Choose the right lens – bringing things into focus.

What do you see when you look at the glass? Is it half full or half empty? It’s an analogy that is as old as time, and one that we have all undoubtedly used in one situation or another. But is it really that simple?

I recently blogged about the three phases of my headship journey. Now proudly in ‘phase 3’, a new set of challenges were put in front of me, and it has provided me with yet more to think about. This phase is exciting, and one I truly believe can work, but I have realised that there are some things that I need to do as well.

One of the things we have done this year is to do away with appraisal in its old form. Everyone still has an appraiser, but the forms, targets and top down accountability have all gone. In its place, we have embarked upon a research journey, whereby all teachers have chosen an area that they are interested in to look more deeply into. This was launched in our renamed professional learning meetings alongside our rationale for moving this way, some input on how and what research could be done and some frames to work within (huge credit to @teachertoolkit and ‘Just great teaching’ for many of the ideas and resources). Some time was also given to collaboratively discussing their ideas and asking questions.

I thought things had gone well; there was a buzz in the meeting and staff and really got on board with the shift from a ‘done to’ approach to a more autonomous and less high stakes ‘done for/with’ approach. As the first term of the year went by, staff met with their appraiser for a coaching meeting to unpick their projects further. I was happy and I felt things were going very well.

Over the next few months, I would see and hear of staff doing things towards their projects. We had offered to by a book linked to their project and these orders were coming in. There was excitement when these were handed out and it reassured me that we had made the right decision. I met with everyone 1:1 to catch up and see what else they needed. The meetings were positive and the feedback was good.

Then came the bump in road. I received some feedback about the projects in a meeting just before Christmas. What I heard was that some weren’t really getting off the ground. I took it badly as I was so desperate for it to work. As it happened I had a coaching session a few days after, and this dominated the session. Although I was still clearly on edge about it, through the session I was able to come up with a plan of action.

I discussed my thoughts with my leadership team after the break. I apologised for my reaction prior to Christmas and shared my coaching session. Their help here was invaluable and helped me to focus. We decided on a professional learning meeting to refocus the projects and re-emphasise the importance we placed on them in terms of their own professional development.

The staff meeting went better than I could have expected. Engagement was really good and there was excitement and enthusiasm when staff talked about what they were looking into. There had been significantly more going on behind the scenes that I wasn’t (and didn’t need to be) aware of. There was also great feedback on how we could do things even better, and as this was the first time we had done anything like this, the feedback was really welcome – more about this another time!

So what of the glass? I had allowed myself to become preoccupied with things that were not going so well. I asked myself why, I berated myself and I was frustrated. In fact, I had chosen the wrong lens to look through. When I changed the lens, I was able to see the powerful things that were happening and where my team and I needed to support more. By changing my lens, I was able to bring things much more into focus and make better decisions. I was able to see things that I had been unable to before – that things were taking hold and that there was positivity around the changes.

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