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Are you an operative or a professional? These 5 questions will tell you

This blog is a serious challenge to professionals in and beyond education. How much time do you spend chasing targets set by others, versus time spent on things that you know will really make a difference to your school? What about the rest of the staff in your school?

First let me describe the work experience many school leaders have. Which of these are true for you?

1. I am a professional who cares about my work, but I feel overworked, even stressed about what I have to do.

2. I regularly bury myself in the “list of things to do” but, far too rarely, spend time reflecting on my overall impact.

3. It feels as though I am constantly being checked and questioned for the benefit of the system, rather than for my own professional learning and development.

4. I also find myself chasing targets, or performance indicators, that have been set for me (rather than by myself, or my close colleagues).

5. I find myself becoming debilitated, de-professionalised, even disillusioned, by this kind of quality control process.

If any of these apply to you there is a risk that you are losing the critical element of being a professional. The more that apply the greater that risk.

Now imagine a work situation where the whole approach is different. Which of these are true for you?

A. I am recognised as professional who cares about my work and even though I work hard, long hours, I feel positive about what I am doing.

B. I have time to reflect and see the big picture into which my work fits. This allows me to prioritise the key actions that my colleagues and I know will make a positive difference.

C. When I do evaluate it’s usually because my colleagues and I want to analyse, in depth, critical barriers to our success. Sometimes these key issues have been identified by others through inspection, audit, appraisal, or review but rarely are we unaware or surprised by their observations because we are on top of our own issues.

D. Of course, I accept there are standards I have to meet. I am familiar with these and find them useful indicators. Often, I add my own criteria to focus the more generalised descriptors on our specific, local circumstances.

E. I know when I am doing well and what I must do to improve. I relish the opportunity to demonstrate this to senior colleagues and outsiders.If any of these apply to you there is a likelihood that you are on the way to becoming, or are already a high performing professional. The more that apply the greater that likelihood.

Head teachers, senior leaders, principals and CEOs will know what is coming next. Is your workforce made up of operatives (1-5) or professionals (A-E)? In what ways do you create the circumstances to empower and enable your colleagues?

iAbacus is based around a simple but effective self-evaluation process that guides and empowers teachers and middle leaders to take ownership of their own development and that of their department or faculty. They act and feel like professionals rather than operatives.

Schools that embed iAbacus and its unique approach tell us that they especially appreciate these benefits:

  • A simple and sophisticated system, for all colleagues, that releases the wisdom they already possess.

  • A consistent approach to self-evaluation across all colleagues and departments

  • the ability to quickly and easily produce visual images of performance and detailed plans written by colleagues, addressing the priority key issues they face.

  • An approach that blends the emotional intelligence of coaching with the rigours of inspection and review.

  • An on-line tool that staff will immediately warm to and want to use.

To find out more about how schools are using iAbacus to empower and professionalise their staff, have a look at these case studies.

The iAbacus can be used as a stand alone tool for whole school improvement and individual performance management, or alongside existing data systems (Blue Sky, SIMS, School-IP etc). In fact many schools use iAbacus to help staff access these “electronic filing cabinets” in order to strengthen their portfolios, plans and professionalism.

John Pearce is the co-founder of iAbacus.


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