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The Best of SMT

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by Oldgit61, May 22, 2012.

  1. I am often accused of being too much of an Old Git. Perhaps someone would add balance by bringing in some stories of good SMT.

    I have worked with some and know some but, as you probably have guessed already, think most of them are <strike>self-serving *** who couldn't organise a shag in a brothel</strike> falling short of the wide range of demands made on them.

    The floor is yours...
  2. Dear Old Git,
    I would have loved to contribute to this thread as I feel it's a noble enterprise, unfortunately I haven't been lucky enough to witness any!
  3. I have had the honour of working almost a decade in one of Englands most deprived areas. Our Headmaster, though a very unassuming chap was the most thorough, professional and astute characters you could ever meet. OK he didnt have the answers to evrything but his vision and belief in his staff spoek volumes for his faith and confidence in his team. We equally worked our socks for him, the school and more importantly the kids. He had an aura about him despite being quiet short, inches over 5ft tall. His demeanour, knowledge and confidence ran right through the school despite the very tragic circumstances we worked under. eg. teenage pregnancies, drugs, one student dying following a playtim collision. Sadly, SMT Ive met thereafter in the middle east seem by and large tyrants on the backs of the arab owners, lacking faith in their staff, poor managers and couldnt give two hoots for anything except their fat salaries and holidays.
  4. apologies for typing errors above.
  5. I will always have fond memories of one of my first HT. I was living on the school grounds and could see his office from my kitchen window. He was very often the last one left and I could see the light in his office long past after everyone else had gone. Unlike most HT, he would still teach his specialist subject (ICT) once a week. I strongly believe that this single hour of teaching allowed him to keep a good perspective. I didn't always agree with his decisions, and a few of them I would call bonkers, BUT I never doubted that he had thought long and hard about them and that he genuinely believed they were the right steps to take for the school. He set a high standard that most of my following HT have struggled to match (but a number of them came close).
  6. stopwatch

    stopwatch Lead commenter

    I think perception of how good/bad/inbetween SMT are is based on your own personal experience of them and what involvement (good or bad) they have in your day to day worklife.
    I can think of a couple of examples where, depending on who you ask, the words 'chocolate teapot' and 'inspirational' would be used for the same person.
    Many have some aspects at which they are brilliant (eg managing resources) and other s they are **** (eg managing people). Very few are good at everything.
    If I had to put a figure on it, based on lots of years experience of them, I would say (approx) 20% excellent, 20% good, 40% fair to middling, and 20% bloody awful.
    The main reason for this? the majority are good at talking the talk, yet not always walking the walk.
    One character trait which could be attributed to most is that they are self serving regards their own career aspirations and often driven in this aspect.
  7. MisterMaker

    MisterMaker Occasional commenter

    Nothing wrong with going commando...[​IMG]
  8. This - particularly the last sentence.

  9. yasimum

    yasimum New commenter

    THings have changed in terms of recruiting here and stopwatch's last sentence rings true here as well. However, if I am any sort of a teacher today, it is largely due to the supervisors I had when I was first starting out on my career path.
    They taught me how to teach, much more than any uni courses did. They let me make my mistakes (and there were many of those) with gentleness and humour and prepared a soft landing for me to dust myself off and try again. I took their beautiful example with me along the road and try to treat my students with the same equanimity I experienced with them.
    One in particular created such a wonderful social life at the school that we were all gagging to get back after the summer and be together again. He used to say, "Slick (we all had a nickname), all schools have their golden age and I think this is it for this school." I prefer to think of a golden era in education and late 70's and eighties was it for Australian education.
    Thank you John Buckland, Bernard York, Barbara Boston and Sandra Taylor! You gave me a gift for life and I have loved it every step of the way.
  10. kate harvey

