Twitter isn’t the best form of CPD 1: the traits of school leaders

Before I start, I looked up the word ‘provoke’ today:
Much is written about the power of social media, but I have to say that it must be taken with a pinch of salt.  How do I guarantee the efficacy of information gained online?  How do I know that the advice is authentic and that the volunteer is speaking from experience? After all, as far as you know I could be using social media to reinvent myself. Perhaps I’m trying to represent myself as someone who may know something about something?  
This is the first in a few stories that will try to explore the power of teachers talking to teachers, quite often within your own institution.  So, on Monday I went off with the other SLT members of the authority and listened to some wise people.  It’s always great listening to people who have actually done something.  It’s even better to be able to question them.  Even better still was the ability to speak to peers and colleagues who understand the context and challenges of the local area intimately.  This is bespoke CPD tailored to fit.  
I like leadership, and have enjoyed some modest success.  There are many lists that give the characteristics of school leaders, but the one given by United Learning CEO Jon Coles really appealed to me.  Here it is, with my own embellishments.
  • Unwarranted optimism
In this political roller coaster of change we have to be the constant.  Although I disagree with Jon that leaders can be totally dismissing of Oftsed, it is our job to be brave and to do the right thing that is needed in our own contexts.  We need to plan and hold firm. I aspire to be this type to leader and I hope that I won’t buckle.  After all, I don’t go to work to please Ofsted, I go to work to make a difference to the lives of young people.  We can make that difference and we can do it our way.  We have to be like those advertising companies that get their adverts pulled by the regulator. We need to test and probe and, ultimately know we can win even when there is absolutely no evidence or hope that we win.  
  • Endless intelectual curiosity
If we aren’t nudging and picking away at what already exists, asking the really tough questions of ourselves, our system and of our staff and students.  Jon used the phrase ‘steal with pride’ and I guess that’s what good leaders do. We measure ourselves agains the best we can find; find out what they are doing and then do it ourselves.  We learn from kindred spirits and will never be happy.  We are learners.
  • Taking crisis as the norm
Schools are amazing.  They are organic and dynamic and joyful and, although there are set cultural norms, no one really knows what’s coming next.  This is brilliant and one of the reasons I am a teacher and will remain a teacher. Leaders must carry on as if it’s all part of the plan, even when the heart is going a billion beats per minute. Last minute assemblies, high staff illness, a high staff turnover, new directives from government.
  • A complete absence of paranoia
Leaders are above the parapet. Not just our heads but, like the photo above, full body out and in the firing line.  We are exposed and  vulnerable. That’s our job. Our job is for people to come at us and blame us.  The glory belongs to others. To the classroom teacher who has started in January and is battling to instil routines. To borrow Jon’s words, they are all out to get us but acting like us is going to do nobody any favours. We’re leaders and we signed up to this.

So, what characteristics would you give to school leaders?  This CPD wasn’t from Twitter, or a blog. It was a spark of inspiration given by an expert, pulled apart with peers and crunched around with those that really matter: those that I work with, day in, day out.


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