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Smiley, Happy, People?

As a Headteacher  I have had many opportunities to consider the qualities I consider essential in the most effective teachers, and headteachers. The following are what I would look for in all prospective teachers, some of whom will go on to be successful headteachers or senior leaders. They probably won't appear explicitly in too many job descriptions or person specifications, but they are what I look for in colleagues who are going to help me develop and improve the schools I lead.

  • They need to like children! I put this first, even though you would think it were a given, because I still come across individuals who I feel lack this basic requirement. Indeed, I have had conversations with people where I have pointed this deficit out to them, and gone on to suggest that perhaps teaching was not the right career for them as a result. However, just liking children is not enough. I have just as often come across teachers and prospective teachers who obviously love children, but who are never going to make effective teachers. They tend to be so busy being friends and surrogate parents to their pupils that they fail to deliver on the core function of all teachers. The ability to teach. So what else is required?
  • They also need intellectual curiosity and a level of reflection that enables them to look at their own practice and how they might improve it. This require intellectual capacity and the confidence to examine critically their own performance, without destroying their self confidence. However, they need to to recognise that their professional journey will be career long and with no final destination. I think we should be constantly striving to improve and get better. 
  • They need to thoroughly understand learning and teaching. They should be able to deconstruct learning and present it in a way that will engage and allow all their learners to develop and grow, intellectually, emotionally and socially. I would not expect this aptitude straight away from new teachers, but would expect to see this develop and grow over time and through collaboration with their colleagues. They would see pedagogical expertise as a key tool of their teaching.
  • They must demonstrate a high level of subject knowledge and curricular understanding. This will have been demonstrated before they qualified, but I would expect this to keep developing over time. I want them to make learning engaging and relevant and equip pupils to use new learning to increase their life opportunities and make sense of the world they live in. They must be able to connect their subject knowledge to the real world and to other curricular areas in a way that is engaging, challenging and developmental for their pupils.
  • I want teachers who are emotionally aware and intelligent. This is so they are aware of their own emotions and feelings and how these impact on their teaching, as well as those of their pupils and how their's impact on their learning. I don't want teachers who are so tied up in their subject, or area they are teaching, that they miss or ignore the signs that may mean they need to  modify or change the teaching planed. The ability to empathise is crucial.
  • This brings me to the next quality, that of flexibility and being able to change and adapt. Teaching is a profession that embraces change, not change for change sake, but as a result of our continuous developing understanding and knowledge about what works in teaching and learning, and cognitive development. Teachers need to be ready for a career which embraces such change and development, and sees it as part of their continuous professional development. Their flexibility and adaptability will also be demonstrated in their planning and teaching, which will respond to the reactions and input from the learners.
  • I need teachers who are committed to working collaboratively to develop their own practice and understanding and, just as importantly, support their colleagues and their schools to improve also. They need to understand their role in whole school development  and their responsibility to making the school ethos and culture come alive by their actions.
  • They should demonstrate commitment to their profession and their careers by their actions, not by working every hour they can. I want them to demonstrate balance in their lives. I want them to have a sense of perspective around their careers and their personal and social life. I do not want narrow individuals who have no life outside of school. I want committed individuals, with a sense of humour, who work hard and play hard if that is what they choose to do. I want real, warm people.

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Our learners …