Developing a Culture of Sharing and Support amongst your Colleagues
Woohoo! It’s the last leg of the academic year! Historically, this has been a “wind-down” time, when the frenzy of revision and formal assessments is over; a time when we can explore creative possibilities in our subjects, and let the pressures of syllabus coverage take second place to innovative enrichment activities. However, these days, for many teachers, July does not present any perceptible change of pace. Many schools now have taken the decision to start the new academic year in June. This means that for a lot of teachers, the high levels of enthusiasm and energy required for greeting and learning to love new classes, now have to be mustered at a time when reserves are often running low. Even after waving farewell to our Year 11s and 13s, “Gained Time” can seem something of an elusive ideal – spoken of but never nearly as plentiful as anticipated.
With all this in mind, I’ve devoted this article to two practical things you can do to raise staff morale across your school, whilst also improving Teaching and Learning. Two birds with one stone. What could be better?!
A Staff Sharing Wall.
What do you have displayed in your staffroom? Usually staffroom boards tend to be reserved solely for displaying essential information, pupil data and deadlines. Try getting permission to set up a space which is dedicated to the sharing of Teaching and Learning strategies. This display should provide a space for teachers to do the following things:
- Post teaching and learning problems that they currently have. Eg “I can’t get any of the girls in my Year 10 class to contribute to class discussion”, and invite colleagues to write their own tried and tested practical solutions.
All of this can be done anonymously if wished and it is a powerful way to encourage teachers to share their experiences and talk about pedagogy. Teaching is often a very solitary profession – in fact, if we don’t find time to get down to the staffroom at lunchtime (or worse still, we don’t HAVE a staffroom!) then sometimes the only other adult we see all day is the one reflected back at us in our classroom window! This can make teachers very wary of sharing their teaching issues or triumphs, and unfortunately that is a real impediment to genuine professional development. A designated area for sharing problems and solutions sends a clear, reassuring message to staff: that we all encounter road blocks. Members of SLT may be the best people to set this ball rolling.
- Post details of something they have tried that worked really well. Preferably this should be a technique that they feel could be used effectively in a variety of curriculum areas, and it could be accompanied by a photo.
This display is likely to attract more readers than any other display in the staffroom. It is a wonderful way of encouraging a culture of innovation and of taking pleasure and pride the job. You might even like to make the suggestion that the SLT Learning Walks can be used to collect wonderful examples of innovation and effective T&L strategies to share on the board. This transforms a process that is often a source of stress and controversy amongst teachers into something positive and celebratory.
Down with Business, Up with Pedagogy – Meaningful Meetings
It’s a common feeling amongst teachers that we spend a lot of time in meetings discussing business and far less time than one would expect discussing pedagogy. This half term, suggest to your colleagues that a conscious effort is made to devote meetings to our primary role – teaching and learning. Invite every member of your meeting group to bring to the meeting a practical teaching strategy to share. You can bet your bottom dollar there will be colleagues in your groups who have enormous amounts to offer but are not always tapped effectively for ideas. Give everyone a chance to share their teaching triumphs. Even better – use a part of your meetings to actually try out these strategies. It’s good for us now and again to step back into the shoes of the pupils and experience teaching strategies from the other side of the fence!
This half term, make the minutes of your meetings – and the taking of them – fun too. A great way to actually get those minutes read (come on – when’s the last time you read them word for word?!…) is to take 10 minute turns to produce “Visual Minutes”. This involves having a flipchart, whiteboard or sugar paper and sketching a visual representation of what is being discussed in the form of diagrams, images and key words. A quick photo of the finished product – emailed to all members – is often a more effective aide memoire of decisions and action points than a page full of text!
We’ve all heard that trying something new is good for the soul; so whatever you do this half term, make a promise to yourself to try something different , and encourage your colleagues to join you in your venture.
Have a wonderful summer!