I used to get quite serious texts from my mum signed "lol". It turns out that she'd mistaken the acronym for "lots of love", rather than "laughing out loud" – she later admitted that she used quite a lot of text speak without really knowing what it meant.
I laughed at her at the time, but quite soon after becoming a governor, I suddenly understood just how she felt. All professions are jargon-filled – but I've yet to encounter one quite as jargon-filled as education.
Just take this sentence: "Our Sip is coming to look over Sims with the Inco as part of our PPR meetings."
The first time I heard it, I nearly rang up Bletchley Park to get some tips on codebreaking.
Breaking the code
Even the most inquisitive and confident of new governors can start to feel self-conscious asking for the sixth or seventh time in a meeting for an explanation. But, at the same time, such codes and acronyms save time – and they're in common use throughout the profession. Balancing the need to introduce governors to the AFWOT (or 'acronym-filled world of teaching'... I'm making my own bid for edu-jargon glory, here) without overwhelming them is key.
Here are some things I found helpful when I started as a governor, and when I've seen new governors start:
- Including a jargon-buster as part of your school's governor induction pack
- Talking to your head before a new governor's first meeting so that they are aware to break things down a tad more than they would ordinarily
- As chair, being aware of when jargon is used and taking the opportunity to explain it as the meeting progresses
- Following up with the new governor with a phone call or email to see how they found their first meeting and talking through any uncertainties
- Looking at establishing a mentor scheme, buddying up new governors with a more established one
Just implementing one of these could work wonders for helping new governors to hit the ground running a bit faster. Implement all five? You'll be laughing. Lol.
The writer is a governor based in North London