Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Leadership - Good Leaders Have to Walk the Walk: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Leadership - Good Leaders Have to Walk the Walk: News

Article excerpt

A head for business may be vital these days, but principals still need to know how to teach.

The modern school leader is as likely to have as many conversations about finance, data, efficiency and key performance indicators as they are about behaviour management strategies or pedagogy. In some cases, the former subjects will be much more prevalent than the latter. So it is unsurprising that studies are emerging that foresee a time when the principal of a school will not require teaching experience to do the job.

Yet this seems an improbable recipe for a successful school. For starters, a school leader needs to be able to pitch in where he or she is needed. How would a principal with no teaching experience help out by covering a science class on a Friday afternoon, or advise a struggling teacher with some words of pedagogical wisdom?

More importantly, to be able to manage teachers effectively you need to know to some degree of accuracy - and from personal experience - what they are going through day in, day out. If you don't, how can you really know what they require, and how can you choose the right strategies to enable them to do their work effectively? As one principal noted, if he was not seen as a reasonable practitioner of education, he was "simply not credible in the staffroom".

It is important, then, for school leaders to demonstrate that they are a "reasonable practitioner", to showcase that they are not a business brain with no classroom experience but that they understand teaching fully. How they do this can be a tricky balancing act.

It is probably not sensible for a principal to have a regular teaching slot in the timetable. They are likely to be dragged away too often for it to be a fair deal for the students in that class. However, helping out with occasional lessons when a teacher is absent can be a great way of showing experience, as can going into classrooms to speak to students directly when there is a difficult issue to discuss. School assemblies, too, need to be grand occasions where the school leader showcases his or her ability to perform to and manage children.

It is not just about actively teaching lessons, though; teaching the teachers is just as crucial. The school leader should be an excellent coach. …

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