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How do you work with a HOD that isn't really present?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by SaiKhn, Apr 27, 2018.

  1. SaiKhn

    SaiKhn New commenter


    I do have a HOD who is physically present but focused on other leadership tasks. They know they aren't doing their HOD role and that I am getting the raw end of the deal of having to manage myself. I have been trying to see it positively. How would the TES community respond to this? I don't feel there is any teamwork or professional growth. What do you say to them when they say they they can't hold department meetings unless its before the school day starts? When you ask for support they respond with doing more observations! and reply with that's not what I am asking for. How do you tell them that you are unhappy without appearing weak? What positive changes can I offer/make without doing their job for them? How do you tell them you don't want to do a task that you think is essentially what they should be doing and getting paid to do?

    Sincere postive advice sought.

    Thank you
  2. SundaeTrifle

    SundaeTrifle Occasional commenter

    Keep your head down and do your job to the best of your ability.

    Having to manage yourself is a good thing. I have worked for various HoDs in different situations and personally prefer to dance to my own tune. I once found a controlling HoD very frustrating, he was de-skilling me.

    What help do you need from your HOD? Are the basics such as SoW in place? I would need more detail in order to advise. You say you want to make changes but don’t want to do their job for them. If you can see openings where you can contribute for the benefit of the dept and you have time and energy then do it. If it requires their permission to implement something new, then ask.

    If pre-school dept meetings are a problem for you then say so. There should be some compromise.

    It’s good that you have a vision for a dept that works together as a team and supports one another. I have a theory that to get to that point teams also fall out a lot along the way, but they still move forward.

    Think through exactly what it is you want. Is it anything you can implement or change? Do what you can and accept what you can’t. Your overall aim is to do the best for your own classes.
  3. amysdad

    amysdad Established commenter

    Perhaps try to come up with the solutions to the problems you pose? So for example - if there's only two of you, do you need to set aside a regular time for team meetings, or could these just be done ad hoc when you are both available? As long as they are regular and minuted, do they really need to be set in stone?

    Could you try to think of the support you need - for example, could you go and observe them, or someone else in the school?

    Ultimately, if your HOD is having demands piled on them from above, the more solutions you can provide the easier it is for them. Yes, unfortunately it means that you might end up doing some of their job for them - but then you can point that out in any appraisal.

    I would start by fixing a meeting time with your HOD (yes, I know I said about the team meetings) where you lay out clearly your concerns, but make some proposals for how those could be allayed. If the HOD still cancels, or doesn't want to meet, then the next step might be to take it to the level above.
  4. peakster

    peakster Star commenter

    Use the experience you are getting - and then leave.
  5. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    Spot on....
  6. englishtt06

    englishtt06 Occasional commenter

    I have had lovely HoDs and two terrible ones - for different reasons. One was very bad at the job so my colleagues and I just worked around him: which was fine. The other was a micromanager and tried to control everything to the nth degree. Although both caused issues, I must preferred working for the incompetent one!

    I'm often amazed by what some colleagues expect from HoDs (i.e. reading and interpreting a new exam specification is not just a HoDs job, it is as much the classroom teacher's job; the HoD's is to implement it on a strategic level - i.e. LTPs and MTPs and where they fit). In a previous school, the ICT teacher blamed poor results on his HoD because he claimed it was the HoDs job to read the new GCSE specification for him and to plan the lessons for the new GCSE.

    That said, my 'very bad' HoD did nothing apart from order DVDs for personal use on the department budget (the only thing he could be relied upon to do with any efficiency or accuracy). He taught the wrong units at A Level and GCSE etc. so didn't bother to read the new specs. He was also a habitual liar. He was best mates with the deputy head which meant there wasn't much point complaining. However, I did really enjoy working in that school because I did a good job and had so much freedom - I thrived on having the freedom to teach what I wanted, when I wanted, how I wanted (with excellent results, I might add). I guess I was grateful for the super-competent 2nd in department who would ensure we had stationery etc.

