Share some feelings

23rd September 2005 at 01:00
Here is Janet, a new headteacher, wheeled into a school formed by the amalgamation of two failing schools.

Janet knows it is all about consultation and collaboration. So she sets up a series of staff meetings. Carefully she explains what is needed, and everyone seems keen to go forward.

Then their plans come in, and Janet's heart sinks, because all those people she thought were in step with her are just asking for more resources.

"No indication of the need to raise standards, monitor what goes on, or any sign of a basic awareness that these things are as important as resources."

It is a story you will hear at almost any informal gathering of heads. Janet's account is in Brenda Beatty's paper Emotional Leadership, a chapter in The Essentials of School Leadership, edited by Brent Davies.

Paul Chapman Publishing.

(Mind you, to get to Janet you have to hack through the dense undergrowth of Brenda Beatty's academic style, at which Tim Brighouse balked in his otherwise favourable TES book review.) Janet is understandably depressed and head-bangingly frustrated at her colleagues' resistance. "I feel they are too set in their past ways and not prepared to put a great deal of effort in to make this school work," she says.

How to deal with this? Part of the answer, according to Ms Beatty, is to get all the emotions out in the open - something that goes against the grain for many school leaders who tend to mask their personal feelings.

Janet, though, was encouraged by taking part in an anonymous worldwide online discussion on emotional leadership, set up by Ms Beatty and involving 25 heads. So she plunged with her colleagues into the realm of feeling, and sure enough there emerged a story of bewilderment and resentment.

The teachers had been excluded from any sense of participation in the wake first of bad Ofsted reports and then of the amalgamation. No one had even explained what was needed in terms of planning, assessment, and the co-ordinators' role. Once all that was established, the conditions for progress were relatively easy to put in place.

I would say that if you are dealing with staff resistance, have the courage to engage with you and your colleagues' emotions by recognising and identifying how you feel. Explain this to colleagues, and allow them to do the same. Then together seek the best way forward.

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