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How or Why

I’ve chatted with quite a number of School Leaders recently about the support they deliver to Teachers at both ends of the career spectrum.

Generalisations about these teachers are almost never completely (but always a little bit) true.  But I have noticed that nobody is arguing with me when I say that the most support is required for our earliest career Teachers and also our late career Teachers … but for different reasons.

The standing generalisation for those early in their careers is that they’re high on enthusiasm and low on capacity.  As such, the focus of their support needs to be on the how of teaching.  And so:

  • If you lead early career Teachers, get in the classroom and show them how to make small, simple changes in practice that have the potential for significant return. Don’t tell them how, show them.
  • If you are an early career Teacher, ask questions about how to improve or handle certain challenges, rather than merely complain or blame others.

The support required for our “rusted on” late career Teachers (and if you fit that tongue-in-cheek description and read on despite the cheeky label … kudos to you and your prevailing sense of humour!) should focus on the why of teaching, chiefly because their capacity is already high.  The problem can be that their motivation/enthusiasm to change is often low.  And so:

  • If you lead late career Teachers, resist the urge to speak down to or belittle them. Make your business case for why we should change or, even better, co-build it with them.  Respect their leadership potential.
  • If you are “rusted on” ask authentic, open-minded questions of your leaders about why rather than asking “Why should I?”. Know also that your enthusiasm for either resistance or change is a big deal.

With a simple shift in conversational intention, we can get some great dialogue triggered and geared for meaningful progress in your school.

And we could all do with a little progress right now.

Keep fighting that good fight.

PS. I wrote a book not so long ago with 100 such provocations for School Leaders. Grab a copy of “Real Questions For Real School Leaders” for your Exec Team at this link.

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