Showing posts with label Teaching career. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Teaching career. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Entering Teaching after being in a competitive, adversarial environment

If you have come from an adversarial environment, where being the best means rising through the ranks and increasing your earning capacity you are in for a rude shock when you become a teacher.  

Teaching has a flat management structure where seniority is the main mechanism for increasing wages and retaining staff.  There have been multiple pushes to change this over time, (L3CT, Senior Teacher come to mind), but for the vast majority teaching a class seniority is it. There is some competition for ATAR and 11/12 classes.  There is little to compete against to be noticed for the few promotional positions outside of teaching in Student services/Admin, Head of Department, Deputy/Associate Principal and  Principal.

AITSL attempted to provide a framework for personal growth in the AITSL standards and to my mind it gives the best indication of where education (and a lot of industry) is trying to go.  Rather that competing (or being adversarial) with your peers, the current movement is to "one" team where everyone seeks continuous improvement.  As continuous training is expensive, knowledge sharing is the main lever used within the organisation to drive continuous improvement.  This is not possible if knowledge sharing is restricted through a competitive environment where restricting knowledge gets you ahead.

The AITSL standards have this embedded.  A graduate teacher is learning how to teach. A competent teacher teaches well. A highly accomplished teacher mentors other teachers.  A lead teacher is contributing to the community and the education sector.  It firmly puts the skills and task of teaching a classroom well in the competent level.

This can leave the competitive person from industry scratching their head.  "I'm a better teacher than them, I should be promoted".  "Look at what I have done, why should they get the promotion." "It must be that someone is doing a hatchet job on me in admin, I am better than others being promoted."  "I have not been personally developed this year.  The lack of development is holding me back."

None of these things are about knowledge and skills sharing. There is a skill to developing others and this is the desired skill in Leadership.  Mentoring and sharing takes more effort than doing it yourself.  Doing it yourself is not the preferred option if the goal of the task is to empower others.  

The insight is that the knowledge is not yours, but belongs to the organisation.  If you choose not to share and martyr yourself doing it yourself, you are withholding information the organisation has paid to develop.   Once teachers let go of ownership of what is "theirs" and realise that sharing is productive, it takes away a burden, is uplifting and creates that team environment the envy of organisational cultures. The effort in sharing and developing something collaboratively is required and worthwhile.  It becomes a pleasure watching others grow through what you have contributed and surpass what even you can currently do, encouraging you to seek further growth.

Often in the corporate world, forming cliques, being obstructive and putting the knife into an underperforming colleague is ok to gain promotion.  Identify their weaknesses, expose them and assume their role.  Very 80s.  Today, we don't do this.  Evidence is used to identify areas of investigation, we consider the evidence, work together to apply measures to attempt to rectify known issues and measure the results.  In teaching few staff are ever removed, the importance is to retrain and support them if they are underperforming - it is expensive to train a teacher (four years of university plus three years of graduate level performance), losing staff to what is now recognised as workplace bullying is poor management.

And here's the rub, if you are not visibly contributing to organisational growth (or are actively obstructing it) you will not be seen as a highly accomplished teacher (no matter how good you are in the classroom).  You may be seen as a competent teacher, but will not be considered for leadership as you lack the skills to lead a team effectively and will be a drain on the Leadership team preventing issues that you are causing, requiring constant "management" and restricting growth of the organisation. 

I try and help those making the transition to the new paradigm as I had to when I entered the profession.  It's not always easy and becomes a fairly repetitive discussion until it sinks in. The "one organisation" model aims to promote those that can work with others well for the betterment of the organisation, leading to organisational growth.  Being able to be collegiate and collaborative is the key that opens doors.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Deflating enthusiasm and complaints management

It's easy to deflate someones enthusiasm.  As a HOLA you are on the end of every complaint and every perceived inequity in your department.  I don't always deal with them in the moment as well as I could without other things on my mind.  I try and create a shared vision with everyone along for the ride but it's possible to deflate my enthusiasm for the vision and have conflict derail the shared vision when those you are working are fixated on minor resolvable issues and ignoring the big picture of improvement both in conditions and achievement.

Being mindful of the following can give some insight into the issues faced by HOLAs and Administration in complaint management and resolution.

Here are some things to think about before making a complaint.

