When your school is in special measures, or there are significant issues, we could be easily misled. Whilst we create our strategic plans and address standards, the thing that may require immediate attention, may well be your relationships with the children.
Her Majesty's Inspectors told us that we could not dedicate any time to extra curricular activities.
The school had just been placed in special measures and they had stated that this would mean that we would be taking our eye off the issues with our academic standards.
I had just arrived as a class teacher and the school was in trouble. On my first day I had a fire extinguisher thrown at me and the children charged the corridors leaving the staff demoralised. When I tried to address a group of boys that had decided to play basketball in the hall at lunchtime, one young man fed back to me with verbal abuse whilst the others laughed.
'That's hard. To consider how to build a relationship with children who do not know you and perceive you to be the figure of authority. We have to engineer the right opportunity for a relationship to occur.'
Every day I arrived in the dark, and went home in the dark, and there was little light in between.
It should have been easy to walk away. However there is something deep inside that can stir in adversity, presenting the situation as your invitation.
The missing component was respect. The only way to generate respect was to engineer the right opportunity. Against our external advice, I advertised a football session. Over 70 children turned up on that wet November evening. The school had 160 on roll.
“I always considered spending time with the children after school a perk of the job. The dynamics were very different from the demands of the classroom.”
The next day, the same boys swaggered down the corridor;
'Excuse me lads, could you just pick a few coats on your way?'
And they did.
The WIN / WIN
We sometimes have to work 'the other way around'. Presenting relationships in a leadership plan is unusual because the outcome cannot be quantified. This idea of always having to state the 'so what' by presenting percentage outcomes or trends can be unhelpful. This is where the school vision has to come first and to steer the staff in a direction where they can all contribute.
The children needed to know that I could relate to them. We had to find common ground and we had to do this outside of the classroom. The big win is the response when we return to the classroom with the foundation for achievement and learning in place.
We create a blueprint for others. When we put ourselves out and can see the dividends, others see this. Parents also appreciate your efforts and can see that the school is changing. This is all very explicit and it reverberates when the children talk positive about such interactions and opportunities.