Someone said something lovely to me at the end of the week. I was talking to our trainee teacher about how he felt his placement with us was going and one thing he said was how nice it was that which ever teacher he was with we all seemed to be pulling in the same direction. That, although we might teach in slightly different ways, there was a clear common purpose in what we do. We had the same expectations. Now that was just music to my ears and brought to mind that idea about teamwork needing everyone in the boat to row together if progress is going to be made.
I think this year, more so than ever before, I have a sense that everyone in the department is rowing together. I think it helps that we are quite a small team. There are four of us plus a trainee teacher (whose main role it turns out is to say lovely things and inspire blog posts) and that makes it easy for us to keep in touch with what everyone else is doing. As well as a briefing and a longer meeting once a week, we also spend time in and out of each other’s classrooms. One reason for this is that resources for each key stage are kept in a different classroom and a useful side effect is that we are always watching snippets of each other’s teaching.
Something else that is having an impact is making sure that department meetings are spent sharing examples of what we have taught and examples of pupils work. We also spend time planning together (increasingly necessary with the new KS4 and KS5 specifications starting at the same time) and we teach each other’s lessons and use common resources. There is a real pressure to make sure that you are producing something excellent if you know your colleagues are going to be relying on it as well. It also means that we learn from each other and so share a common approach.
I also think it has helped that we have one core department aim which is “Expect Excellence”. This is really starting to permeate our classrooms and become our culture. We have shared systems that we use to help create this: how we model work, how we share excellent work, how we use consequences to ensure that all students try their hardest. A lot of ideas in how to shape, share and build this culture came from reading the excellent work of Stephen Tierney, Andy Buck and James Ashmore & Caroline Clay. Reading these books have been invaluable in my development as a leader.
I am very lucky that I work with such a wonderful team of people who share my passion for our subject and for ensuring our students get the best possible education. Sharing this passion is what allows us to row together.