Leading by Example

Main image

Every now and then, a ‘viral’ post is worth a pause and a ponder. The image you see here has been doing the rounds on social media of late and is, arguably, well worthy of consideration. NB: whilst every effort has been made to trace its origin, we have been unable to credit its creator - if you can help us, get in touch!

The thematic content of the graphic is, perhaps surprisingly, not the focus of today’s post. Nor, perhaps even more surprisingly, is the weighty implication that children mimic their parents, carers and (so often in loco parentis) teachers.

Instead, consider the possibility that mimicry is a behaviour trait carried into adulthood: what effect does that possibility have on school leadership at all its various levels?

A useful, universal example is the mentor-trainee relationship, since we have all (however long ago!) been trainee teachers. During the first weeks and months of in-school training, mentors become the model for survival, success and progress. Whether knowingly or not, the mentor sets a standard for the trainee in their professional dress, conduct, manner, ethic, work and expectations. That mentor’s approach to teaching, professional relationships and responsibilities will shape the way that trainee approaches the formative stages of their career. I have never forgotten that my mentor always (and still does even though mentoring is not longer her role) made sure any new trainee or member of staff knew how to use the photocopier - a small kindness which may seem insignificant, but the shocking and sweat-inducing variation between school photocopiers is a stress no-one needs on their first day at a new school! I now try to do the same for anyone new I spot in our staffroom.

The weight of responsibility for how others behave, grow and change can seem overwhelming enough when one considers the pupils we teach, let alone adding in the idea that our every move is being watched, criticised and potentially mimicked by our colleagues, and this of course is not the message. The message is instead far more encouraging: if you want your department to meet a deadline, meet it yourself. If you want your staff to have a better work-life balance, go and get a hobby and make sure you tell them about it! If you want your colleagues to treat you, and each other, with respect and patience, smile in the corridor and ask about their weekend. Remember we’re all the children in the image just as much as the adults.

And above all - show each other how to use the photocopier.


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