Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Leadership - Every Problem Has a Key: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Leadership - Every Problem Has a Key: News

Article excerpt

Unlock solutions to the knottiest dilemmas with our easy-to-follow 10-point plan.

Andy is accused of assaulting Charlene at the weekend. Her parents refuse to let her attend school unless he is excluded. He and his parents deny the offence and say it is nothing to do with the school.

Meanwhile, an older teacher, well respected in the community and the staffroom, is resisting changes made by the leadership team. Colleagues suggest slackening the pace of change to accommodate her; others encourage bulldozing through the stubbornness.

On top of all this, the school has encouraged a "green team" of eager campaigning students, who are pushing carbon reduction. Some teachers have refused to go along with a proposed "no-car" day. Bad feeling is growing across a divided school and school leaders are trapped in the middle.

As head of a school, you could easily find all these dilemmas on your desk awaiting resolution before you've even sipped your first coffee of the week on a Monday morning. And you would know that by lunchtime a whole new set would come to your attention. As American education guru Larry Cuban says, dilemmas are part of "the genetic code" of the job of school leadership.

Dealing with these conundrums is not a skill teachers are born with. It takes a lot of training and experience to be able to pick apart such situations and find a resolution that is fair to all parties and that also protects the interests of the school as a whole.

However, experienced leaders tend to report that a filter system emerges over time which can be helpful. This can be simplified into three areas.

- Psychological: leaders recognise that dilemmas are interpreted conceptually but experienced emotionally. Separating the two can be key to finding a solution that pleases everyone.

- Political: every dilemma will have within it people using the situation to serve different interests. Identifying those interests is a crucial step towards a resolution.

- Ethical: people involved often have different, sometimes competing, values. Again, identification of these differences is an important part of a school leader's job.

For those in the first years of a leadership position, or those being trained to become a leader, these filters can prove elusive because the trainee simply doesn't have the experience to be able to interpret matters as accurately as an experienced school leader would. …

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