Developing School Staff Through a Servant Leadership Approach

Mr Chips Style Staff 1-2-1s: Developing School Staff Through a Servant Leadership Approach

“More tea, Miss Geography?” Says the Head Teacher as she pours one more cup for herself. Miss Geography smiles warmly, nodding, as she reaches for another digestive biscuit. She loves the care exuded by the Head for all school staff, and she loves these end of week 1-2-1 opportunities.

This week, Miss Geography popped in to see the Head hoping for a bit of coaching and mentoring. It’s the beginning of January and the new year lays ahead of us just like a path of freshly fallen snow. Miss Geography wants to do more this year. She want to push the boundaries and reach out to develop her career, perhaps taking on greater managerial and leadership responsibilities herself. As yet, she has no experience beyond teaching her classes.

The Head Teacher sits back down into her office armchair by the bookcase. She dunks her digestive, has a nibble, then washes it down with a slug of tea. “Thanks for popping in for a chat, Miss Geography – you’ve come back raring to go this term, haven’t you?” The Head smiled and took another sip.

“Yes, I really feel I could do so much more this year at St Leader School. But I don’t know quite where to start or what I could do. I was wondering if you could perhaps make any suggestions, Head Teacher?”

“Well this is a very interesting time for you to have raised this, Miss Geography. I’d love to help you develop your skills in leadership and management. We always need staff who are able to take on more responsibility and to be able to reach out and help others, which of course is what leadership and management are all about.”

“What, may I ask, would you like to do? Do you have any burning passions or interests? What do you care about the most in terms of your students, your teaching practice, your subject discipline, the school, or any other wider interests and concerns?” The Head placed her tea cup on the table in front of her and sat waiting to hear Miss Geography’s reply with interest.

“I’m not sure really… those are really important questions. My “why” until now has just been that I love my students and I love Geography. I haven’t had a bigger purpose around that.”

“Ok, that’s a good start then. So why do you love your students and Geography? What’s your story behind this job? How did you get into it in the first place?” Quizzed the Head.

“To be honest I just loved Geography out of all the subjects I did at school. I got cracking A Level results in it. I jumped at the chance to do it at uni, but then I didn’t know what to do with it career wise after that so I kind of fell into teaching. I did a PGCE and now two years later I’m still loving it, but I’ve got so much more to give.”

“Yes, I can see that. It’s great you love your subject. Is there any particular aspect of Geography that really floats your boat more than anything else?”

Miss Geography paused for a moment. “Climatology is close to my heart. It’s obviously an important global agenda and we need the next generation to become leaders in doing the right thing for the earth, sustainability and the climate, rather than the wrong thing. We need them to feel passionate about it on a political level, a business level and of course a scientific and technical level.”

The Head nodded. “This sounds promising! Maybe we could think about how you might take this further in school? How might you do that? What could you do? Any ideas?”

Miss Geography has an immediate answer: “I’d love to get some guest speakers in and maybe kick off some in school projects with competitions – there could be different challenges with different prizes for different year groups!”

The Head smiled, “That sounds marvellous, Miss Geography. I’ll definitely support you taking the lead in that over this term. Perhaps we could give this effort a theme or a peg to hang it on? You know, a project or umbrella like name? Any thoughts?”

Miss Geography’s eyes lit up. “Yes! How about “The Climate Leadership Challenge”?

“Brilliant, brilliant,” beamed the Head. “What will you do next then?”

“I think I should do some planning to get some initial ideas down a bit more concretely, and then perhaps see if any other staff would like to come on board to help. I wonder if I could enlist the support of the debating team and the A Level politics teachers? It would be great to get students engaged initially through some stimulating whole school events and excitement.”

“Yes, absolutely,” agreed the Head, “And giving students the chance to develop political awareness is very important. I wonder if you could embed some activities or aspects to your project where you give students the chance to develop political participation and representation skills, knowledge and ambition? Especially the girls? Of course you know this is an important gender gap that needs addressing!”

Miss Geography nodded excitedly. “Yes, totally, they could also perhaps do some term long game based simulations and extended role plays where some students took the role of business board members and senior management – another important gender gap!”

“Right! It looks like you’ve got this under control! I’ll leave this with you to run with, Miss Geography. It’s in your hands now. Anything you need, just ask and I’ll see what I can do to help. Maybe you could lead a whole school assembly on it next week to launch it? What do you think? Is that too soon? We will have to act fast if we want to plan it in to this term to give you a whole school off timetable day as well. Get your thoughts down and let me know by Wednesday at the latest what you want to plan in and I’ll try my best to support. Ok?”

“Oh thank you! That’s amazing! I can’t wait to get this show on the road!” Miss Geography bounced out of the room with joy.

Jump to a year later. Miss Geography’s leadership on the climate project led to her having the confidence to apply for Geography HoD when that role became temporarily available due to the maternity leave of the previous HoD. She got it easily and is now doing the DfE NPQML, which she will complete imminently. This has helped her to focus on:

• strategy and improvement

• teaching and curriculum excellence

• leading with impact

• working in partnership

• managing resources and risks

• increasing capability

Miss Geography now focuses on the important leadership behaviours of:

• commitment

• collaboration

• personal drive

• resilience

• awareness

• integrity

• respect

She already had all those in bucket loads, but she is now turning up the volume of her own values based on these. She is developing a firm vision of her own leadership style and approach, founded on a strong set of guiding principles of ethical leadership.

And the Head Teacher? The Head Teacher continues to invite staff for end of week 1-2-1 Mr Chips style coaching sessions under the guise of cups of tea and digestive biscuits in her office. Servant Leadership style. Helping others to do more and be more, giving them what they need to develop and contribute to the school in ever increasingly enriching ways.

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