I’ve been a teacher for 10 years now, and I think the one thing that has characterised this time the most is change. Like everyone else, I have experienced a great deal of change, first as a classroom teacher, then as a middle manager and, more recently, as a senior leader on the Extended Leadership Team. These changes include major curricula and assessment redesign, considerable shifts in pedagogy and approaches to professional development. Probably the most pernicious development, though, is the rise in accountability measures, from teachers being held increasingly responsible for pupil progress to institutions gearing their daily practice and resources to achieving relatively narrow, short-term outcomes. We are all familiar with the culture of perverse incentives that change over the past decade or so has instigated.
Whilst there was a time – both professionally and personally – where I might have feared change, I have long since realised that it is part and parcel of the profession and learnt to embrace it. Managing change is what we do as teachers; it is what is expected of us. With each new academic year comes a whole raft of new challenges for schools to face: new government policy and exam reform to absorb, new staff to embed and existing staff to motivate and develop. Not to mention the different and evolving characteristics of each year group as it makes its way up the school. Reacting to change is in our DNA.
For me, the greatest and most beneficial change to impact the profession has been the rise of social media and collaborative events like Teachmeets and SLT Camp. This really has been a meaningful development, notably in the way that teachers interact, sharing ideas, approaches and resources and discussing, arguing and challenging each other over the latest piece of research or leaked government reform. Importantly, these changes to the way teachers work and think has brought about changes in the classroom for students – surely the end goal for all of us as educators. This is the kind of change that I want to be part of – one that actually drives improvement and raises standards in education. Change by teachers with teachers for students.
I realise that I have so far have focused my attention more on the way that we as teachers and leaders react to the decisions made by others. How we respond to change; not how we instigate it or drive it forwards, which is what we should be doing whatever our role in schools, but particularly as members of the senior leadership team, whose moral and professional imperative is to instigate changes that make students learn more and teachers teach more effectively. To me, this is less about generating ideas about how to make things better, or clever ways to improve this or that. I think that working as teacher and then Head of Department has given me a pretty good grasp of what needs to happen. Twitter and some of the incredible blogs out there have only increased to this store of ideas.
I suppose I am therefore less interested in the concept of change as idea and more about change as process, particularly with regards to my own development as a senior leader. I want to create and sustain changes that will make a lasting difference to the lives of young people, not only in my school but also beyond it. I am hoping that SLTCamp will help me understand more about how to make this goal an actuality. Judging by the list of attendees and their considerable expertise, I doubt I will be disappointed.