Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Promotion to incompetence

Promotion is one of the hardest parts of management and shows where a lack of career counselling can affect a whole organisation. Teaching is no different to many professions where perfectly good(and in some instances great) employees ask for promotion into roles that they are clearly unsuitable for.

Administration roles in teaching carry pay scales above teachers and therefore attract teachers into the role. These roles tend to accumulate all the detritus that teachers don't want (or can't) do. When these roles attract a capable person, the whole school runs more smoothly. This is not an exaggeration, it is a statement of fact. The sad story though is that these roles are typically the ones on paths to promotion so also fail to be stable.

I have no problem with promotional pathways per se (and good staff should be promoted), but I have a problem when people are put into them that are unsuitable. Conflicts seem inevitable, skill sets are sorely lacking and a lack of understanding of what the role entails occurs due to poor internal job descriptions. People bring their own slant to the role upsetting a whole system that works. A clear lack of understanding of how change management occurs (and when these positions are temporary and will revert to the incumbent) and it becomes just another load placed on teachers.

My favourite fails from promoted staff are: managing teachers as students, the I'm right despite all evidence to the contrary statement, aggressive behaviour (oh my goodness, for this there is no excuse from a manager), the I'll disregard your experience because I know this is a better decision(without evidence) and the inevitable push back of work to the classroom.

With state schools paring down due to reduced numbers, the pool of capable people is clearly reducing placing further stress on capable administrators. I'm sure we'll hear the "innovative solutions" mantra reappear, which will translate to mean"do more with less". Saying that, it's also a time of opportunity "if" situations can be identified that will not impact on teaching roles too greatly.

It's at times like these that I think the old HoD role had advantages. Discipline, year leader and curriculum was shared amongst HoDs; administrative roles (below deputy) were clerical and did not call forth large salaries because they were not highly skilled. Staff that could not handle discipline and curriculum could not do HoD roles, those that could were respected within the school as they were sorely needed parts of a working wheel. The capable staff then went on to Deputy and Principal roles (garnering management skills slowly on the way), were less subject to fads (had a healthy dose of scepticism "built in" that required proof of concept before implementation), demanded an understanding of progress in each classroom and enjoyed coming back to the classroom to fill in from time to time.

Staff that have worked effectively in HoD roles are effective educators (whether in English, Phys Ed (no matter how we tease them), in the shed or in Math). I would much rather see these paths further developed than the flat management (treating teaching as a profession without professional pay scales) strategy currently used in many mid/small public schools encouraging staff away from the classroom.


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