By Mark Richards,
Middle leadership is often seen as the logical next step for teachers who have a few successful years in the classroom under their belt. However, middle leadership certainly isn’t for everyone – nor should it be. It will be mean longer hours, extra responsibilities, and a good deal more pressure. Yes, it will also mean an increased salary too; whether the increase is adequate compensation for the extra workload is another matter.
Of course, there are many positives attached to a middle leadership position in schools too. It can help professionals feel a stronger sense of belonging to a school and can strengthen relationships with colleagues too. Not only that, it gives the chance for you to have a direct impact on the whole school, whereas as a classroom teacher, you can only really influence what goes on within the four walls of your own classroom. As a middle leader, through your own decisions and implementations, you can make more of an overall difference.
So, what are the prerequisite skills that will help you to become a success at middle leader level?
Be a confident presenter and public speaker
By the very nature of the job, most teachers are usually confident as presenters and public speakers. After all, you do this in every lesson in front of a class. However, there is a big difference between delivering lessons to Year 7 or Year 11 and presenting to your peers – many of whom may well be more experienced than you are yourself.
It doesn’t come naturally to all, and it can take some practice, but it really is a fundamental part of most middle leader positions. Whether it is presenting ideas to a department, year group, key stage or whole school staff team; or SLT, governors, or Ofsted inspectors; there are plenty of scenarios where the ability to communicate and present articulately and confidently are important.
With presenting, practice really does help. For that reason, although the prospect might fill you with dread, it is worth taking up any speaking/presenting opportunity that comes along. You will reap the benefit in the long run.
Become confident having difficult conversations
Becoming adept at delivering feedback and coping with difficult conversations is an inevitable part of most middle leadership roles at some point – either with parents or colleagues.
Giving positive feedback to colleagues, such as after lesson observations is relatively easy. Similarly, relaying good news to parents or peers is really a breeze. However, the nature of the role dictates that it is likely that you will be required to give feedback that isn’t as positive as you would like it be – or to be the bearer of bad news to your team at some point.
Difficult conversations never really become easy. They all remain tough – but as a reality of middle leadership, it is worth considering how comfortable you are likely to be having such conversations.
Another important piece of advice is to never avoid or put difficult conversations. If something needs saying, it needs saying sooner rather than later.
Be confident with data
To be fair, schools are so data-driven these days that most teachers are forced to know their class data. The thing is that at middle leadership level, you really need to know your data. From staff performance to student exam performance to targets and progress, you need to know your data inside out. Of course, there is more to it than simply knowing your data – you need to analyse, interpret, and make decisions based on the evidence of data. The starting point should be the ability to confidently do all of this with all your own class data. Once you can do this, you should be able to do the same on a greater scale.
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