Some words of advice, sunshine

18th May 2001 at 01:00
The culture in schools goes against any notion of sunshine management (that's where your boss backs you up against the wall and says:

"Look here, sunshine..." ). In fact, there's a theory that the reason so many teachers watch The Bill is so that they can sit mesmerised by the sight of people being told what to do by their line managers.

In Managing Challenging People: Dealing with Staff Conduct (Network Educational Press, pound;6.95), Maureen Cooper and Bev Curtis begin by addressing this issue, and make the point that school managers who find it easy to deal with pupils who won't do as they're told are likely to fudge the issue when it comes to correcting errant staff. The authors suggest that this is a legacy from the days when all that nasty stuff was handled by the local authority.

They go on to say that "such reluctance is certainly far more widespread than bullying and harrassing management behaviour, though its effects on the well-being of a school and its pupils can be just as damaging."

Using case studies, the authors broach those difficult but recognisable scenarios: the teacher who is talked about by parents because he dresses like Worzel Gummidge; the new head who inherits a staff of clock-watchers. They give practical advice and cover the legal and procedural angles.

Another little book in a series by the same team is entitled Managing Poor Performance. This one is about staff capability; The Well Teacher looks at health, stress and staff absence, and Managing Allegations Against Staff (Network Educational Press pound;6.95 each, pound;23.99 for the set of four) deals with how to protect pupils while trying to safeguard staff from ill-founded accusations. Tese books are excellent, authoritative and easy to read.

Another management task that has become increasingly necessary, but which many heads and senior teachers find difficult to handle, is observing teachers at work. It is no longer just a case of "dropping in to see how things are going". Classroom observation is part of professional development and the judgments that are made can have serious implications for a teacher's career. Observing Teachers at Work by Grace Marriott (Heinemann, pound;16.50) is an excellent "how to" handbook and could form the starting point for a policy on classroom observation. Perhaps the most important point the author makes - and one many senior teachers find difficult - is about leaving your baggage at the door. "The fundamental queston is "Does it work?", not "How would I teach?" It is refreshing to find that each of these books has done what it says on the cover, and Eithne Leming's Working with Parents (Secondary Heads Association, pound;12.50) does nothing to let the side down. It mainly deals with the issue of home-school agreements, which are now compulsory. As Suffolk's Parent Partnership officer, the author knows what needs to be done and tells us concisely, to the extent of providing pro forma letters and questionnaires.

Finally, Joan Dean's The Effective School Governor (RoutledgeFalmer, pound;15.99) can lay claim to being one of the best books on the subject in recent years. Without being too long or difficult to read, it manages to cover the broader issues: vision for the school; teamwork; policy-making; and why we have governors. It also deals with bread-and-butter issues such as staff appointments and finance.


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