After my first year, teaching became easier as I had got the top tips from my last post under my belt, but then came subject leadership. I became the ICT (computing) lead in my third year of teaching and thought that it would be easy – I mean how hard could it be? After all, I was pretty good with a computer.
What I failed to recognise as I took on this new position, is that subject leadership is not about the subject leader having sound knowledge of their subject (although this is important). It is more about equipping every educator in the school with the knowledge they need to teach your subject well. I don’t know how long it took me to realise this, but it was a slow dawning. Eventually, I realised that a good subject leader provides sound resources, good CPD and a listening ear.
As all the staff meetings were booked up for the year, I offered drop-in surgeries to discuss any computing issues the staff had. Whilst I wasn’t inundated with teachers who wanted support, I was none-the-less available and was able to support the staff members who came to me. This ensured that the teaching and learning improved as I offered tailored support and guidance.
I tried to make the resources I created clear and easy to use. I say this because Primary teachers are teaching all subjects and have expectations placed upon them from all subject leaders. So I tried to minimise the impact that my subject would have on their workload. This ensured that anything that I gave them was more readily done and not put to the bottom of the to-do pile.
Over the years I have taught, I have also been a subject leader for Science, Maths and English and have used the same strategies each time. Outside of staff meetings, I have been available to support and guide others. If someone has asked for phonics training, I have offered it to all staff on a casual ‘come along if you fancy’ basis.
I have also discovered the power of collaboration and consultation. When I have wanted to introduce a new policy or strategy I have spoken to teachers and teaching assistants beforehand. I have asked a few of them to pilot my idea and taken their honest feedback. This has enabled me to get the ‘buy-in’.
If you watch ‘The Apprentice’ or ‘Dragon’s Den’ you know that the buy-in is very important. No one is going to buy your product if there isn’t something in it for them and it is similar with subject-leadership. In a Primary School, if you are a subject leader, you want your subject to be taken seriously by the staff and prioritised over others.
So how are you going to get incredibly busy teachers to do that? I discovered many strategies over the years but I would urge you to ask the subject leaders in your school how they get that buy-in. What do they do to ensure that they have the staff on board with them?
As a subject leader, I was improving the learning experience of the children in my subject and that is what I kept uppermost in my mind. I didn’t want to do this to the detriment of staff wellbeing though, so it was a careful balancing act.
Subject leadership is an essential step on the rung of the leadership ladder but one that can be incredibly enjoyable.
My final tip is this and it is a good one – never forget to bring chocolate or other consumables to any CPD you lead. I’m not sure why, but it has always helped the participation to grow and the conversation to flow at any training I have done.