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Really concerned: feel as if I am doing a terrible job!

Discussion in 'Heads of department' started by katherinelily, Dec 12, 2011.

  1. I am a new head of department in a core subject, as from September.
    The school I am at recently converted to academy status complete with new name, new uniform (but the same staff and of course, the same children.) It isn't a brilliant intake by any means, however by the same token it is nowhere near as bad as some would like to make it out to be. However, results in English have not been good and one of the reasons I was brought in was (supposedly) to address this.
    The department have not really gelled very well with me (or I with them to be honest) - one woman in particular I have to admit I find rather irritating. She certainly cares about the students, but she makes a constant and endless fuss about things: going into her classroom to get a piece of data can take around quarter of an hour because she starts to ask me about other things. I have tried to avoid her in break and lunch times therefore which has resulted in the department having their lunch in the office while I am in my classroom alone!
    They are also so negative about everything I try and do that I do get really weary and fed up of it. Every time I make a suggestion, or try to change something, or try to work around a problem I am told it wouldn't work and given the various reasons as to why. I know I have to be firm and on a few occasions have been, but on other occasions have felt I had to back down. I don't feel I am properly running the department.
    A part of me feels guilty as they are hard-working and committed although I think work needs to be smarter rather than harder to coin an SLT phrase. If I ever try to show I am a nice person by making a joke or by praising somebody it ends up backfiring on me by an embarrassing silence or it being brushed off quite brusquely.
    Teaching in the department really isn't wonderful, hence our low GCSE results, but I am feeling increasingly as if I am trying to teach and manage from a distance.
    I'm wondering if I should just start to become the "HOD from hell" but it's so at odds with what I believe in and who I am that I'm not sure I can bring myself to.
    Any advice, please?
     
  2. I am a new head of department in a core subject, as from September.
    The school I am at recently converted to academy status complete with new name, new uniform (but the same staff and of course, the same children.) It isn't a brilliant intake by any means, however by the same token it is nowhere near as bad as some would like to make it out to be. However, results in English have not been good and one of the reasons I was brought in was (supposedly) to address this.
    The department have not really gelled very well with me (or I with them to be honest) - one woman in particular I have to admit I find rather irritating. She certainly cares about the students, but she makes a constant and endless fuss about things: going into her classroom to get a piece of data can take around quarter of an hour because she starts to ask me about other things. I have tried to avoid her in break and lunch times therefore which has resulted in the department having their lunch in the office while I am in my classroom alone!
    They are also so negative about everything I try and do that I do get really weary and fed up of it. Every time I make a suggestion, or try to change something, or try to work around a problem I am told it wouldn't work and given the various reasons as to why. I know I have to be firm and on a few occasions have been, but on other occasions have felt I had to back down. I don't feel I am properly running the department.
    A part of me feels guilty as they are hard-working and committed although I think work needs to be smarter rather than harder to coin an SLT phrase. If I ever try to show I am a nice person by making a joke or by praising somebody it ends up backfiring on me by an embarrassing silence or it being brushed off quite brusquely.
    Teaching in the department really isn't wonderful, hence our low GCSE results, but I am feeling increasingly as if I am trying to teach and manage from a distance.
    I'm wondering if I should just start to become the "HOD from hell" but it's so at odds with what I believe in and who I am that I'm not sure I can bring myself to.
    Any advice, please?
     
