Taking a different kind of lead…

I’ve had a few bosses in my time and I think I could say something positive about all of them – except one. There were bosses about whom I could happily wax lyrical and with whom I remain great friends to this day, others whom I respect/ed enormously and the remainder – well – they were an acquired taste let’s say – oh and then there was ‘The Exception’. Let me ask you a question. Do you ever look at your superior or boss and wonder how they managed to get where they are? I mean does one need skills and talent and knowledge of subject to lead, motivate, discover and develop potential in others? I would say so, wouldn’t you? So when you find yourself being ‘managed’ by a person who has none of the aforementioned attributes but has the capacity only to cause mayhem at every turn, questions surely need to be asked. ‘The Exception’ was a case in point. 

From day one, it was made clear that things would run one way and one way only. Expressing concern, an opposite point of view or daring to use initiative was not at all acceptable. Interference in class discipline gave the ‘wiseacres’ freedom to go and complain about the teacher and have the satisfaction of watching said teacher being taken down a peg or two – yes even at school assemblies. However, even by following proper grievance procedures and focusing purely on educational matters, the authorities would spurn our every complaint and plea for help. They would find no fault with ‘The Exception’.

Parents tried to speak up on our behalf but we, the staff, were found, consistently, to be the problem: ‘troublesome, poor quality teachers, psychotic ‘…….. It was so sad and frustrating watching  as discipline and morale diminished. Tales abounded about the unprofessionalism of ‘The Exception’, some teaching staff had already sought positions elsewhere as had domestic, janitorial and secretarial staff, yet still no investigation was launched. Despite attacks on our personal and professional lives,  some of us, who stupidly thought that common sense would prevail, were eventually made an offer we could’t refuse. Something was ‘rotten in the state of Denmark’ but ‘The Exception’  had ‘power’ and won the day. We were sent to pastures new……. but how I missed my school of fifteen years and the children and families I had come to know ……..

I was in teaching all my working life – it was a ‘vocation’- let’s face it you had to, at least, love working with children and of course have the essential skills, talents and exemplary training to make it a career. Although I never progressed to management, I remained happily and confidently working in the classroom – happy and confident, that is, until the powers that be began shifting goalposts – all in the name of improvement and progress. Take the ‘Senior Teacher Post’ for instance: to be awarded by interview, to teachers of considerable experience (and talent, of course). 

I applied for four of the posts  – after all someone said that we (of a certain age and experience) were really only applying for the job we were doing, which in my case was that of classroom teacher and student tutor, I took the school choir, did concerts etc.,(supported by super- duper colleagues ), taught a wide range of subjects  – which I will expand upon another time. I was successful in attaining four interviews and unsuccessful at realising any of the positions. Justice was done in the majority of cases but this did not happen in all instances,  for some posts were given to young teachers with little experience who were encouraged by manipulative and insecure headteachers to apply. Can you imagine the psychological effect this had in staff rooms? Senior teachers younger than the majority of the staff? No one was denying their ability as good teachers but there was something wrong with a system which was already beginning to favour youth over experience. Why, oh why did they use the word ‘Senior’ in the title? Why not be honest and call it ‘Headteacher’s Pet Post’ or ‘ Unequivocally Proven to be the Best Teacher in the Whole School Post’!!? Oh dear! Sounds a lot like sour grapes to me, I hear you say and I cannot deny that my ego was badly dented. There was, however a positive outcome to all of this – I bought a new suit for the interviews, known affectionately thereafter as my ‘Don’t Call Us Costume’. I didn’t know it then but my best career move was yet to come.

But to go back to where we started – what about your boss? Does he/she make you feel confident, secure, valued, even happy? What I feel is this – you don’t necessarily have to ‘like’ the person in charge but you do need to be able to enjoy a mutual respect on both a personal and professional level….. don’t you?……


A ‘new broom’, determined to motivate and stimulate the staff, took the bold step one evening after everyone else had gone home, of posting inspirational slogans all over the staffroom. On inspection of his handiwork later the next day, he discovered, to his consternation, that where he had positioned a ‘THINK!’ poster  above the hand washing facilities some wag had stuck a makeshift sign saying ‘THOAP!’ You can imagine that playtime was immediately canthelled and an invethtigation launched. The matter took weekth to tholve becauthe no-one would grath. They dithcovered to their cotht that the new headie wath devoid of the motht ethential attribute of leadership – a thenthe of humour.

Thuffering Thuccotash!

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