    kate harvey New commenter

    My first headteacher, John Latham, was a great leader. He kept his feet on the ground, and never asked his staff to do anything he was not prepared to do. He taught lessons, covered lessons, would do do break duties in the rain, wind and snow. He would litter pick with the kids. He had the ability to see the big picture and forward plan, not just fire fight when problems arose. He treated all his staff, including us NQTs as professional colleagues. He could talk the talk BUT CRUCIALLY walk the walk as well. His office door was genuinely open to all. He would say that the staff were at the centre of every decision he made, and the children were at the top.
  11. lovely.lady

    lovely.lady Occasional commenter

    That is a such a humbling phrase! I have only worked with 2 head teachers in the last 13 years that can actually do that - my first Alistair Shaw and one just a couple of years ago Brad Owen. Ironically, both entered teaching from others 'careers' - Alistair was a kitchen designer and Brad was a squaddie!
  12. Yasimum, beautifully put. We should all remember this, SMT and teachers alike.As Katie harvey's post shows, the key is leading by example.
  13. miketribe

    miketribe Established commenter

    The best SMT I ever worked under -- and there haven't been all that many good ones over the last 40 years -- was at Parthian School in Tehran. It was composed of Renata Delshadian as head and Leora Douraghy as her deputy. They were both wonderful but in a complementary way. Renata was a larger-than-life mother-figure for the whole school. She used to keep the entire middle school student body in the assembly hall once a week, chatting to them and reading them stories while the teachers had a meeting to discuss student progress and curriculum plans. On the other hand, Leora was the school disciplinarian who ruled us all with a firm hand!
    Between them, they had founded the school because they weren't happy with what was on offer at the other international schools in the city for their own kids. What they achieved was a school which, although small, achieved some of the best academic results in the city while maintaining a warm, family atmosphere. Between them, they both managed to hold the school together during the Iranian Revolution as half the students and staff fled the country. The morale among the rest of us remained high, despite the dangers and inconvenience we all faced and worked around.
    It is a further tribute to both of them that there is a lively former students' community which meets together regularly and corresponds over the internet all the time... I'm still in contact with students I taught there 30 years ago whom I last saw when they were 11 years' old!
  14. SMT dude

    SMT dude New commenter

    It needs no Darwin or Nietzsche to tell us that some people are born to lead, and no amount of solemn NPQH-ing will turn base metal into gold.
    Look around your staff room, and you will easily spot the future school leaders, who glow with an almost palpable aura. Allied to extraordinary physical strength, beauty and grace of speech and movement, they go about their daily tasks with a gentle self-confident smile, clear-eyed, determined, blissfully aware that their every action will bring out the best in Lesser Mortals, thereby ensuring their undying affection, loyalty and emulation.
    This is true of other walks of life, including OldGit's beloved military, where everyone at Sandhurst or West Point can identify the young Apollos who will one day lead their men into <strike>battle</strike> overpaid early retirement.
    Naah, but seriously, this has turned out to be a gentler thread than perhaps the Git was hoping.
    Several posters told us that they have encountered exemplary leaders, and I'll add another voice to their wise words. Two of my head teachers - unlike some I'm too coy to mention their names - combined authority and gravitas with good humour, deep interest and knowledge in education, wide culture, titanic hard work, grace under pressure and warm affection for students and staff.
    So in my very rare sane moments, when I'm not standing in front of a mirror dressed as Napoleon or Margaret Thatcher, these are the examples I try, no doubt in vain, to follow.
  15. Mainwaring

    Mainwaring Lead commenter

    Bill Pye: Deputy Head in the school where I was Head of English for seven years. Former WW2 officer wounded on the infamous 'bridge too far'. Brilliant teacher; administration which ran like clockwork. Loved kids. Kids loved him but 'Enough!' was quite enough to end any skylarking and get down to the business of the day. Great Christian. Great human being. When I stand in front of the mirror I realise how short I fall in every way.
    Vivian Crellin, MA (Cantab). Headmaster when I was Director of Studies in the early eighties. 'Mad', said some. 'Inspiring,' said others. 'Both', say I. Favourite arcane quotation: 'I would cane any boy, even a cripple, as long as the offence was not serious.' (He abolished the cane well before the Government got round to it). In a few short years Viv led the conversion of a mediocre little secondary modern school into a comprehensive Herts parents were fighting to get into. One of his third year History pupils told me 'Sir, I don't really know what the 'ell he's on about but I know he likes us.'
    You will note that both of my gurus were teachers and continued to be so up to their last day of service.
  16. Or perhaps my caricature of an avatar was getting in the way of the message.

