Middle leaders are often the unsung heroes in our schools. Taking on a phenomenal workload and ensuring the smooth running of individual departments and phases, they could be considered the glue that binds the school together. Here are 5 reasons why we think school simply wouldn’t be the same without them.
Depth of knowledge
Middle leaders bring a phenomenal depth of knowledge to our schools. They often have many years of experience to draw on, spanning several different schools. Whatever problem you’re facing in class you can be almost certain that your department leader will have been there, done that and got the battle wounds to prove it. As such, they’ll be in a great position to offer you advice on your best next steps whether you’re looking for lesson planning advice or ideas about how to support a child going through a difficult time at home.
We can often be guilty of not drawing on this fantastic resource enough. Next time you find yourself struggling for ideas, consider brainstorming them with your head of department or other senior colleagues. They’ll have a wealth of ideas you can draw on and will be very keen to help.
Middle leaders tend to be very much involved in the department they’re leading and are still active practitioners. This means that they have to live the policies and procedures they advocate which results in a very practical approach. They’re still learning from experience and each time a new initiative or curriculum comes in they take a hands on approach in implementing it, and take an active role in helping the rest of us to understand exactly what is expected of us and how we might go about achieving that.
There are few things in school that are more powerful than a group of middle leaders hatching a plan together. These are the people who are able to facilitate cross curricular or cross phase links. They are the people who can ensure that the crazy idea you had for a whole school enterprise day can actually happen by getting other middle leaders on board… As active practitioners with a whole department on their side they’re in a great position to make things happen, especially when they work together.
Middle leaders are always innovating, looking for new and better ways of doing things – and on the whole they are very open to new ideas. They are in a great position to share best practice within and between departments and will usually listen with interest to any ideas you have about how things that could be improved. They’ll provide you with the support you need to give new things a go, and provide you with the counselling you need if it doesn’t work out!
Middle leaders completely understand the importance of individual students. Yes, they have tough targets being placed on them in terms of achievement but, as practising teachers, they don’t let this make them lose sight of the individual. They will offer support and advice about steps you can take to maximise the engagement, enjoyment and achievement of every student in your class. They’ll also understand that, for various reasons, sometimes a student won’t fulfil their potential. They’ll provide you the support and ideas you need to do the best you can for the student in question without judging your teaching as a result.
One of the best things about middle leaders is the questions they ask. They are not yes men and women, preferring to fully understand an idea before jumping on board. The questions they’ll ask you before implementing your ideas will help you to understand what is needed to get them fully ready for the classroom and student-proof! They’ll also often ask you bigger questions that give you a lot of food for thought, questions about where you see your career heading; how you think you might have handled a situation differently or whether your work-life balance is impacting on your ability to be the best teacher you can be. Middle leaders are in a unique position where they know you well enough to ask these probing questions without seeming insensitive, but have enough clout to ensure you take the questions seriously.
So what did we miss? What else do you think makes middle leaders special? Are you a middle leader? If so, what do you think is the most important element of your role?
Creative Education provide a range of courses suitable for middle leaders including: