Trying to do too much – Of course you want to make a good impression and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be apprehensive to say no to anything. But here’s the thing about working in schools. There will always be more to do than is physically possible. My advice to you; pick the two or three initiatives/projects you want to hang your hat on and be known for, and go all in. That doesn’t mean you don’t do anything else, that’s not realistic but these 2-3 things are what you’ll always come back to, what you want to become known for and an expert in. If asked to do more than you can handle you can go back to your line manager and explain how it will effect your priorities and because by then you’ll be the go to person for those areas, they won’t want to pull you from them.
Action before observation – Yes you want to hit the ground running and the academic year just seems too short to get everything done but I have seen a lot of managers storm in and start initiatives before ever observing what the current state of affairs is. So here’s my argument for not acting straight away:
a) It allows you to see how things are working and whether something needs a tweak or an overhaul
b) You doń’t come across as a power hungry authoritarian who wants to make their mark
c) When you do want to make a change you are suggesting it from a place of knowing, of what isn’t working as well as it should and can refer to instances you have witnessed.
Hanging on to to the past – Here’s the thing. No on wants to hear about how your previous school/dept etc.. did things better. Do not compare people. They don’t like it. Instead look forward and say how what you are suggesting may help the school/dept move forward.
Quick fixes over processes – This often happens when managers act too fast. They put a plaster on a wound that has cut an artery and really needs stitches. Take the time to get to the root of the problem. You may have a quick fix and you can use it. But you won’t be under the illusion it will solve it forever and can put processes in place to make a bigger change for the better.
Blanket conversations – Just like in the classroom how blanket punishments don’t work neither do blanket conversations. Yes introduce initiatives to the whole dept but then don’t forget to speak to individuals or small groups about how it effects them.
Lack of clarity of goals in communication – I am amazed at how often things are introduced yet the person introducing them doesn’t know why. Like really. Why. Be honest with your colleagues and make sure you know the why and it’s an emotive reason. Simon Sinek has spoken about this to great length so check out his Ted talk if you haven’t already.
Misalignment of goals – make sure you and your line manager know where you are heading and that you are going in a similar direction. When I took over a poor performing dept I made it very clear I wasn’t going to be able to turn around 2 key stages in one year. I would do one key stage a year. Managed expectations meant they knew what they were getting but also allowed me to steadily introduce changes to the staff and make changes in a manageable way.