different things to different people. We rarely have time for ourselves.

So when your holiday comes around, who do you become? What’s your default position? And is this the real you?!

Do you prefer a more relaxing time?

Or something more energetic / adventurous?

Or is it all about quality family time?

Images: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I tend to go for a mixture of all 3! I like my “me time” – where I reflect on the past few months, what I’ve achieved, and where I want to go next (business; health/well-being). I also like to reconnect with what’s important, my values, and ensure that these are being catered for in my plans for moving forward.

I usually combine this with being out and about, going places I’ve never been before, taking photos and soaking it all up. New experiences feed the soul. Love this view we discovered recently of Chatsworth grounds from a ‘secret pond’ we’d never have discovered had we not been walking the dog nearby.

Sometimes you don’t have to go far to discover something new!

Quality time with family and friends is also high on the agenda around this time. I always enjoy my trips to visit family – spread all over the country from the NE to Poole in Dorset. Recent experiences have nailed home that life is short, and we should both embrace it and have no regrets.

I feel that I connect more with the ‘real me’ when I am having a break … I have more space to reflect and plan.

What about you?