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Quietly not doing as told

Discussion in 'Heads of department' started by secretsiren, Mar 5, 2017.

  1. secretsiren

    secretsiren Star commenter

    I'm having a minor issue with a member of my team and it is really, really annoying me. We've worked together for a while now and I have a great deal of respect for their way of working. However, book scrutinies, observations, discussions, department meetings, moderation and a whole bunch of other stuff keeps turning up the fact that things that I have directed my department to do are not being done. For example - marking. One of our biggest issues has historically been that there's a lack of consistency across teachers in terms of frequency, language used, advice given etc. so I introduced a fairly formulaic marking system which was designed to reduce time taken for marking and ensure that all students got the same diet regardless of their teacher. I did also say that if individuals wanted to, they could add things to the marking system to personalise it but we all had to do the first bit. Everyone understood; everyone was on board. Except one of them just simply doesn't do it. I'll have a word and they have an excuse and promise to fix it. Next time, still not done. I go back and have a firmer word. They say they didn't understand or they don't agree with the decision I've made or don't understand my reasoning so I go through it again. Then we have a school-wide scrutiny or an external inspector will come in and hey presto, lack of consistency!
    I'm getting very tired of constantly being held to account for someone who quietly, politely but persistently doesn't do what they're asked to do. It's not that they're not doing things but that they continually do things their own way and I keep getting b****ked for lack of consistency. My line manager is aware and we're in the process of making it more formal.
    So my question is - how do you deal with members of your department who quietly but constantly do things their own way even when you've asked them to do things slightly differently for the sake of helping the department improve?
     
  2. wanet

    wanet Star commenter

    One thing that I always did was to follow up conversations with an email when things were not being done. Perhaps cc or bcc your line manager into these. Yes it can be annoying. i think that some people think that they know better and can ignore, but consistency is half the battle. Good luck!
     
  3. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    Absolutely infuriating for you secretsiren.
    I agree a 'paper trail' is an absolute necessity in such situations. And the advice to cc in any relevant SLT above you.
     
  4. secretsiren

    secretsiren Star commenter

    Good plan. I've minuted it in department meetings (the plan for changes, not conversations with individuals) but don't then always follow it up with my line manager.

    Would you have a 'my way or we're in trouble' conversation? I don't want to upset my colleague as I do value their hard work, but I genuinely have to focus on the bigger picture now as HoD.
     
  5. lindenlea

    lindenlea Star commenter

    It's teachers like that who have lead to the extreme monitoring that goes on now. It used to be really common and is probably much less so now. I'd up the monitoring ( sorry :( ) just for her and tell her that you'll be passing it up the line if she doesn't follow the push for consistency in marking. Make it clear she's the only one not in line.
     
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  6. red_observer

    red_observer Star commenter

    Depends on who you are.
    are you a HoD and everyone in your team is younger/less experienced?
    is the person concerned OLDER/more experienced than you?
    I can only say that I agree with consistency but what about professional judgement? I hate coloured pen marking for pupils...refuse to do it...I think its a gimmick and I have been praised for my marking by successive Head Teachers...so why change?
    I don't like this email route either..."just to cover my back" mentality is RUINING teaching and is a form of sneakiness we don't want in the profession....if you can still call it one...
     
  7. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    I think most teachers would agree with you on this. However it has become a necessity in today's world of teaching, if one doesn't want to face that dreaded 'capability' faced by so many older, experienced, more-expensive teachers , which by virtue of being HoD one will be.
     
  8. red_observer

    red_observer Star commenter

    I'm not, never have been, nor ever wanted to be one but could easily have been after seeing what it did to my previous HoD who resigned due to stress...
     
  9. secretsiren

    secretsiren Star commenter

    I'm HoD of a core subject currently underperforming after a run of great results. I've been HoD for a number of years. My colleague is the same age as me (give or take) and has a few years less experience than me. I have no problem with trusting their professional judgement in terms of what they choose to teach or how they choose to teach it. I too have a real problem with micro-management as I think it undermines the teacher.
    The marking system I put in place was nothing silly like what colour or triple marking or anything like that. I had to put something in place as some children were getting "great work!" for an assessment and others were getting pages and pages of detailed comments that were useless as they weren't reading or responding to them because it was too much to absorb. I wanted to provide more consistency because progress has ground to a halt and one reason is because we're all just doing our own thing. Plus the kids just aren't finding the marking helpful and that just makes it a massive waste of time. If it was working, I would be fine to let it continue. But it isn't working and I'm ultimately responsible for getting these kids to leave school with a decent GCSE so they can live their lives without having to worry about it.

    And again, I agree that emails to cover your own back is unpleasant. However, if you're asking a member of your department to do something (actually it's several thing - the marking is just one example of a few), have had a discussion about it, trialled it, seen a positive impact and then tried to ensure everyone does it, is it not unprofessional of that person to just say 'oh well, I don't like it so even though my HoD has asked me to do it, I'm not going to'?
     
