Making It To Christmas: Starting Well

Well, the new term -- indeed, school year -- has started or is about to start, so you may think it is somewhat premature to be thinking about Christmas already!

Let's goHowever, in my experience the autumn (Fall) term is the toughest of the lot, and the final few weeks can be purgatory. How can you and others in your team avoid that situation? Here are some suggestions, with links to articles you may find useful. The links are mostly to articles I’ve written, which I hope will prove useful to you if you’ve not come across this blog before, or serve as a reminder if you have.

I think the key is planning. You know the old adage, failure to plan is planning to fail. Well, it's true. In fact, non-planning brings a double whammy:

Firstly, having everything become urgent all the time is stressful. Secondly, the very thought that "I don't feel like I'm coping very well" is stressful No, it is much better to plan well from the outset.

So what does planning involve? Well, as you'd expect, there's the bread and butter stuff like making sure you have a good scheme of work to follow. In my opinion, a "good" scheme of work is one which you and your colleagues have constructed or amended yourselves over a period of time. There is no point in reinventing wheels for the sake of it, of course, but on the other hand I don't think it's possible to teach effectively from a bought, and unmodified, scheme of work or from an awarding body's syllabus. To use a well-worn expression, a team needs to have ownership of  the curriculum in order to teach it effectively and vibrantly.

For me, that leads on to delegation. One of the first tasks a new ICT leader should do is find out the strengths and weaknesses of her team members,m and then delegate responsibilities accordingly. Doing so can reduce the burden on you, and also give team members valuable experience which they can cite when going for promotion themselves. You will, however, need to build in opportunities for colleagues to do a few things which, perhaps are outside their comfort zone, which is where the next idea comes in.

One aspect of delegation is to give team members responsibility for individual units of work. I discussed this under the heading 'Motivational factors' in Business thought leaders and their relevance to educational technology leadership 03: Frederick Herzberg, but basically the idea is that you ask each team member to take on the responsibility for a unit of work, including resources preparation and training the team if necessary.

Another good idea is to do some stocktaking as soon as possible, to find out what will need replenishing soon. it's awful to suddenly run out of something.

Make sure you have some great professional development lined up for the term. I discussed over twenty ideas in Twenty One Ideas for an ICT or Technology Co-ordinators' Day. You should also join the Vital CPD Community. This is free, although you have to register. I have a slight vested interest here: I am doing some work for Vital in another area, which I will announce soon – but I wouldn’t be working for them or contributing to discussions if I didn’t think it was any good! There are other communities there. As John Dunne said, “No man is an island”. Join!

Hmm. While on the subject of not going it alone, I should mention the Computers in Classrooms newsletter too. That’s free as well, and in the very near future I will be announcing some great offers and prize draws for subscribers.

Plan your team meetings in good time. That will help everyone get more out of them. You should find

31 Days to Become a Better Ed Tech Leader -- Day 21: Organise a Team Meeting With a Difference

will be useful in this respect. And on the subject of meetings, if you conduct them in a professional, ie formal, manner, in my opinion you get a lot more done and it's less stressful for everyone than having informal meetings all the time. Those are great, and can lead to a lot of good stuff being done, but equally they can lead to time and energy being wasted as people try to remember who said who was going to do what. The article on formalising meetings explains what to do.

If you're in charge of technical support too, try planning what tasks should be undertaken when, and by whom. The article on Becta's Framework for Technical Support may be of interest here.

The recently-published articles 21 ideas for getting off to a good start and  5 Minute Tip: Starting a New Job should prove helpful as well.

Finally, do yourself a favour and treat yourself to some great, and painless, professional development by working your way through the series called 31 Days To Become a Better Ed Tech Leader – and look out for the ebook version announcement soon.

This is an updated version of an article first published on 1st September 2009.