Diary of a subject leader
Real issues in the life of a fictional Subject Leader
I read The Interview in the last issue just before a Performance Management workshop. The honesty appealed and the sense of humour struck a chord. One of my PM targets was to share practice beyond my team, so I felt I had better attend to show willing and tick the box (my review meeting was already lurking in the shadows). I would have gone anyway because I loath the professional isolation of everyday practice in classrooms, and enjoy the chance to compare, contrast and reflect.
Charlie’s comment about the chap marking out the rugby pitch probably having to work towards targets, had helped me get over that initial foreboding I often feel about the whole PM process. As I looked around the room, I wondered if that hint of inevitability in Charlie’s remark had taken a firmer root in my school. It was just me and two others!
Inevitably the workshop became a very pleasant but nonetheless informative chat. We appeared to take a similar, pragmatic, approach to the purpose of the PM process. It was good to hear how another person outside my own PM process interprets the whole idea. Seizing the possibility to engage in an internal and external dialogue they question how they can really improve practice in their classroom and across the school. I began to reflect on my own perception of the process, and I think I have moved on a little in my understanding.
As a subject leader you are both the do-er and the 'done'. I use those clumsy words because, although I had always fully engaged in the process, I had always felt that it was something that had to be ticked off. In spite of my best attempts, it had always felt parallel to the 'everyday' focus of my job. I did it, and I was done - and then we continued with the rest of the year. How often would I then see evidence of Objectives from Action Plans or the PM process in lesson observations? When I do happen upon such evidence I am ashamed to admit that my more cynical side often questions whether it is a genuine part of everyday practice, or an experienced practitioner knowingly, and quite legitimately, 'playing the game'.
The targets I agreed with my own reviewer last year were and are important to me. If I am judged to have met them, I guess I will have altered the experience of my students, my team, and even in some small way changed my practice. What my targets do not do (and in some years fortunately so) is state that the Mathematics results at GCSE have to improve by a given percentage. But I believe it is this that everybody is really using to measure me.
So, if I accept that actually everybody is looking at the results, do I embrace that, raise the stakes, and make that my most important PM target? Will that allow me to better rationalise the PM process and my everyday job? Or, do I carry on as before, but more carefully agree targets that really pinpoint what I feel I need to achieve to get the Mathematics results up by the given percentage?
I haven’t yet decided, which means I probably won’t take the punt. Would you? Will you? If I did accept those very high stakes I think the targets would become more real, possibly for me, too real. Whatever my decision, I think the next set of targets I agree will be better for the reflection that the workshop initiated. Perhaps the target I had this year - of sharing practice beyond my own team - was not as trivial as I first thought!