  10. secretsiren

    secretsiren Star commenter

    I learned this the hard way after having a conversation with my line manager about something. They then later completed denied ever having had the conversation with me at all to cover their own backs. They claimed I'd made the whole thing up! If I'd had it in writing then I'd have been in a stronger position than just saying weakly 'no, you did say that...'.
     
    thistooshallpass and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  11. wanet

    wanet Star commenter

    One of the reasons for suggesting cc or bcc was that with bcc the recipient will be unaware that you have included someone else - you decide if either or none is appropriate. I also believe in allowing professional trust, but when you get let down it tends to get less.
     
  12. fineliner

    fineliner Occasional commenter

    You say you respect this teacher's way of working - does that mean that the teacher's marking is sound but not following the policy? If so, was this quite experienced teacher involved in the development of the policy? Consistency in schools is definitely misunderstood. Consistency should be about quality but is often mistaken for uniformity. If your policy is a genuine team effort & not overly uniform then I would ensure that there is adequate directed time available. You say you have directed it is done this specific way, therefore it should be possible to use directed time. These principles apply to other issues not just marking. I understand the pressures of working under external scrutiny & at times like this you really need the team to work together. I hope you are able to get your colleague on board.
     
  13. red_observer

    red_observer Star commenter

    I get what you said in that post as a whole. I would prefer, myself, a one to one but realise that can be difficult. good luck. All I would say though it do students actually READ a teachers comment or just read the mark they've got? I agree with you that comments are important but in my long experience I just wonder whether the first thing a kid does is to look at the grade/mark?
     
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  14. fineliner

    fineliner Occasional commenter

    If you do decide to involve your line manager, I would not recommend bcc. Have a conversation with your colleague and then cc the manager in. Be transparent in everything & have the courage that comes from professional honesty.
     
  15. red_observer

    red_observer Star commenter

    hear hear! Sadly my HoD used to, and probably stil does run to the SMT when I might slightly disagree with something...not a nice person at all..!
     
    Lara mfl 05 and fineliner like this.
  16. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    Why is the colleague not doing as you ask?
    Have you asked why not? It may not be as simple as being bloody minded.
     
    thistooshallpass likes this.
  17. secretsiren

    secretsiren Star commenter

    Their marking is sound in terms of its being regular and giving targets for improvement. However, progress is incredibly slow and one reason is the marking. This particular colleague is very wordy in their marking with lots and lots of helpful comments, but the students don't read them all (some of them can't read them all!) and the depth of marking means this particular person is always behind in the scheme of work, never has enough time to follow up on areas of weakness, and is late with their reports as a result of needing lots of time to complete the marking. I trialled the new system with my own classes, took it to the department who all had a say (and broadly agree - we made some adjustments after the meeting due to some suggestions made for improvement) and it was agreed. And as I'm the one being hauled over the coals for lack of consistency, I don't really see why an agreed policy that we all had input into and which is designed to reduce workload should be simply ignored. Apart from anything else, it's just rude to agree to do something and then just not do it. They should bring it up at the meeting where it was discussed. And as I've said before, I encourage my team to personalise the policies - as long as the bits that need doing are being done, I don't mind it they add bits or even tweak bits as long as I know about it. I think it's the fact that they pretend they're doing it but then just ignore me that I find so irksome.

    If it was just the marking, it would be annoying but I'd let it go to an extent. But it isn't. There have been things I have said I don't want happening because it's plain bad practice (and this is not just my view but also external observers as well, quite apart from common sense) that continue happening. Like watching films for long periods of time as 'context', for example. A clip - sure. Several clips over a period of time - absolutely. But one film every lesson for a week? No, no, no. And they carry on doing it. There are department routines which aren't being followed such as homework setting and quality of homework. They set homework but not in line with school or department policy, often simply saying 'finish off at home' even if the child has done it in class.

    But all of that's kind of beside the point. I don't go running to SLT to complain about people; I like to treat people the same way I would want to be treated. And I believe that we're a team. BUT - and it's a big but - we're getting bad results, students are losing their enjoyment and engagement with the subject, progress is declining and I am responsible for getting it right. And it's harder to do that if everything you suggest is met with a smile, a nod then a refusal to do it.
     
  18. red_observer

    red_observer Star commenter

    Seems that this might be the reason for your problem? Also other issues seem to be coming out now.
    Exam results are a reality I suppose, sadly though. Education isn't about passing exams in total...
     
  19. fineliner

    fineliner Occasional commenter

    OK. I think this goes beyond being a minor problem. You have listed a number of concerning issues which, if they are clearly demonstrated through your self-evaluation procedures, you need to address. I would separate these from the 'not following the policy' issue. You could however, insist that the policy is followed as a way of improving on the other issues (such as lack of progress, not meeting deadlines etc).

    They should bring it up at the meeting where it was discussed. - perhaps they should, but not everyone is able or willing to do this.
     
  20. secretsiren

    secretsiren Star commenter

    It isn't just about passing exams but as a core subject, the school relies on us getting reasonable results to not plunge us into an Ofsted nightmare.
    I do think that if the results were fine, I'd be reassured that all was OK and even if I didn't necessarily approve of them not following department policy, I'd be less bothered. And also, to be fair, I'm not that much of a stickler for rigid rules if everything's working.
     

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