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09 December 2020

Teacher Development: Leadership Matters

Teacher Development: Leadership Matters

On Tuesday of this week, the environment in college was noticeably different. Myself, along with a few other staff members, were all absent from their usual lessons. This was not, sadly, because we were all having a much-needed lie in - in fact, we were all participating in Bellevue's ‘Leadership Matters’ training scheme, an opportunity provided by Bellevue for individual staff members to develop their leadership skills as well as network with other like-minded professionals across the group. As a relatively new teacher, in all honesty I hadn’t really started to envisage myself in a leadership role in the future - my sole focus was trying to be the best classroom practitioner I could be. In other words, if Allan hadn’t recommended I try the training course, I doubt I would have put myself forward for it. 

What transpired was a fascinating and inspiring insight into the leadership positions and opportunities offered within the Bellevue group's many schools. It was particularly worthwhile to be able to learn about these possibilities with a cohort of other teachers from those schools, most of whom were in a similar position to me. To be able to swap ideas and collaborate with others is an invaluable aspect of teaching, and one which is becoming increasingly difficult due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. For those reasons the training had to be online, but that did not affect the quality of the instruction that we received, which was excellent. Discussions inspired by the training centred around what good leadership looks like, how the culture of a school can be defined by those who lead it, and how to balance the expectations of being in a position of leadership with some semblance of a social life. 

What differentiates a good leader from a poor one is hard to define - how can you quantify that which seems rather unquantifiable? Of course, the answer is that this slightly indistinct quality of 'leadership' can take many forms. As a group, we acknowledged that each of us would bring different aspects of ourselves to any potential leadership role - after all, we all bring very different aspects of ourselves to our current roles. While we discussed the many facets which make up a good leader in some detail over the day, ultimately we narrowed it down to two key factors. Foremost is a clear passion for the work - if you are apathetic towards what you do, how can you be expected to inspire others to follow in your footsteps? This may seem rather commonsensical, but as the winter months drag on and the workload piles up, it can be difficult to maintain that atmosphere of enthusiasm which is so key to both learning and to managing others. Lastly, we concluded that excellent communication skills are incredibly important. Again, this may sound obvious, but if you want to get the most from the people working for you, then it is paramount that they are made to feel listened to and valued as individuals, and that this is communicated clearly (which, of course, is exactly how we should be treating our students). 

I was happy to be able to say in group discussions that I felt the Senior Leadership Team at EIC absolutely integrate these two key aspects into their leadership style, and have consistently done so during what have been undeniably demanding times. I can only thank Allan for recommending that I do the training in the first place - if one of the key skills of leadership is making your staff feel valued and 'seen', then this seems to me a pretty good example of it. 

Catherine McGovern - Teacher of English and Sociology. 

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