  3. If teaching is an issue, it looks like you are going to have to be the HOD from Hell - or least the HOD from Purgatory - because if teaching and learning aren't getting results, the teachers need shaking up. I'd be inclined to start by discussing it with your line manager. Arrange for LM and you to observe the teaching of all staff - a couple of times each - over a two or three day period. It will give you and your LM useful data and information about where you are as a faculty. I'd then use the generic feedback from this as the basis for a short term action plan - or even the faculty development plan. When your staff complain, you remind them that T&L isn't good enough and what you are requiring them to do isn't optional unless they have a better idea to which you must agree before they do it. Make sure you are doing frequent learning walks - much hated, but you are in a faculty that needs its T&L scrutinised so they are very useful tools. Make sure you give feedback that's positive and remind staff to follow procedures etc if you notice they are not being followed. Secondly, as HOD you will be more needed that you think! Make it clear that you are available to talk to staff about issues etc. but make it clear when. i.e. when I'm sat having lunch, asking me stuff is off-limits. Don't back down. Stick to your guns. Sounds like you have colleagues who are being passively uncooperative to force you to change. Make them change. Keep talking to your LM and keep them aware of everything that is going on. Be high profile when you are not teaching so everyone - staff and students - knows that T&L is being monitored. Hope that helps a bit.
     
  4. Thank you so much for your reply Arthur, I really appreciate it.
    I'd really like to have the opportunity to do some more learning walks, but because we are all teaching at more or less the same times, it is difficult.
    I think the main problems are (it helps to make a list)
    1. Top sets are not being sufficently challenged or taught at an appropriate level - they are taught at C grades rather than A/B. The mock exam results were, to be somewhat informal, bloody awful, with a handful of students getting Cs in Set 1 and then a mix of Ds. This has been blame by the teacher concerned on the new spec but honestly, everyone else is coping with it!
    2. Bottom sets/low ability students are being completely written off which upsets me as both a HOD and as a person.
    3. Negativity - 'this student will not, no chance, that can't happen'
    4. Very poor (I would go as far to say lazy) teaching at KS3.
    5. Reluctance to move on or to engage with new ideas or challenges.
    On one occasion, I did make it clear that I was cross, and that time they backed down. I suppose I have to do this more often. However, I felt awful!
     
  5. One thing you could do is mix the groups up and go to mixed ability. Failing that perhaps take groups off of people?

    As Arthur said, learning walks are the way forward. Give plenty of feedback with clear actions and timescales. Failure to complete these will result in verbal warnings etc...

    If they complain about observations, tell them they have 30 observers every hour and how would they like to be the parent of a child who has stayed on a 4b all year?
     
  6. Get talking to the person who does your cover: can they cover some of your lessons? Can they give you someone for 20 minutes so you can go walkies when your faculty don't expect it? Fingers crossed , your own Y11 group will meet or exceed targets: that will give you some ammo for September! If you can do it, so can they. But that's a long way off.
     
  7. Not easy, but see it as a good opportunity to gain some useful experience.
    You might want to schedule some (or more?) one-to-one meetings with staff in the department. This way you remove the audience individuals have for public moans / whinges about new ideas. It gives you a chance to minute / plan a focused conversation and, by writing each up briefly and forwarding to SMT, you highlight issues and record your actions to to cover your back.
    Also, prioritise carefully. With too many initiatives you won't monitor them well and / or will end up losing energy fighting small battles, detracting from your efforts to solve the big problems.
    All the best.
     
  8. I took on a similar post three years ago, and you will get to where you need to be, if you keep firm.
    Things I used, which seem to have worked:
    - Cake (sounds obvious, but it is really hard to be churlish to someone who has cooked you cake...)
    - Clear foci week by week - this week we will focus on...
    - Being relentlessly positive and 'out and about' Even when I want to avoid people...
    - Sharing my own lesson planning regularly - it took nearly a year and a half before anyone else started voluntarily sharing their material, but it did happen.

    All the best...
     
  9. I could have written this myself too! Very unpleasant, people fighting against everything you say, ex HOD still in dept and being quite awkward - asks tons of questions of me, to which she should know the answers, one member of staff making big errors which to my mind (and the dep. Head) couldn't be ignored and then I'm being accused of 'snitching' to the Head (my LM). I've never worked in such an environment. Had a bad day today when one dept member commented on the way things are in the dept and how awkward it would be for us to all go for a drink. Have tried arranging lunch and the more established staff 'forgot'. Very immature behaviour. I know people don't like change but we have an inspection looming and I want to move the dept on.

    Makes me wonder why I wanted to be HOD.
     

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