Changing hats

27th December 2007 at 00:00
Rising through the ranks and achieving internal promotion in any organisation is clearly very rewarding. In a school, moving into a promoted post gives you a head start: a wealth of insider knowledge about staff and pupils, a sound grasp of the various systems and structures in place, and a deep understanding of the school ethos. But it's a bit like putting on a new hat: you've got to get used to wearing it - and your colleagues have got to get used to seeing you in it.

You may have competed for your new role with other colleagues who have to cope with the disappointment of not being successful. However magnanimous they may be in defeat, it's a sensitive issue. After an interview, it isn't your job to do the feedback, but it won't hurt to check that your senior managers have seen it as a priority to let people down with their dignity intact. However thrilled you are with your new post, resist the temptation to flaunt your new hat.

Even more difficult, is the shift in your position. If you move into middle management from within, your new role, by its very nature, brings some separation from "the pack". Teachers are sociable types and it is highly likely that you are on friendly terms with many colleagues. Nights out, birthdays and shared interests are very common in schools. Arguably, camaraderie is an essential part of the job.

When you move into a leader's role, however, you may suddenly find that you have to make tough decisions based on professional judgments that have nothing to do with friendship. They must be made in the best interests of the school. So, when you're out and about socialising, you're better off leaving your new hat at home.

You have gained your promotion on merit, and it is likely that you're doing the new job because you are passionate about it and want to make a difference. But you should be aware that colleagues will be scrutinising you, to make sure that you are same person underneath.

A last piece of advice: remember that your new hat is not a crown. Different does not mean better, and you will do well to look at your feet occasionally, to check that they are still planted firmly on the ground - that place where your colleagues still expect to see you every day.

Lindy Barclay, Deputy head at Redbridge Community School in Southampton.

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