When working with teachers and senior leaders in schools and colleges, particularly those that are judged require improvement, I am often struck by the dominance of immediacy.
The pressure to perform, to meet criteria on short deadlines, keeps mental focus on the next thing, and hides the importance of the big picture. For very understandable reasons those teachers and senior leaders want to get the job done so they focus on what’s right in front of them and the voices that are shouting loudest.
From the outside it can look like very energetic mice charging up and down the paths of a maze. They are full of energy, urgent and twitching with eagerness – at least they are at first. Over time that buzz and drive can die away, to be replaced with cynicism and gestures replacing real actions.
Without a clear sense of that big picture, what Steven Covey called ‘true North’, all actions, however well-intentioned, end up feeling meaningless. Why, people ask, are we doing this? After all, there will always be more to do. By definition, immediacy never goes away.
As a senior leader in a school, college or any organisation it is vital to step back and help the organisation to define and then live up to its core purpose. That will define what is and is not important, and will keep people moving when the times are tough.
As a teacher, sometimes feeling powerless, it is vital to realise that how you act and what you do in your lessons is within your control. You may not be able to change the knee jerk approach of a leadership team under pressure, but you can define what your best self is in the classroom. By defining your best self and living up to that definition you will be giving the gift of ownership to yourself and the gift of a great education to your students.