I had to tell my son off this morning. He’d been a bit naughty. He’d been put on the naughty step and sat there in his Spiderman costume, crying his eyes out. He’d been a bit naughty sure, but certainly not enough to warrant the floods of tears that streamed down his face – I think he was just a bit tired still from a busy day yesterday.
We engaged in a conversation and so I asked him who he was. He replied with his name. I asked again, “who are you?” whilst pointing at his chest. “Sp-p-p-p-p-iderman?”, he replied. I asked him, “Do superheroes cry? Does Spiderman cry?” – ok so the Marvel aficionados might be able to quote a time when Peter Parker cried, but to a 4 year-old in a Spiderman costume – superheroes don’t cry. He sorted himself out pretty quickly and you’ll be pleased to read he was happily running around shooting webs in no time at all.
The experience got me thinking though… Over the past twelve months or so, I’ve seen a number of posts talking about teaching superheroes and the well-being superhero stuff. For my money, the overwhelming majority of teachers I know get in to teaching to improve the lives of children. Even with the seemingly strict regime at Michaela, love for children and education is at the heart of what they do. And yes, we should be so professional with the educators with which we work. Yes we should be held to account, but similarly, we should be overwhelmingly respectful to these colleagues too. The public persona of teachers is not held in massively high regard. It’s a real shame. For me, teachers are superheroes. They are role models. They are for many young people the consistency and rock that they can turn to. They are superheroes.
Teachers are superheroes!
Through back channel conversations via social media over the last few years, I know a large number of teachers who are being upset on a regular basis. I know of many who are managed poorly. Made to be stressed. Leaders who are poorly organised themselves and then expect the earth when deadlines hit them that they just pass down the chain to teachers or middle leaders. SLT members who don’t communicate well between themselves and then send mixed messages to their staff. Line managers who book in graded lesson observations with all the concern, worry and stress that they bring – and then not turn up without any kind of communication.
It simply isn’t good enough! Poor management, loose comments, ill-advised decisions should not make or leave those that we work with upset, feeling harangued, stressed or like they want to give up teaching. The thing is, it is happening all too often and whilst I doubt this post will make it stop, I hope it will make some people think.
No one should be made to cry. Yes, we all do, but we shouldn’t be made to – leaders be aware of what you say, what you do and the impact it can have upon your colleagues.
Whilst jumping in and out of writing this post, I’ve just seen a post by @jonnywalker_edu’s post called his ‘Primary Teacher Minifesto‘. Teaching is a tough job. In a career where teachers are bemoaned enough already and receive plenty of criticism from the public; do they need further criticism and pressure from others in their schools who simply don’t think or organise themselves well enough to have mindfulness of the colleagues they line-manage?
So here are a few things I’ve picked up along the way that I know I would appreciate and that others would too:
Top ten tips for mindfulness of colleagues
Do what you say you’re going to do…
If you arrange to be somewhere at a certain time, be there. Do it. If you cannot make it, don’t leave it until afterwards – get a message to the person. They’ll understand, they’re teachers too!
Walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk
It’s all very well and good being able to have good ideas but walking the walk and cutting it yourself means that you do what you’re supposed to.
Be respectful at all times
This links a fair amount to my recent ‘dealing with difficult conversations‘ post. Show respect to your colleagues. Do the right thing.
Reply to messages
If someone takes the time to call you, be it a friend or even a work colleague – call them back. Answering your phone; at the very least reply to the messages you’ve been sent or left.
Don’t take credit, rise above it
There are plenty enough people out there who are hungry for recognition, promotion and will do anything to get it. I have plenty of examples of where someone has taken my work and then claimed recognition for it. Good luck to them, I say – I’m not for suing them although the legal advice I’ve sought says that I could. As Steve Wheeler says; “The more you share, the more it belongs to you”. Rise up above it folks. In the short term it may look like they’ve been successful. They’re not. And they are inconsequential to you, your success and your journey. They’ll be found out in good time as they simply won’t have the ideas, innovation or smileability that you have to keep on keeping on. If you’re a leader and someone in your team does great work – sing their praises. It is what a good leader should do…
Be mindful of your thoughts
Remember, thoughts are just that… thoughts – you don’t have to believe them. They aren’t necessarily true. Listen to the words of others as these can be based more in reality than those negative thoughts you have. With that in mind, speak well of others. Be positive and don’t be a mood hoover yourself! Be mindful what you say in haste, a moments thought can save years of negative impact.
