Paper roll play just flips my lid

23rd January 2004 at 00:00
Last month, I found myself let out of school to sit in a classroom myself ... in a country house following a dizzy array of flip charts of team-building models.

I was with 10 other senior managers on a National College for School Leadership course designed to improve management teams in inner-London schools.

Course leaders, management gurus and experienced ex-secondary inner-city heads worked with us. Our group requested it be a jargon-free zone, but the rule was no sooner established than ignored. Our lead trainer liberally sprinkled phrases such as "surfacing the barriers to teamwork", "headlining on a flip", and "parking ideas".

The course had its good points - the informal networking with colleagues in similar schools and sharing ideas for tackling tough problems. Talking to the ex-heads over lunch proved more stimulating than listening to the same people talking about the "storming and norming" team-building diagram later.

This kind of training always has a depressingly similar feel to it: trainers won't deviate from their script. Trainees asked for the training to be put in the context of a typical day in an inner-city school, but we stuck to the rigorous schedule.

I found myself forced to build a bridge out of paper rolls. It is moments like this that really help you understand why your pupils feel alienated and become disruptive. But there were some thought-provoking gems which shone through the frustration to make the day worthwhile. For me the salvation was research from the NHS that shows that the best nursing teams are most likely to admit their mistakes. This statistic must give hope to us in the inner-city as we muddle through our busy stressful days. Even the best of us aren't perfect.

Paul Blum is a leadership team member of a north London comprehensive school. He is author of "Surviving and Succeeding in Difficult Classrooms" (Routledge)

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