Stay on top of your career

2nd December 2011 at 00:00
Martin Spice reviews two books that offer real insight into professional development

Teachers frequently distrust research advice that comes from outside the educational field, possibly in the largely mistaken belief that schools are somehow inherently different from other organisations. But if you are looking for advancement, I strongly advise you to put your prejudices aside and read How to Get the Perfect Promotion.

John Lees is a career coach and columnist and his book is based on research into how and why people get promoted and what that can tell us about ways to improve our lot. First is the need for self-awareness and the suggestion you "audit" your present role, followed by an insistence that you take control of your career.

Obvious, maybe, but what follows is a very readable, largely jargon-free, thorough and authoritative look at factors we can and should be controlling in our careers. There are also some revealing checklists and exercises thrown in.

I am almost allergic to self-help books, but this has an intelligence and insight that makes it valuable. If you thought your motivation for seeking promotion was money, you'd better start on the self-awareness chapter and think agai.

How to Get the Perfect Promotion

John Lees

McGraw-Hill, pound;12.99

Assuming that the ultimate promotion, to headship, is your aim, you will need to do some very serious reading and thinking about what kind of head you want to be.

We read a lot in the press about super-hero heads who turn around difficult schools but, as Alma Harris, points out in Distributed School Leadership, there just aren't enough of them to go round. Very few teachers actually want to become heads when "the current context of school leadership is . one of overload, complexity and frustration".

So is distributed school leadership a solution or yet another educational fad? Harris depicts an education system in leadership crisis and offers convincing case study evidence that changing leadership structures can have a markedly beneficial effect on an institution's success.

As a well-respected and cautious academic, she does not suggest that this is a panacea for all ills, but is surely right to endorse the view that a "traditional view of leadership based on assumptions of people's powerlessness, their lack of personal vision and inability to master the forces of change" is doomed in the 21st century.

As we scrabble for alternatives to an outmoded way of operating, this book is essential reading for its clarity and insight into what distributed leadership might actually look like in practice.

Distributed School Leadership

Alma Harris

Routledge, pound;19.99.

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