Listen – without making judgments
It’s important that you listen to others, especially those colleagues who need listening to the most. Provide opportunities for your colleagues to feed forward, share, laugh and smile and cry if necessary.
Plan deadlines and timings carefully
There are obviously going to be crunch times across a year. Report times, data times, assessment times, exam season, so forth and so on; make it so you bear these things in mind when you hand them out. Talk with the pastoral teams too and other stakeholders who may have a claim on the time of the people in your department. Yes, your work and deadlines are important, obvs – but don’t ignore the pressures from other areas that your team members will face.
Only hold meetings that are necessary
Don’t hold a meeting if it is purely for sharing information. Email and collaborative docs are amazing things. Use them. Your colleagues in your team will read them. If they don’t, then discuss it. Build a routine that makes it so that when you get together as a team for a meeting it has purpose. Discussions should be that, discussions. Not any opportunity to tell everyone in the year group something that could just as easily be written in to an email.
Finally… take some time for you
No one is perfect and we all need an avenue of support (and training too) to be the best you can possibly be. If you’re new to leadership then get support and not just from your school. Sure, book on to a course such as NPQH and get some training, but tap in to social media, read blogs, connect with others to help feed in to your journey to help shape you. You’re going to make mistakes. Everyone does, I know I do.
As I read in Jon Andrews‘ post yesterday ‘Leadership – Putting Yourself Down The Order‘ yesterday, great leadership isn’t about you, it’s about others. He included a great quote in his post from Dr Michelle Jones, ‘Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.’
Yes, superheroes do cry.
We all do.
It’s part of what makes us human.
Think a lot.
Let’s not be the reason that we make others cry.
Let’s do what we can to support, nurture, celebrate, encourage, push, challenge, feed, help and act up to be the sort of leader that, as Jill Berry quoted ‘would want to be led by you’.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks for taking the time to read this far.
Mark,thank you. Having had a difficult week for variety of reasons,and mindful that I want to progress further in school, your blog has reminded me that what I’m doing is the right and respectful way of doing things. A myriad of personalities, needs and challenges in the dept not always makes for cohesive dept but I’m not giving up on it. Thank you for sharing your insights and encouragement in the pursuit of fairness and respect for all.
Thanks for taking the time to comment Su. Very much appreciate it. Take good care. Mark.
Lots of great advice here, Mark – thanks for sharing it.
Have just read the proof copy of John Tomsett’s ‘Love over Fear’ and was really struck by what he says there about how leaders have to resist passing on the fear they themselves, inevitably, feel at times. It’s love we should be passing through the channels.
Am fond of the idea that no one can make us a victim without our permission. I refuse to be made to cry by someone I don’t respect!
I like that thought very much Jill. Thank you so much for commenting. You mentioned John’s new book in your last comment. I can’t wait to get my hands on it. Have plenty of respect for him.
A great post. Resonates with me as it will with many of us.
But… we also need to be mindful that leaders are human beings too!
The SLT-bashing on social media is wearing a little thin.
I always try to be mindful of those I lead.
I cannot say that it is always reciprocated…
No SLT bashing here thanks Hannah as these posts reflect:
The thing with it being reciprocated by those we talk with; we are the ones to be held to the higher standard – yes others should be, but that’s down to them. As leaders we lead by example, don’t we?
This was a really inspiring read and a great reminder to all, not just leaders, about how we should treat others we work with. Some leaders often forget what a full teaching timetable is like and with that they forget how they should be mindful of the everyday pressures that classroom teachers face. So turning up to planned lesson observations is so important and giving feedback ASAP even more so.
One of the common complaints I have heard from others is about walking the walk… So often we get told to do something but yet that isn’t reflected in the behaviour of the leader.
So often you see leaders take ideas that are not their own and present them to others as if they are…I will never understand this! A leaders job is to support, encourage and when the time is right stand back and allow your team the opportunity to shine. This is true leadership.
Great advice Mark.