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What is the best thing we can give teachers?

I had the great pleasure of interviewing Chanie Wilschanski again last week. This time we were discussing the sorts of things that headteachers, managers and administrators need to think about before the start of a new school year.

One of the many things that I love about talking with Chanie is that she has actually been in practice, so really understands the pressures and frustrations (and joys!) of working with young children, whilst also keeping an effective and motivated team.

She commented last time that, as leaders and managers, ‘the best thing we can give teachers is each other’.

I asked Chanie to expand on that in this interview, so she explained that by getting teachers to help each other, to acknowledge each other’s strengths and to set up a culture of mutual support and trust really pays dividends – for both the teachers and the children.

Coincidentally, I also did a quiz this week, where one of the questions was ‘Would you prefer to lead a team or be part of a team?’, which set me thinking – surely there are times when one is better than the other? And vice versa? And it might depend on the team?

This took me back to when I was studying for my teaching qualification, where we considered team cultures (Handy, C. 1993, 4th Ed.). Very broadly, this is the idea that different organisations have different ‘cultures’ or ways of working:

Power Culture is like having a leader at the centre of a ‘web’ of influence and power. They can be competitive, but also highly responsive to changing situations.

Role culture can be thought of as ‘columns’ where people fulfil roles and there is a clear career progression but may be less flexible.

Task culture is project orientated, where the combined team is vital to complete the task. Once that is achieved, the team may disband or reorganise ready for the next project.

Person culture, where the structure is loose and only serves the individuals within, so these may be freelancers or it may be a group working in the ‘gig’ economy.

(Adapted from Handy. Find more in-depth explanations and details here.)

But why is it important to reflect on the culture in your school or setting or group?

Working long hours with young children can be hard work. Having a team that works well can make a huge difference. Understanding the team dynamic and using some of Chanie’s advice could really help.

Find Chanie Wilschanski’s interview on Early Years TV here.

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