Thinking of Leaving Teaching?
Leadership, Management and Bullying

My Issues With Teaching – Leadership, Management and Bullying

In my experience and that of many other teachers, good leadership and management are, unfortunately, not common in teaching. This is sometimes due to the fact that most teachers are simply promoted and expected to get on with it, managing people having had little or no training. However, this can also lead to unprofessional behaviour and bullying.

Bullying as a result of poor leadership and management

One way that this unprofessional behaviour and bullying rears its ugly head in teaching is in the observation process. A member of senior management observes a lesson, decides much needs to be improved and then puts the teacher on a “support programme”. I know of some teachers who have suffered from depression as a result of continually poor and unjustified feedback, and many others have been “managed out” after been put on such “support programmes”.

I first began feeling stress as a teacher after ten years in the job due to bullying at work from my line manager. What I started to do in an attempt to relieve my stress was start smoking! I now realise that what I should have done was regular physical activity such as walking, jogging, swimming and cycling (people also suggest mindfulness and meditation).

After a couple of years, my line manager was promoted into the leadership team, which removed a lot of my stress. I gave up smoking and didn’t think about leaving again until Gove started his war on teachers in 2010, workload increased, and then a new Deputy Headteacher arrived whereupon things became unpleasant once again. One sign of the change was the high turnover of staff.

Thinking of Leaving Teaching - Leadership and Management -Observations
The following story shows a perfect example of this…

To put things into perspective, I’d been teaching at the school for fifteen years. I was top of the Upper Pay Scale and my lesson observations had not been graded less than “Good”. Then, one of my lessons was observed by two other teachers from an “observation team” set up by the Deputy, neither of whom were specialists in my subject. As a result of their feedback, in which I was given a “Satisfactory” grade (which became “Requires Improvement”), I was put on a “support programme”. Despite vehemently disagreeing with the observation feedback, the grade stood so I knew where that was leading.

The following observation feedback, that I received back in June 2011, is from that Deputy Headteacher and shows how some senior managers can abuse their positions. The observation was totally unnecessary as I had already handed in my notice and would be leaving the school in six weeks’ time. My Union Representative agreed that, had he not seen the “Satisfactory” at the bottom of the written feedback, he would have thought it had been an “Unsatisfactory” lesson.

Observation Feedback
Observation Feedback

I emailed the Deputy Headteacher to point out that there were differences between the written feedback and the verbal feedback. For example “Teacher spoke for 25 minutes with little/no opportunity for students to interject.” The Deputy Headteacher had informed me in the verbal feedback that I had spoken for 22 minutes, which I disagreed with in the meeting. “I know. I timed it” was the response. Yet, in the written feedback a week later, this had increased by 3 minutes. Verbal feedback from pupils was that I talked to them for far less than 22 minutes, let alone 25. I also emailed the Assistant Headteacher, who was also present in the observation, to ask if they agreed with the written feedback. I received no reply from either the Deputy Headteacher or the Assistant Headteacher to those emails.

In the “Summary of Areas for Development” the Deputy Headteacher wrote “Students who arrived early 11.37 sat waiting for at least 7 minutes.” However, what they failed to mention in both the verbal and written feedback was that during that time at the start of the lesson there was so much shouting and screaming from pupils waiting outside my room for other classes that I had to go outside to tell them to be quiet, stop messing around and to get to their lessons. It was also the cause of the delay in pupils getting to my lesson. I was amazed that, during this commotion, the Deputy Headteacher remained seated instead of going outside to sort the problem out, and when I arrived back in the classroom the Deputy Headteacher was still writing furiously.

My Head of Department told me that the Deputy Headteacher saw them afterwards to ask about marked coursework whereupon they were shown both my perfectly up-to-date marksheet for that class and the marked coursework. This was not updated on the observation feedback.

Pupil Feedback

What is very interesting, though, is the very positive feedback that I received from the pupils for that lesson. “I thought the lesson was really good”, one commented. Several referred to the website I had made to guide them, which contained tutorials that I had created for the tasks they were doing. My website resources weren’t even mentioned in the feedback as a positive aspect! It seems rather extraordinary that the pupils observed positive aspects in the lesson (for example, “When we didn’t understand something, the teacher didn’t just try to explain to us with only words, but also used props to help us understand more. This helped me a lot.”), and yet the Deputy Headteacher failed to mention any of them in the written feedback.

Pupil Feedback

The Deputy Headteacher became Headteacher of the school a couple of years after I left. In January 2019, the school was one of those listed in the Birmingham Live article, “Revealed: Birmingham’s worst secondary schools – is YOUR child’s on the 2019 list?“. The Headteacher was allegedly managed out that year.

Pupil Feedback
Pupil Feedback

Leadership and Management

In over 17 years as a teacher in secondary schools, I never received any training in leadership and management. I was promoted and then simply expected to do the job. Anyone becoming a Head of Department (HOD) was expected to get on with it. But does the NPQH give a sufficient grounding in leadership and management? I think not:

Article from TES - 5 Things headship training does not teach you

My response to the TES post:

Facebook comment in response to post
My response to the article, “5 things headship training does not teach you”

In my last six months as a teacher, I decided to study ‘Leadership and Management’ as I was told this would be useful to me in the ‘real world’. It was only when I decided to begin studying this that I realised how important it was. One of the earliest management theories was McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y and that was the first management theory that I looked at.

McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y

There are many different management theories and one that is well known is known as McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y. Douglas McGregor wrote about his Theory X and Theory Y in his book “The Human Side of Enterprise” in 1960. He suggested that there are two approaches to managing people; there are Theory X managers and there are Theory Y managers.

Theory X managers have an authoritarian and controlling style of management. They assume that the average employee:

  • dislikes work and will avoid it if they can
  • prefers to be directed, avoids responsibility, is relatively unambitious, and wants security above all else
  • is self-centred and indifferent to organisational needs
  • has a reluctance to change

This management style leads to mistrust, highly restrictive supervision, a punitive atmosphere, threat and intimidation to gain employees’ compliance to work towards organisational objectives. Theory X managers will do the thinking and planning with little input from subordinates.

Theory Y Managers are democratic and empowering. They assume that the average employee:

  • puts as much effort into their work as they do into play or rest
  • may be ambitious and self-motivated and exercise self-control
  • will be committed to an organisation if they are satisfied in their job
  • gladly accepts autonomy and actively seeks responsibility

This management style helps people to develop and encourages them to take the initiative. People will contribute more to their job and organisation if they are treated as emotionally mature, responsible and valued employees and are given challenging work.

Theory Y managers are accepted as being more effective for motivating people than Theory X managers and tend to achieve the best results from their teams. lists the behavioural characteristics of an autocratic Theory X manager. Some of those are listed here:

  • poor listener
  • does not participate
  • does not team-build
  • demands, never asks
  • does not thank or praise
  • thinks giving orders is delegating
  • issues instructions, directions, edicts
  • seeks culprits for failures or shortfalls
  • does not invite or welcome suggestions
  • unconcerned about staff welfare, or morale
  • issues threats to make people follow instructions
  • poor at proper delegating – but believes they delegate well
  • withholds rewards, and suppresses pay and remunerations levels
  • holds on to responsibility but shifts accountability to subordinates
  • takes criticism badly and likely to retaliate if from below or peer group
  • seeks to apportion blame instead of focusing on learning from the experience and preventing recurrence

I was quickly able to identify some of my previous managers as Theory X Managers, and I’m sure you will also recognise some of those behavioural characteristics in some of your managers. In this example, this person’s headteacher is clearly in this category (the headteacher sent the email to staff on a Sunday, the last day of the half-term holiday):

Situational Leadership

Situational leadership is a style that was developed and studied by Kenneth Blanchard and Paul Hersey and was published in their 1982 book, “Management of Organizational Behaviour: Utilizing Human Resources”. A more recent book, published in January 2015 by Ken Blanchard et al. is “Leadership and the One Minute Manager (The One Minute Manager)”, which several friends of mine were required to read as part of their management courses.

Situational leadership refers to when the leader or manager of an organisation must adjust their style to fit the development level of the team members they are trying to influence. The model defines four leadership styles: directing, coaching, supporting, and delegating.

A directing style is high in directive behaviour but low in supportive behaviour. The employee needs clear, concise directions on how to complete a task and some nurturing support in order to be successful. This style is useful for a new employee or for an employee given a task that is new to them. In teaching, this style is useful for a teacher trainee or NQT.

A coaching management style combines both high supportive and high directive behaviour. This style is ideal to use for employee development. It provides the employee with clear direction but also allows the manager to provide support in order for the employee to become a master at their job. In teaching, I have worked in a school that attempted to introduce coaching. In reality, it failed because it was very time-consuming and required the teachers and their managers to be off timetable at the same time as each other. That time was not provided, requiring the teachers and their managers to arrange time to see each other before and/or after school.

A supporting style has a low level of directive behaviour, but a high level of support. The manager actively participates with the employee and can involve the manager working alongside the employee. This style provides support to an employee without telling them to do their job and is useful for a fairly experienced employee who may need a moral boost.

A delegating style is low in both supportive behaviour and directive behaviour. This style is the ultimate preference for managers who want to give their trusted employees autonomy and build their skill set. In teaching, this style would be best used for experienced teachers, such as Heads of Department or teachers who have had an area of responsibility for some time.

Problems begin where the wrong leadership style is used. Examples in teaching could be:

  • Using a delegating style with an inexperienced teacher, such as an NQT; letting them “get on with it” when what the NQT really needs is clear, concise directions and a little nurturing support. An example I have seen is giving a Science NQT a room in one of the temporary buildings (the “huts”), isolated from the rest of the department, and far away from the science technicians. They had behavioural issues in some of their lessons, and mistakenly ordered the wrong equipment for lessons on occasions. What they should have been given was a room close to the head of department, or other experienced teacher in their department, and the science technicians so that they could be given support when they needed it.
  • Using a directing style with an experienced teacher; the teacher knows how to do their job. They do not need to be micro-managed. This first happened to me several years into my teaching career with responsibility as second in department and my new Head of Department would constantly check up on me, asking me if I’d done my reports, marked my work, set homework, completed statement banks way before the deadlines, etc. There was no trust. This has happened in many schools since 2010 as a result of increasing accountability.

In my last six months as a teacher, I also started learning about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). I found this very interesting and talk about this later on in the Job Search section on Jobs and Personality Profiles.