This post lays out a manifesto for better leadership in education.
Educational feudal system
Schools and colleges are the epitome of a hierarchy. Your “bog standard” (my chemistry teacher used this phrase to describe exam questions) teachers lie at the bottom of the heap, followed by heads of subject, heads of department, senior leadership and the a principal or headteacher at the spear end.
The most important people in school are your “bog standard” teachers. They deliver the product. If they’re not delivering the goods, the school fails. Simple.
Too often in education, this thinking is reversed. The head enjoys exalted status. Teachers hush when “the gaffer” enters the room. Success is attributed to visionary leaders. Failure is caused by terrible teachers.
This thinking is the opposite of what it should be.
The best head teachers walk behind their staff. Alpha wolves do this. They know teachers are the most important people in the school. Any success a school achieves is because of its teaching staff. The best leaders realise that in order to make their organisation successful, they must contribute to making teaching staff better every day.
People want to be good at what they do. They want to succeed. The best leaders help people succeed. They remove obstacles. They coach. They offer a shoulder to cry on. They provide pep talks. They pick up the pieces. They take the blame. More importantly, they dish out credit.
The best school leaders want their staff to succeed. They want it so much that the staff feel it. Teachers who work for great leaders know that their success means more to the leader than his or her own success. Too often, hierarchies create a culture of wanting to look good to a superior. People take credit, pass blame and absolve themselves of responsibility.
Great school leaders do the opposite. They take blame, pass credit and boost those lower down the chain. They take off the pressure. They help with all the unglamorous tasks that free people up to deliver their best work. In short, they wash the dishes.