Fairness

If someone gets something that you do not, that does not make it unfair.  Believing this makes you sound entitled.  If someone gets more help, it might be because they need it.  If someone gets less help it may be because they are being given an opportunity to show what they can do.  If someone gets more help it may just be because a series of events have lead to this with no ill intent to anyone.  A big goal is not able to be achieved in one step with everyone contributing equally and it may take time to reach everyone or for everyone to see the benefits - for a period you may be required to do more until resources are available for everyone. Waiting for everyone to complete the same amount of work would make the task take infinitely longer where reluctant, incapable, obstructive, lacking experience, with personal issues, or have conflicting/higher priorities are involved.

Is my situation better than it was?

If I look backwards has someone made my situation better overall than it would have been otherwise?  Putting this one incident aside, consistently has an effort been made to improve my situation by them?  How much goodwill will I lose from making this complaint and how much does it have the potential to impact on future opportunities. Is it worth making a scene and what will it accomplish?

Is this my job?

If at the end of the day you are asking to do a basic task of a teacher:

  • plan for a class
  • assess ability of a student
  • teach the class
  • cater to student individual needs
  • identify resources for students

then being resentful for having not having someone to do any of this work for you can lead to inferences of laziness or incompetence.  At the end of the day, others can prepare and assist you by passing on resources to you for you to use in your class, but you will still have to evaluate them and ensure they are suitable.  If you require someone else to do your work for you, you are expecting them to do your duties of teaching your class, a role you are being paid to do. 

What do I want from this?

If you do not realise what you want from a complaint, it's a whinge.  A complaint needs to lead to an outcome that will improve student outcomes.  Have a very clear idea about what you want, and consider the previous point whether it is a desire or something that is actually a part of your regular duties.

What forum can I use to address this issue?

Is this about power and embarrassment or about change for the good of students?  If I make this complaint public (in the staffroom, to the Principal or Deputy, by discussing it with others in the faculty) will it alter the relationship I have with this person and limit future opportunities? How long will it take to rectify it if things go wrong?  Is the timing right for discussing it?  What frame of mind am I in?  Would it be better to send an email or have a private discussion? 

I suggest strongly resisting complaining publicly as is not a good way to make a name for yourself.  People will respond differently if you make a complaint in front of others than if you do it privately and seek a conversation (either through responding to an email or in person).  If you have had ample time to use different means to state your concern and choose to do it in public, it says something about you and the relationship you have within the hierarchy.  Nobody wants public conflict - ensure you have exhausted all other avenues before using this path.

How can I ensure that what I am asking for is reasonable?

Be very careful about issuing demands is my best piece of advice.  A demand infers entitlement - if you are not entitled to the demand, by definition you are behaving in an entitled way and this will be judged by your peers and your HOLA.  When working in a hierarchy (which most schools are), my suggestion is to ask "up", and the times that you can tell "down" to someone below you in the hierarchy is very limited (generally for compliance issues only such as SCSA, Dept Policy or Business Plan objective requirements).  Resist telling "up", it is out of place and shows a lack of respect and understanding of leadership which has the potential to be detrimental to your future self and will take considerable time to repair leading to blaming others for lack of progress that you have had a part in.

Being a negative bystander

If you see someone in a situation that has the potential to end poorly, don't let them self destruct. Point out that what they are doing is not productive and seek ways to remedy the situation.  At a minimum don't inflame it - if you do then you are a part of the problem.  Often a person will calm down and reconsider their position if they are not encouraged by those with an agenda of derailing the vision.  People that seek to undermine a shared vision are noticed and will be overlooked or be counselled if it is overt enough. Those that are seen as being productive, cooperative, capable and willing to contribute will be rewarded first - this is the basis of merit, the ability to contribute towards organisational goals - note that I did not say personal goals (these are irrelevant if they do not align with organisational goals that you are paid to follow!).  It makes sense to promote those seeking to work within the system and makes no sense to reward those that actively seek to disrupt it.

Leaders have to make best efforts to bring everyone with them.  This means that, on occasion, people will not come along, leading to inequity of effort or may have competing priorities that lead to some things not happening.  It's not always personal, it's not necessarily laziness, it may just be circumstance.  We need to be reasonable about what we demand, and work in an adult environment where requests are made and not have a public "tantrum" or play "no speakies" in the hope we will get our own way.  As term progresses and pressures rise, conflict can occur.  The trick is how to deal with it and I am by no means an expert - it is wise to observe those that handle and navigate conflict well and learn from their successes.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

The five year plan

I was given advice when I started teaching - have a five year plan.