    I am now a HoD myself and ensure that there are units to follow for those that need them; but they are free to teach what they like as long as they cover the core requirements of the unit (i.e. reading analysis skills).

    I agree with the other posters - don't complain and move on. Remember: this is as much a learning experience as classroom teaching. You could easily sell this on your CV if you want TLRs (independence, managing a curriculum area, introducing new units of work etc.). If your HoD is seen as a strong, well-liked leader (since that's where they invest most of their time) then rocking the boat would be a bad idea.

    If you would like support with pedagogy and classroom strategies, organise observations within your school of teachers who are seen as good in that particular area. For example, when I was an NQT with a bottom-set Y10 English GCSE group, I went to observe the 'characters' in other lessons to look at their behaviour. Very useful.
  7. GirlGremlin

    GirlGremlin Occasional commenter

  8. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    Thing is, we don't really have enough context to make practical suggestions on this.
    A HoD can easily divvy up major bits of "their" job so that everybody in the Dept gets a piece of it.
    A good example is compiling the main SoW-"you do y7, you do y8, you do y9 etc etc. And I do none of it" The problem then is if everybody else is saying nothing then you stand out as The Complainer. Even if on paper,writing the SoW is a clear cut responsibility of the HoD. And possibly even worse in this scenario, you might find some people enjoy doing this...

    The most telling point in your post is that you say when you ask for support you are landed with observations...THAT'S WRONG.
    This bit is easy to act on-get out now,whilst still sane and friendly, and find a place which operates on a more considered basis. Feeling disgruntled is a great time to make changes, and some sixth sense tells me this particular disgruntlement could devolve into the thin end of an acrimonious wedge (not necessarily of your making).
    Good luck.
    agathamorse and SaiKhn like this.
  9. Jolly_Roger12

    Jolly_Roger12 Occasional commenter

    I think I know the sort of person you mean, @SaiKhn. When our HoD retired, our long-standing and very competent 2 i/c, whom we thought was a shoo-in to succeed him, lost out to 'wunderkind' BS merchant, who could 'talk the talk' but had no interest in 'walking the walk'. It soon became clear that he was not interested in the HoD job at all: he just saw it as a necessary stepping-stone in his career, and he spent most of his time positioning himself for his next move. As he was frequently away on 'courses', he was physically absent for a good half of the time, leaving the 2 I/c to do his job, and the rest of us to cover his lessons. We could have coped with this, if he has just left us alone. Periodically though, he would step in and change things chaotically, not for any good reason but to show that he was 'making his mark'. Our 2 i/c suspected that this new HoD was blocking her attempts to move on, which would not be surprising, for without her, he would have been exposed for what he was.

    Mercifully, we only had to put up with him for four terms before he, with much fanfare, went off to brighter, and better things. By now, the gilding was rubbing off his image, and his stock with the management was beginning to fall. This time, our 2 I/c got the job.
  10. SaiKhn

    SaiKhn New commenter

    Great advice, keeping my head down will help me manage my emotions.
    ..and no the basics aren't fully in place, big gaps in the schemes of work, they weren't in place when I arrived. I've been using what the exam board have on their website. This has caused me a lot of stress since the expectation was that I complete all of them.
    agathamorse and grumpydogwoman like this.
  11. SaiKhn

    SaiKhn New commenter

    Thank you,
    The SOW aspect has caused me stress - complete 4 year groups, whilst the HOD does the other 4, but that might be divided by another staff member (you don't want to know!)
    agathamorse likes this.
  12. SaiKhn

    SaiKhn New commenter

    Thank you for the advise :)
  13. sebedina

    sebedina Occasional commenter

    Definitely agree...
  14. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    I'm with @GirlGremlin on this.

    The less I had to do with line managers the better I liked it. Seek them out? Ask them stuff? I don't think so. Plough my own little furrow to the best of my ability and hope they leave me alone.
    History88 likes this.
  15. SaiKhn

    SaiKhn New commenter

    Thank you everyone, you all have really helped me reframe things in my head and I feel better to think of a way forward. Much peace and love to you all.
    emerald52 likes this.

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