The ‘overwhelmed’ factor and leading school improvement

 Keep your eyeson the load

Leading improvement in education requires substantial change from all involved in the task. As we know, change brings stress and that sense of being overwhelmed by it all. This could come from not having the necessary skills to keep pace or having too much on the table at any given time; either way both provoke stress.

Teaching is a complex task, it should not ever be promoted as easy. Sure, some make it look easier than others but even these educators are juggling many different balls at once in an effort to meet the variety of needs in a classroom or school. Content, skills, values and attitudes may form the basis of what needs to be taught. Add to this the requirements to approach teaching and learning conceptually, through inquiry with meaningful assessment. Drop-in the need to create a variety of learning engagements, provide effective feedback and differentiate for the needs of each learner. Now we are beginning to see everything that we are trying to make happen, all topped off by various government, association and school requirements, bringing about a complex challenge for any educator.

No wonder emotions can run high in trying to meet the expectations of a very demanding job yet one that is so satisfying when we see the progress our students make but also so frustrating when we fail to make progress.

The role of a good school leader is to support teachers through these times of feeling swamped. It is about knowing when to push and challenge our teams to achieve school visions and ideals, whilst also avoiding that ‘danger zone’ where it all appears too much. We need to communicate that ‘Rome was not built in a day’ we need to improve our schools piece by piece, mastering certain elements before we move onto the next challenge. This can be hard for perfectionists to hear but school improvement is an imperfect journey about reaching perfection; we must accept that cannot be good at everything but we can sure try to get there.

The hardest part for the leader is to tread the fine line between striving for educational ideals and challenge whilst keeping a close eye on the load.

photo credit: someToast via photopin cc

Published by Richard Bruford

Richard is currently Secondary School Principal of Suzhou Singapore International School, one of China's leading international schools. He leads workshops across the Asia-Pacific region for the International Baccalaureate in the areas of pedagogical leadership and approaches to teaching and learning. Richard consults with schools on the topics of school improvement and effective implementation and use of technology. With a background in public and independent school education in the UK and Australia, Richard is enjoying his international school adventure in China. He is passionate about developing and supporting educational leaders, as it is essential to improving all schools. Richard is a proud family man and feels lucky to be married to Kim and father of their son Austin. In his spare time Richard enjoys to swim, bike and run and is a now retired football player and coach (with occasional guest appearances)

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