It's good advice - like most good advice I've been given it was easy to see with hindsight.  Don't get me wrong, for the most part I've been very lucky with my promotional opportunities and have been promoted to incompetence a number of times through what has felt like sheer luck.  It certainly hasn't been through careful planning.

For those that have come to me for guidance (and for those that could not understand why others with less experience or skill had been selected for positions) I would say the following.

Being a good classroom teacher is not enough.  You need to build a story that highlights you over all of the other applicants.  A five plan can keep you focused on what you need to do and help you through those times when you feel under-appreciated or are questioning what made you think you would be a good teacher.

To begin start with identifying where you would like to go if you were not teaching (yes I know we all want to be in the classroom but there may come a time when you have more to offer the system than getting 30 kids to progress faster than the next bozo).

Common aims are to spend time in student services, broaden your skills into another LA, L3CT, Senior Teacher, remedial teacher, ATAR teacher, as a year leader, teacher in charge, in an extension environment, GAT/GATE, curriculum leader, HOLA, deputy (heaven forbid), Principal (if you wish to shorten your lifespan), return to university, teach at university.

Each has a different pathway and the pathway changes depending on the current political environment.  The five year plan is important as it gives your line manager time to identify opportunities that you lead you to your destination whilst accomplishing goals in line with business plan objectives.

For instance, you wish to be a HOLA.

You need to be able to teach across the whole spectrum of your Learning area.  If all goes to poo, you will need to step in and fill the gap until a better solution is found.  No Specialist teacher - guess who is teaching it, the engagement year 9 class has gone through 3 teachers - saddle up, the ride will be bumpy.  Be the go to guy for your HOLA.  Your CV needs to show you have demonstrated your skills.

Do you understand an evidence based approach and how have you implemented ideas that have resulted in positive outcomes for students?  Can you state what you have done eloquently and will this be backed up by your HoLA when queried during reference checks.

Make sure that your current HOLA is happy with your performance.  Be sparing with criticism (it's easy to fall into this trap if you think you can do it better than your HOLA) and support the initiatives presented - white ant, passively resist and undermine them and they will be brutally honest when queried about you.

Do the extra - all schools ask about the commitment a teacher has to a school.  If you leave school at 3pm and arrive at 9, for kids or your own business and don't volunteer for anything other than core teaching - you are not showing the qualities desired by admin to inspire a staff.

Make connections in the community - find the Rotary, Lions or other community group that is knocking down the doors. 

Get involved in PD, bring the knowledge back to the school and implement the ideas.

Create a CV that screams hire me.

Be familiar with trends in education - direct instruction is the current go to, hattie's visible learning, zbar, There are some great models for mentoring and leadership - know a few that align with (or have formed) your thinking.

Have a go to project to talk about.  Worked with low ability students, low mood/mental health, remedial students and SEN reporting, streaming, increasing access to ATAR, running summer schools, tutoring programmes, improving engagement through instructional techniques, mentoring grads or prac students, running an afterschool music or boardgame programme and make sure you can discuss the evidence of success associated with it and that your referee can back it up as your project.  None of these require promotion to be run and can attract FTE if successful.

Volunteer for short term roles that align with your direction. Especially if no one else wants to do them.

If you don't know why you are doing something it can cause resentment and loss of motivation.  Especially when classes are not going well or providing the motivation needed to drive the next class activity with full throttle.

It should look something like this:

Year 1: talk about opportunities with line manager. Identify the qualities required to be competitive in the desired role/position. Update CV. Set goals that lead to desired role.

Year 2: Get involved with projects identified with your line manager. Update CV. Revise goals.

Year 3: Evaluate what is currently available at the school and other schools. Increase involvement in roles aligning with direction. Discuss successes with Line manager. Seek recognition of some sort of significant successes.  Seek to increase your network in the desired field. Update CV.  Seek others in the desired field to see your CV and make suggestions as to how to improve it/be more competitive. Revise goals. Revisit your goals, set some new ones and drop the ones you will not achieve.

Year 4: Be actively discussing your aspirations with your line manager and network about opportunities. Update CV.  If the school does have not have roles available for you, start applying for roles outside the school.  Get feedback about what you need to do to be more competitive. Do not get downheartened - this step is part of the process.

Year 5: Actively review available opportunities regularly. Discuss with your line Manager and admin about possible roles in line with your aspirations - actively show that you are looking for opportunities and have developed a competitive CV in the field desired.  Use your network to validate your successes.  Celebrate the new role when it comes! Set the next plan.