Monday, 7 December 2015

I'm 'dreaming' of a White Christmas and a school I want to work in

If you are interested in developing a great school work-place which will contribute to reducing teacher workload, stress and turnover, then this post is for you.  In particular, if you are a senior or middle leader and want to know what staff might want from the ideal work-place then this post may help you give your colleagues the best Christmas they have ever had, the prospect of a great place to work in.  To help create this ideal work-place post will draw upon Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones's recently published book : Why Should Anyone Work Here? What it takes to create an authentic organisation.

So what do you need to do to make sure someone wants to work in your school

Using their research Goffee and Jones have come up with six imperatives for creating the authentic organisation (school) and which forms a useful mnemonic DREAMS
  • Difference: I want to work in a school where I can be myself, where I can express the ways in which I'm different and how I see things differently.
  • Radical honesty: I want to know what's really going on in my school
  • Extra value: I want to work in a school that magnifies my strengths and adds extra value for me and my personal development
  • Authenticity: I want to work in a school that I'm proud of, one that truly stands for something
  • Meaning: I want to work in a school where my day-to-day is meaningful; and
  • Simple rules: I do not want to be hindered by stupid rules or rules that apply to some colleagues and not others (amended from Goffee and Jones, 2015 p12)
So what are the implications for senior and middle school leaders

For purposes of discussion, if we set aside arguments about whether research conducted in a business environment can be used in school-settings, the six simple rules identified by Goffee and Jones can provide a framework for thinking about how things could be different in schools and which both reduces the number of teachers leaving the profession and increases the number of high quality new-entrants.  So here goes:
  • Let teachers express their individuality - acknowledge that there is more than one way of doing something - one lesson plan or scheme of work format - may work for some colleagues - but not for all.  What is matters is whether there is effective planning and pupils are learning.  Not every lesson needs three objectives shared with pupils at the start of a lesson.  Remember, a film has a beginning, middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order
  • Communicate with staff - let them know what's what re examination results.  Is improvement the product of 'gamefication' or genuine improvement.  Be Janus faced - don't spin the message on the inside - outside the school yes, the external reputations has to be managed, but not inside the school.  If there are performance issues, develop the skills to have genuine and open difficult conversations with colleagues
  • Invest in staff CPD - find ways to make it a regular event which is planned and structured and makes a difference to the individual teacher.  Start by thinking whole school approaches to CPD are probably wrong - they may not be wrong - but don't start there.  Help colleagues build on their strengths and don't expose weaknesses - do the things that work, and stop doing things that don't and do something else instead.
  • Identify what your school can be proud of - why the school makes a differences to pupils's lives and how individual members of can be genuinely proud of the contribution they have made.  What is it about your school and learning environment that would make you want to send your own children to your school.    
  • Meaning - make sure that what you do makes sense and has meaning and does not have some flimsy justification - focus on doing  what's right rather than doing things right.  Work on being able to show and demonstrate impact - and that teachers have the tools to show they have made a difference - help teachers know thy impact and meaning.
  • Simple rules - look at school rules and policies  - and come up with something better instead.  Look at assessment policies and ask the question - how will this practice help both pupils improve and my understanding of them.  If it can do neither, scrap it.
So what are the challenges in creating the school of your DREAMS

Goffee and Jones identify a number of generic challenges to creating the school of your DREAMS
  • Remember diversity is not the same as difference.  Gender, ethnicity, race and religion are hugely, hugely important.  But when we talk about difference we are talking about making sure your school can cope with differences in dispositions, perspectives and ways of thinking.
  • Communication is not the same as the weekly school briefing or newsletter, and it should n't be about power and controlling the flow of information.  The rule should be, if in doubt the share the information about.
  • Extra value is not just about supporting teachers, it's about helping everyone who works in the school to become better at their jobs - it's about supporting caretakers, site-managers, cleaners, administrators, teaching assistants become the best they can be.
  • Authenticity is about not about constantly re-writing mission and values statements every school year.  It's about making sure the school is genuinely connected to its past; headteachers behave in a manner which is consistent with the espoused values.  Furthermore its about providing teachers with high levels of trust, with those teachers responding positively to that trust.
  • Meaning is not about trying to generate teacher engagement - it's about generating community, connections and a cause.  Colleagues need to know why their work matters to others.  A contribution to a termly report to Governors does not create a meaningful jobs
  • Simple rules - remember this is not about unfettered teacher autonomy, which will just create another set of problems and probably more rules.  Rules should be created that make sense to colleagues, and which gives them the appropriate discretion to do their jobs.  
And finally....

This is not the type of 'research' I normally report on in this blog.  Although  Goffee and Jones's work is evidence-based - with the rules being derived from interviews, observational data and company workshops -  how that evidence is reported in book, is in my view, inconsistent with the work being described as research.  That said, given the challenges of both teacher retention and recruitment it seemed too worthwhile not to share.

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