Selfless promotion

31st March 2006 at 01:00
Advice for seasoned practitioners

There's an episode in The Office in which the spooky Gareth says he's been made a team leader. Tim, the nice guy, tells him it doesn't mean anything.

"It's a title someone's given you to get you to do something they don't want to do for free - it's like making the div kid at school milk monitor.

No one respects it"

Cash-free "promotion" isn't unknown in schools. I was once made a senior house tutor in a Birmingham comprehensive. It carried some responsibilities - not many, because the real power resided in the heads of lower, middle and upper school. There was certainly no extra money.

As senior house tutor, I looked after inter-house sport and out-of-school activities, and ran a weekly house assembly during which sixth formers treated my antics with languidly amused tolerance. Crucially, the slightly pretentious title eventually helped me get an interview for a real head of house job, on a lot more money, in a school which actually was organised in vertical houses, and where the house heads were the people who counted.

So, if someone wants you to take on extra work, and proposes to reward you with nothing more than a title and a vague promise, don't be too ready to go back to the staffroom and whinge about it. Ask yourself the following questions: will you be drawn into a team of congenial and creative people? I certainly was. My house staff team was endless fun. The head of PE, a larger-than-life Olympic medallist, was one of them and I cherish my memories of the time I had with him.

Will your work make a visible difference to the life of the school? We made waves with our fundraising ideas.

How will your responsibilities look, on a CV? I've already told you that one.

Can you make your additional role actually feed your existing one? As senior house tutor, I developed a different relationship with some of the special needs children, my core responsibility.

Is it a forward step in your career plans? I moved on to middle school and then to a primary headship. Being a house head was a better jumping off point than being an academic department head.

Is it, despite Tim's analysis, a genuine attempt by the school's management to help you develop your career? I think it was. I respected the head's motives, and tried to repay his trust.

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