If this be my destiny

About a year ago I met with my Headteacher and two of the school’s Assistant Heads. This was a meeting about my role and if I am honest I felt really awkward. I had spent the last two years working as the Raising Achievement Lead for Pupil Premium students. This was a role I felt very attached to. Partly this came from my own upbringing and experiences of being part of a low earning family. I felt proud of the work I had achieved and had lots of ideas for the future. I also really liked and respected my line manager at the time – one of the Assistant Heads present at the meeting. Lets call this person AH1 for ease. The other Assistant Head – we will call them AH2 – is the school’s Teaching and Learning lead.

Photo credit Thomas Drouault

So, what was this meeting actually about? The discussion centred around a change of role for me. The suggestion was that I moved from the Pupil Premium role to helping to improve teaching and learning across the whole school. As much as I had loved the work I had been doing with AH1 to support our disadvantaged students this was an opportunity that really excited me. I love reading and thinking and discussing teaching and learning theory and strategies and here was the school offering me a chance to do this even more. It also, just between you and me, massaged my ego big time. The school leadership thought that what I did in the classroom and my wider knowledge of teaching was good enough to share across the school. AH2, the teaching and learning lead, also seemed eager to work with me. All of these things made me feel pretty damn good!

Then I looked across at AH1. I had a really good relationship with AH1 and had learnt so much from them. Again, just between us, AH1 did not look all that eager for this change. I took this as a desire to continue working with me, rather than a feeling I would not be suitable for the new role. This is where the awkward feelings started to creep in. Although everybody was polite and professional, I could not help feeling like a child caught in a custody battle between two parents… On the one side AH1 who I had worked with and knew well. On the other AH2 who I did not know as well but led on my area of interest.

At this point I think it is worth saying that this is how I felt in the meeting. I may have been projecting some childhood memories here. The other people in the room may have felt nothing of the awkwardness.

road surrounded by green leafed trees
Sometimes, when you are lucky, the grass is equally green on both sides of the fence (or road in this case). Photo credit Paul Jarvispjrvs.com

So, my feelings of being caught between two patches of green grass aside, a decision was made. My role would shift to one that was focused around coaching and mentoring and supporting teachers development across the school. In one of the first meetings I had with AH2 regarding this role a document was shared with me.

The ACS Way

This was to be the new teaching framework for the school. This was how we were going to support teachers and ensure that lessons across the school were consistently fantastic. The ACS Way is a simple document in reality, it has 8 key points to it:

Purposeful planning
Review
Context
Explanation
Modelling
Practice
Checking
Feedback

It is, in my opinion a fantastic document and one that I have been proud to use this last year. The basic premise is simple and clear and yet there is so much depth and freedom to it. The ACS Way is not a list of non-negotiables or a lesson plan. They are not in order of importance (although you could argue planning must come first). They do not need to be seen and evidenced in each lesson. They are a list of principles of what makes good quality teaching. Although simplicity is a strength we also know that staff need more. To address this we have been writing exemplification chapters for each of the points to give more detail and support. I have found that to be a particular challenge as brevity and clarity is needed – not two of my strengths when writing. I plan to write a series of follow up blog posts to this one, looking at each of these points in more detail. I will share parts of the exemplification document in these and would love to discuss your thoughts and ideas about them.

To finish I would like to take the opportunity to say that the time working with with AH2 has been fantastic. I have huge respect for this person in what they do and how they go about it. I have been really lucky to have been line managed by two Assistant Heads in the last three years who are both fantastic teachers and inspirational leaders.

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