    So I brought in some guest speakers.

    We are, after all, supposed to be lifelong learners.
  17. Still think about one head of school at an excellent place to work. She had her admirers and her detractors there. What I so admired about her was probably what others could not tolerate about her: she would tell you the truth. She would tell you with kindness, but she would not BS. She was direct and to the point, and you always knew where you stood with her, what her way of thinking would be on an issue. There wasn't any "read my mind" guessing game with her. She was perceptive as h3ll, but principled and kind. You could trust that whatever you didn't know about happening behind closed doors was fine because she would represent everyone's interests fairly. She would stand her ground and shield you from whatever would drain your energy unneccessarily. She was, in short, pretty cool. And I don't know that she cared about any of the staff that didn't like her directness (I never saw) because she was her own moral compass.
  18. Mainwaring

    Mainwaring Lead commenter

    Happy to have the business in these straightened times. The invoice is in the post.
  19. percy topliss

    percy topliss Established commenter

    I thought that I would wait for a while and see which way this thread went. As I thought that there might be a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth going on, but no, it has actually been very restrained.
    I have to say, that as someone who came to teaching late, after having had a proper job, that over the last 18 years the standards of the SMT that I have worked under and with has got worse in proportion to the amount of certification that an *** can aqcuire and then present him, or herself as the fully formed article to an interview panel.
    As has been pointed out in threads passim the students and indeed other members of staff used to, and in some cases are, much more important than KPI or whatever drug induced nonsense the government of the day is churning out this year to pacify people at home.
    I worked at a school on an island in the Gulf for a while where the onus was very much on the now defunct NPQH and the SMT there were shocking, they rode roughshod over the staff and generally just weren't nice. It wasn't an International school just a little outpost of England in a rocky desert. If that is what having that particular certificate makes you act like then Mr KPI and his ilk are welcome to them.
    Ready to repel Walter Mitty and his mates!
  20. SMT dude

    SMT dude New commenter

    Agree with you Perce, although it does look rather reactionary and philistine when we old furrts pour scorn on qualifications we haven't bothered to look into. Usually we'll claim we were too busy doing more meaningful things and living real life to the full, but that has a whiff of complacency and sour grapes too.
    The same goes for Masters degrees, often discussed here, and typically those who haven't acquired one, like the present writer, are skeptical, while those who have the wondrous letters after their name tend to believe that the kingdom of educational heaven has been opened to them.
    It would be truly interesting if someone came along and said, "did the NPQ thang and it was tedious timewasting ballacks" or, "my Masters in Educational Management in a Global Society is the thinnest streak of pish ever to trickle out of Higher Education"... but this won't happen.
    Unlike you I never had a proper job, but did rise through the ranks. And although I've now spent 20 years strutting and swearing on the quarterdecks of two majestic men-o-war with the White Ensign fluttering at the stern and the IB ocean beneath the keel, I never forget that it was the lower deck before the mast, the bosun's curse, the captain's lash, the freezing bilges, the fetid hammock, the salt pork and maggotty biscuit, that brought me here, not the Naval Academy or a patron's purse.
    In the midshipman's quarters of our ship there are at least four younger salts who are going to make excellent captains one day. I shall dab a tear from my rheumy eye when they are eventually piped over the side to be rowed to their new command, but the manly bosom will also swell with pride by jove. They have learned both from helping sail the barky and from the maritime manuals. No-one will ever say of them, that the rising generations have lost the art of leadership.

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