I’m just finishing my part in the first of a series of  ‘learning walks’.

The Local Authority inspectors are starting us off.

They’re in today and tomorrow to observe lessons and work with Heads of Department and Senior Leaders to see ‘how learning is progressing’.  I’ve done some observations of science and maths and am about to sample some Year 7 books to see how pupils have recorded their learning.

It doesn’t sound too scary to me as a teacher. Even if  I know my lessons and books aren’t perfect (as they’re not) I always welcome the chance to reflect and discuss the teaching and learning going on in my classrooms.

So why did we have a science teacher who had to go home yesterday because the thought of the learning walk had stressed her out? 

Did she stop to consider that the thought of her not being in today stressed me out!?

Do you have to be a good teacher to be a good subject leader?   I did a lesson observation on an acting subject leader and gave him some ‘satisfactory’ grades. He did not like that at all.   In one sense that’s understandable, nobody likes to be labelled anything less than ‘good’ or ‘excellent BUT he said that he didn’t think he could be a credible subject leader unless he was good in the classroom. I didn’t agree but it got me thinking about myself and some other subject leaders I know.  

Crisis of confidence

I remember when I first become a Head of Maths; during one of my many crises of confidence (in my first year) the Headteacher told me that you didn’t have to be an excellent teacher to be a good Head of Department but you definitely couldn’t do it if you were one of the worst.   We’ve got some subject leaders who are pretty bad in the classroom (in terms of behaviour management as opposed to subject knowledge) and they’re amongst the worst subject leaders we have.   

The Senior Team dilemma

The dilemma is – does the school take the bull by the horns and tackle the issues head-on (in the way that you might for a classroom teacher who’s struggling) or do we have to be a little more sensitive to avoid the subject leader feeling embarrassed and creating a lack of self-belief in their role?

  • Is it because I’m a teacher?
  • Or a woman?
  • Or English?

Perhaps it’s that particular combination!   I just cannot accept that yesterday’s training went well.  

The evaluations are very good.  I’ve had a thank you note handwritten from the Head and yet I’m going through all the bits that ‘went wrong’ even though I’m the only one who knows how they should have gone.

Are teachers, (women, the English) particularly self-effacing? 

I always tell myself I have to work harder and be self-confident as a female leader to make sure nobody puts me down so how is it that the first thing I do when somebody ‘bigs’ me up is to put myself down?