Is your school leader less qualified than you?

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Does it bother you when your school leader never taught but gives you advice on how to become a better teacher?

We once received a phone call from a teacher who was quite upset. She had obtained employment through another agency and had been in her job for only 2 months when she decided she had enough and wanted to leave.  She called us asking to place her into a new school. She was a highly educated teacher (Masters Degree) with several years experience. She was having a horrid time trying to take advice from her Head of Department who did not hold a Masters Degree, only a Bachelors and who had not taught her year group.

“What does he know about teaching” was her question over and over again. The real question was how did he get the job?

We may sometimes encounter people who we deem unsuitable for a specific role and we  wonder. However, we never really see the bigger picture. Who does this individual know? What references does this individual bring to the table? What sacrifices has this individual made? And most importantly how well did they interview?

It is an undisputable fact that many of the leadership positions require a good dose of confidence and “selling yourself” tactics. Education and credentials may help, but it is mostly the ability to tell others you can do the job and you can do it well. In other words, it requires the confidence to convince others, that you can, indeed manage a team.

Think of it like this, you have 2 candidates who come to an interview for a role as Head of Department at your school that is currently failing. The first candidate has a Masters in Educational Leadership from a great university and 10 years teaching experience in an excellent school. This person has no department or leadership experience but would like the opportunity. This person is presentable and well dressed and has excellent references. They are eager to commence a leadership role.

The second candidate is an individual who has a Bachelors degree from a community college and 7 years experience working in a rough school. This individual has helped improve the school from an acceptable to a good. They bring good references. In addition, they have worked with the leadership team in implementing changes to the school and during the interview process, they provide an achievable and practical plan as to how they can help your school improve as well. This individual eludes confidence and ability and overall hunger to make a change.

Who would you hire?

The answer would depend on the needs of your school, the image you wish to portray about your school, and also on your gut instinct during the interview. Let’s be honest, some people are more personable and easy going than others and this can be a non-negotiable selling point. As they say, hire character, train skill.

In addition, nowadays it seems that it isn’t so much what you have but what you can do for a company or school in a leadership role. In other words, approaching the interview with a business-like mentality of committing yourself to solve a problem or fulfill a need the school may have, as opposed to task checking and duty signing.

If you ever find yourself asking how someone got the position they have, just remember that not everything we know is exposed and presented to us as it truly is and secondly some people are just luckier than others. That’s life I’m afraid. In the meantime, if your aspirations are to become a leader one day the best advice I can give you is to search for opportunities to get involved in problem-solving at your school whether this is voluntary or paid, the point is you show initiative. After all, leaders don’t wait for opportunities, they create the opportunities.