Getting a new chair and head at the same time has opened up a few things. I was made governor for literacy (I am sympathetic as my daughter has slight dyslexia) and made my first visit, hoping later to observe some classes.
The teacher with this responsibility seemed uneasy from the outset, and when I asked to see the materials used and records showing improvement over a period, she became defensive. She said these were professional records and I was not qualified to judge results. Thinking she might come round, I mentioned it to the head and the records were produced. The boys had improved much less than the girls, even with intensive help. Mentioning this clearly touched a raw spot.
Next time, unfortunately, I had to raise a concern about my own daughter, who is on a different programme, and the teacher remarked sharply that governors' children didn't get special treatment. Should I feel angry or inadequate?
Contact with children at work gives reality to so many of the decisions we have to make. Your head perhaps embarked on the new regime with insufficient preparation of staff or discussion with governors about ground rules. I know that you have acted in good faith, and with luck and a little more scene-setting your role could have been an instant success.
One of the reasons I've always been doubtful about subject attachments is that the governor could appear as some kind of rival specialist. Teachers must understand that we come to learn, not inspect, and also that an individual governor has no power so is no threat. But occasionally a teacher will be very insecure.
My other concern is that an attached governor shouldn't allow others to duck the responsibility, particularly for special needs.
With hindsight, quiet observation of a class or two (with the head's help to put it in context and pave the way) might have been a better, if less logical, start than seeing plans and records, because you could have established your goodwill and genuine interest.
You might have thought to say how much help your daughter had received and what hard work it was with boys, despite teacher efforts to differentiate appropriately, if there was evidence of that.
Later, when a governors' agenda had the subject listed, you could have asked for some help interpreting the progress charts. And when you had a problem with your own child you should have been careful to make clear that you weren't there as a governor (or get your partner to do it).
You may ask why teachers have to be so touchy, but many don't know a lot about governors and your appearance did represent a sudden policy change. Preparing the ground, with the head's help, and advancing carefully are the answers.
* The National Governors' Council has 95 LEA-based associations of governors in membership - not 75 as stated in an article on these pages in the May 17 issue of The TES.
Questions for Joan Sallis should be addressed to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London, E1W 1BX