I am happier working face-to-face, but I am learning to embrace the online world which offers different ways to connect and work alongside others. There are some lovely advantages to the online community: always there, ability to team up with like-minded individuals, a diversity of thinking, world views, no distance, new tools. There are also difficulties, such as having the confidence to share the work you would typically do locally (often with people whom you have a strong relationship) with people around the globe and making sure that your message is understood using different mediums. I have always enjoyed working with schools in my local area because of the ongoing, deeper conversations that can be achieved and the professional friendships that grow from working together on challenging issues. Seeing others grow in confidence and expertise is simply amazing. I hope working online doesn't have to mean remote. I aim to find new ways to share, new ways to connect, new ways to empower others.
I have had the good fortune to undertake diverse roles over the last fifteen years including a range of leadership and advisory roles, some of which were undertaken in a local authority capacity. Each job has deepened and broadened my knowledge of education. This range of experiences has enabled me to now work as an independent consultant and trainer; a job I love. Six years has flown by. Every day I learn something new and every day I have the opportunity to help others - which is extremely rewarding and motivating. I enjoy the luxury of being able to study and research key educational issues to a level and depth that is hard for those working full time in school to achieve. I love challenge and love learning, particularly academic study (which accounts for the library of books I possess and the hours I spend listening to audiobooks). I am extremely happy when I am reading and it sparks a whole train of ideas. I seem to find that I am looking at a picture, or focusing on a phrase, and then 'boom' the ideas are popping. Like brightly coloured helium balloons, I have to chase them. Bibliomania and a love of libraries and book shops is both a pleasure and a curse.
To add and expand my thinking, I have had the privilege of observing hundreds of lessons. Every classroom I visit deepens my appreciation for the complexities of learning and helps me to join the dots between educational research, strategic leadership and classroom practice.
The person who gains the most from lesson observations is the person observing! Only if the observer works together with the classroom teacher (rather than feedback in its traditional sense) will it make a difference to pupil outcomes and teacher expertise.
If observing together, the observers all gain from joint dialogue about teaching and learning. Particularly if there is then the opportunity to work together on whole-school practice. It is therefore always brilliant to observe alongside middle leaders.
Observing multiple lessons in a school helps at a strategic level when working alongside headteachers, senior leaders, middle leaders, governors. Having a fully rounded view of a school is essential for being a partner to the headteacher.
Observations across many schools help to create theories and pull together commonalities. This then helps to design courses, produce audits, write support booklets, list discussion questions.
Looking at issues from multiple perspectives and considering all angles is something that is important to me. I thoroughly enjoyed being the Chair of Governors for a large primary school in Leeds for a year, which on joining was a requires improvement school with a new headteacher and a fairly new governing body team. The governors were brilliant - I was amazed - how willing they were, how important it was for them to have access to training, how many hours they devote to the role, the level of expertise, the demands of being a Chair and how a team can grow when the desire to succeed is there. It made me realise how much of an advantage or disadvantage a high-performing governing body is to the headteacher. It also gave me an insight into the challenges a headteacher faces when moving from a one-form entry school with good systems and routines, to a three-form entry school that has suffered from years of instablity. The new headteacher was amazing and demonstrated her ability to modify and adapt her leadership style to the circumstances, the team, and the size of the school. We were delighted when the school was judged to be good under the new Ofsted framework, marking a pivotal point in the schools continued upward trajectory and at the end of the twelve months, I was able to hand over the Chair role to a brilliant parent. Every person in that school poured in their energy to create a firm foundation on which they can now build. Every person kept people and pupils at the heart of school development.
My freelance role often involves me working at a leadership level, e.g. supporting headteachers with performance management; working with phase leaders to develop leadership capacity; supporting leaders to develop and implement whole school solutions to challenging issues, such as closing the gap for disadvantaged pupils; and delivering projects on themes such as metacognition and growth mindsets. I do particularly love strategic planning and strategic development activities. Packs of post-it notes, rolls of paper, marker pens, diagrams, whiteboards and blue tack - something I miss right now during this lockdown period. This year has had quite a lot of focus on curriculum development and last summer I created resources and articles on curriculum development for The Key. Summertime often sees me pouring over stacks of books from schools, analysing and comparing the work produced by pupils. Being able to devote more time to studying books than would be possible in a normal review, and reviewing books by year groups... all of Year 1 across several schools, all of Year 2 across different schools... allows you to draw conclusions not normally possible.
I continue to gain enormously from every colleague I work with, every organisation I have the good fortune to be involved with and the continued professional development I undertake. I hope you will join in the fun.
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