NPQSL - Distance delivery month 2
NPQSL - Distance delivery month 2
Posted April 02 2019 Sarah Jane Sener
I am fortunate enough to commence my second month of the NPQSL course by attending a 2-day workshop on leadership (specifically managing difficult conversations and performance management) and to complete it on a flight to the UK to attend a SEND conference. Both events (which are not themselves part of the NPQSL) serve to reiterate the importance of governance for a school – our governing body is unequivocally committed to improving teaching and learning, a fact I have never really considered previous to the course. I am compelled to interrogate our head very early one Monday morning for over an hour about the roles and responsibilities of our governing body, and whether he feels sufficiently challenged by this ‘critical friend’ or not. He obliges with grace, whilst probably wishing he had dropped by the pre-school running session instead.
Sandwiched between these bookending learning opportunities are 4 weeks of intensive course input and core tasks – an onslaught of information and emotions which roller coasts from self-doubt to shiny light bulb moments and back again. I have developed a vision, shared by supportive governors and the SLT, and I am convinced of the need to improve our provision for our More Able learners. Surely everyone else will be eager to follow my dream and my instructions? However, this module has indicated clearly that successful leadership will necessitate being able to communicate my vision to staff in such a way that they will take ownership of it. I may have to rethink, it seems my leadership abilities. At this point in the course, I feel more as if I am breaking things than building them, and I become quite self-critical. Personal characteristics I had previously considered to be unequivocal strengths now become fraught with possible failure. I have always prided myself on being extremely direct and open, but discussion with my mentor suggests that this may not always be the best way to approach change, and may engender resentment if it causes people to feel they are being bulldozed.
The course does not just inspire personal reflection; it also forces me to seriously consider the way I intend to implement my improvement project. To this end, I find the case studies invaluable, especially those which describe the things which went wrong. I also devour the articles outlining why the majority of change projects fail, in the hope that ours will be able to avoid many of the common pitfalls. However, there are so many of the latter that I become a shadow of my former swashbuckling self and now am almost paralysed with indecision, a condition which is very unusual for me – a steep learning curve indeed. Moving on will only be possible if I can get enough of my colleagues on board with me to help plan for sustainable change. Reading up on leadership theory is beneficial in this quest, although I become frustrated that time constraints often leave me with the impression that I am only skimming the surface. This has been one of the challenges during month 2 – having to wade through subjects via an externally imposed timetable which does not really offer a great deal of flexibility. My trip to the UK, for example, has meant shrinking a week’s worth of studying into a panic-filled pre-flight Sunday. Fine if you just want to get through but unsatisfactory if, like me, you prefer a more in-depth knowledge.
A further challenge this month has been a feeling of isolation. Comparing my school with others is difficult when we are in such a unique position, even amongst international British schools. COBIS does not really offer a platform for comparison, and GL assessments are mainly standardised in the UK state sector. An inspection of our results indicates that our pupils are performing satisfactorily, but is this enough? Shouldn’t we, like Oliver, want more? I find myself trawling through the ISI reports of other similar international schools, looking particularly at comments related to provision for the More Able, and slowly but surely I begin to understand where we should aspire to be, and the seeds of strategy begin to grow. Accepting that I although I may design the garden, I will need the help of lots of gardeners all focused on the growth of the plants, and sharing a common vision of what the mature garden will look like, is perhaps my most significant learning this month.