How underperformance can be about a variety of factors. This will be a sporadic series of things that I wish I’d known when I first got promoted to various leadership positions. Mistakes I’ve made and learnt from (394 words).
I don’t have many regrets in my working life but one often comes back to me. As a young Head of Maths I was newly promoted and had been teaching for 3 or 4 years. I was passionate about improving outcomes for the kids in my hectic, underperforming, inner city school and had high expectations of myself and my team. I’d noticed one teacher, H, consistently delivering poor lessons, missing deadlines and I felt that the kids in his classes were getting a bad deal. It was especially frustrating as the kids looked up to him, as a young good-looking guy from their own community background, and I knew he had potential.
I tackled H in a way that I’m ashamed of now and haven’t done to any member of staff since- it was from a place of wanting the best for students but wasn’t respectful to him as a person. Luckily my deputy challenged me on it and I reflected and changed but the damage had already been done to our working relationship. There was bad language and lot of stick rather than carrot.
Now, with the benefit of hindsight and more life experience I realise that H almost certainly had issues going on in his personal life over a prolonged time period. Amongst other things, he was quiet and withdrawn and often checking his phone, often disappearing to use it during lessons. I spotted the behaviour, which affected his teaching, but didn’t think to ask about the reasons or how he might be supported. In fact it didn’t occur to me what the reasons might be, I was so used to the deficit model prevalent in some schools that I automatically assumed it was just laziness.
We get a lot of training about kids and how their personal lives may affect how they present and act in school but less so about staff. We learn signs to flag up safeguarding issues for students but not for the adults who we are also responsible for in our schools and teams. We don’t get taught the stuff when we are promoted to manage others. It comes with experience but in the meantime the mistakes are made in real time with real people.