School leaders do have favourites, for good reasons!

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There was a recurring theme in the recent feedback on school leadership by teachers in the school I work at – favouritism.

The gist of it is that there are certain teachers who are considered, by a few, to be the “favourites” of the leadership team. This is quite an interesting point, really, because… to be perfectly honest… people in leadership positions do – inevitably – have favourites. Let me elaborate a bit on that.

There’s always some people who don’t need to be managed, they get on with their jobs and do so to a high quality and in a way that symbolises and encapsulates, to the best of their ability, the vision of the school and the type of pedagogy that school leaders hope to see. Some people might believe they fit into this category because they just “get on with their job”. However, they may not realise, understand or be willing to admit that their practice simply isn’t what school leaders are looking for.

There’s always some people whose practice inspires school leaders and stretches their vision of the school and of pedagogy. Let’s face it, the minute you step out of the classroom and become an “administrator” of some type you will inevitably be referring to pedagogy that you used to practice. School leaders need teachers around them who push their boundaries, reveal new possibilities and teach in ways that are better than they would be able to teach themselves!

There’s always some people who are just natural learners – they ask questions, they are interested in the world, they read books and blogs about education, they seek advice, they pop their heads into offices to run an idea by you, they wander the corridors of the school to chat to people and find inspiration or possibilities for collaboration, they try stuff out. School leaders adore people like this… sorry, there’s no point denying it.

There’s always some people who have classrooms and learning spaces that are welcoming. Their students can’t wait to get to school because their classroom feels like home, because it is stimulating and comfortable, because it belongs to them and because interesting things happen there. Guess what… it’s not only kids who feel that way. School leaders are drawn to those rooms by the buzz of learning and students who are happy, motivated and involved in doing interesting things. They are often invited to join in conversations or get involved in the learning somehow – either explicitly or just because they can’t help themselves. When you’re walking up a corridor, you’re naturally attracted to classrooms like that and, yes, you end up in them more frequently than others.

There’s always some people who know that improving things involves their active participation. People like this don’t complain about the way things are, they take steps to do something about it. In fact, they usually go further by seeking out things that need to be improved and naturally thinking about solutions. They don’t plop their gripes on the desks of school leaders and hand the problem over to them… but, if they do seek you out they do so with a clear indication that they wish to be part of the problem-solving process. It’s only natural that people in leadership positions will respond to people like that with more enthusiasm, more willingness to help and less dread when they see their heads pop in the door or see them coming up the corridor.

There’s always some people who are just good to be around – they know that people in leadership positions are trying their best, they understand all the hidden complexities involved in such positions, they communicate respectfully and without confrontation, they listen actively in meetings and professional development sessions, they are open-minded and willing to see things through different lenses, they are humorous and don’t take themselves too seriously, they abstain from gossip and negative judgment of people they work with, they attend social events and stick around for five minutes to chat after meetings.

The biggest problem with all of this is, unfortunately, that all of these qualities are usually rolled up into the same, small number of people… the ones who get labelled as “favourites”. So, my feedback to the feedback would be to try to aim to have more of the qualities outlined above. Not so you can be a favourite, but just because they’re pretty good qualities to have!

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4 comments

  1. concentricthinking

    A word that kept hitting me in the head as I read this….. ‘perspective!’
    There were times you would walk into my room and left faster than you came in – that’s because at that moment the mood was low and there was nothing really going on worth staying for. That doesn’t mean I get up in arms over it, I had the awareness to know that you read the room exactly as it was – dull.
    Then you get those who harp on without any concrete facts. They were complete assumptions and accusations which wee made out as truths. Again, watch out for these people. These are the very people who need to stop complaining and invigorate the atmosphere in their rooms by doing interesting things. But then again, it is so much easier to complain and blame others, feel sorry for ourselves and do nothing about it. It is called the typical teacher who is always hard done by. Look within people, not around you to hang it up on someone else.

  2. nancysnyder0218

    If you were talking about the students in your classroom would you say the same thing? It is great that you see inspiration in classroom and teachers. I completely understand that. I work better with some teachers than others. Some teaching teams work better and feed off each other to a very productive end. You should keep learning from teachers and keep pushing the school in a great direction. Admin at any school could also take this feedback and think about how they can do a better job of INSPIRING others as well as being inspired.

    If this feedback was to a teacher about students, should the teacher only leave it up to the students to “aim to have more of the qualities”? Shouldnt the teacher try to scaffold the learning for them? Shouldn’t the teacher try to give them specific goals? Should the teacher spend time showing them a bit of how to get interested? We want all teachers to improve. We want all students to progress. How can some move from the middle to the front of the train and from the back to the middle?

    Sam, we all know you love learning and that you get completely engaged with students and teachers when something amazing is happening. Don’t loose that. Pass it on some more to those that need inspiration. I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not even complaining. Just wanted to add obeservations from a different perspective.

    • sherrattsam

      A good teacher does expect to see character development in their students, and does have high expectations for their attitude, commitment and desire to become a better, more confident and more capable person. These are probably very difficult conversations to be had between adults, which is why – in schools – we hide behind formal appraisal models. Go too far the other way though, and people in leadership positions just come across as nasty!

      As for me, although I wasn’t particularly writing this posting from a personal viewpoint, I have found myself becoming increasingly disinterested and distanced from all the interesting stuff the more I find myself sat behind a desk clicking buttons, emailing and wading through the quagmire of administrative work. It is a simple trap that most fall into, followed by the other trap of – when you do find a chance to get away from the desk – seeking out those people who inspire you, energize you, involve you and show that your presence is both valued and appreciated.

      Yes, school leadership involves guiding and inspiring others. But, when the guidance and attempts at inspiration appear to be futile, the energy – like all forms of energy is transferred somewhere else!

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