If I had a quid for every time someone has said ‘I couldn’t do your job’ I’d be a flamin' millionaire. And I’m not talking about my window cleaner (although he has said it) or a sympathetic mate after I've moaned my way through a bottle of Pinot Grigio (although this has happened). No. Most often I hear this from thoroughly wonderful, talented and professional colleagues who most certainly COULD do my job, if only they believed it themselves.
So, here’s my attempt to convince them, and you, that being a Head of English is no different from being a classroom teacher.
You’ll still be setting consistently high expectations.
You’re still trying to create a positive climate for learning and teaching.Just as in a class, some teachers might not be bosom buddies, but as a leader it’s essential to try and create a cohesive team.
You are still managing behaviours.
Your strategies might be quite different, however, as generally staff don't respond well to the doling out of detentions.
Keeping others safe and developing their SMSC are still vital.Personal problems are not simply the preserve of students and, when facing times of crisis, the support a leader can offer is invaluable. It must be instant, consistently apparent, and demonstrate the same genuine care and compassion that we show our young people.
You will still aim to inspire others.
You still have to differentiate.Teachers, like our students, having varying levels of experience, knowledge and skill. Just like you do in a classroom, you’ll learn to utilise people’s strengths and support them in areas they're not yet as confident and/or competent in.
You’re still learning and teaching.I take the same joy in watching my team develop as I do my students. I am also even more keenly aware of my own learning as I seek to become a better leader.
You’re still judged on progress over time.Okay, so it’s for a slightly bigger group of kids, but the principles remain the same. It’s just that your ‘mark book’ now contains a year group; you just have a few more pupils to worry about and support.
You’ll still be focused on interventions and ensuring that they have a notable impact.Teachers intervene on a lesson by lesson basis, making changes to ensure that all of their students ‘get it’. As above, the only difference for a HoF is that they’re doing it with more of them and, as a result, keeping sharper records to track what they do.
You’ll still need to systematically check understanding.
Feedback is still essential.
You’ll have had difficult conversations with students when they’ve not quite achieved as well as they thought they had, or to underline some ‘home truths’ about their lack of effort and resulting underperformance. Although the idea of talking to a peer in a challenging context might frighten you, you’ll approach it in the same way - with honesty and sensitivity – knowing that, just as with students, these conversations get easier to have with practise.
You’ll still need to ensure you use time well.
Planning will still be vital.But thanks to enhanced PPA provision you’ll get more time to do it and your plans will be for more than lessons.