Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Management of teachers

Inspiration is a key element of teaching. Inspiration is contagious and desirable in schools. Maintaining high levels of inspiration is a task that requires knowledge of the teacher, their current capability and their motivation. If the balance is not present the inspiring character burns out, leaves and/or the light goes out.

There are always external factors that contribute to performance requiring emotional support. Ill grandparents, pregnant wives, family members need time and rightly come higher up the priority chain than school needs. As teachers, we must give these things in our spare time, there are no weeks of holidays available to call on in times of need - things just pile up to the next school holidays. I feel for those without partners as they are the primary source of emotional support in most cases.

The ups and downs of professional and academic careers correlate directly to the amount of support available at any point. In teaching, the majority of academic support comes from fellow teachers. If you look carefully at any team you can see those being supported and those supporting. This is a fragile structure, as each teacher needs to be a beacon of light and there is a dwindling supply of these stalwart teachers selflessly providing experience when needed.

We need to understand and monitor the 'expected vs actual' career progression of staff to assist in the creation of a supporting cast of experienced teachers and make the bright lights of our profession brighter and glow for longer. We so often focus on student outcomes but forget to examine why something works and the minor elements that have contributed to their success or failure. When we clearly identify a positive outcome, identify issues and reward contribution, you have an example of leadership at its foremost.

What I find interesting is the poor use of performance management tools in teaching. If I asked senior management of five different schools, 'What inspires (insert name here) on their staff?' I would be surprised to hear answers that related directly to the staff member. I would be even more surprised if they knew that staff member's technical background or desired career path. On the other hand, the top 3 students in year twelve and the professions of last years top five may be more readily recitable. This outlines a key problem in schools today created through central staffing. The lack of coal face staff management and limited experience 'out of school' in true management positions is a key element in the morale issue within our schools. If management does not feel the requirement to understand the needs and wants of staff, providing optimum educational opportunities through inspired leaders for our students will always be a haphazard affair.

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