It’s not you, it’s me

There are certain phrases that are red flags. Some of these are well known, such as “It’s not you, it’s me.” But others are less so. This week, we will focus on “sharing good practice.”

As a teacher, senior leader, and headteacher, I too have been seduced by these powerful words. Who could possibly disagree that sharing good practice is a bad idea?

But there is a problem here. Who decides what is best practice? And how do we make it stick?

In schools, too often well-meaning staff, myself included, have organized demonstrations of good practice. Training days consisting of good practice carousels which allow passionate and committed staff to trot out their best lessons or teaching ideas while their colleagues look on. Sounds great, right?

Wrong. In reality, it is fraught with difficulty. What works for one person may not work for all. If you want to use training days to influence and affect people at scale, it is much better to consider what works at scale, and how to implement it. Even if the good practice carousels really do have transferable, practical ideas, what is the school-wide system that will allow them to be introduced? How will the school allow time to create habits and routines so that teachers can make the changes permanent? And where does this best practice fit in with the overall strategy in a crowded school week?

The E-Myth, written by Michael E. Gerber, is a business book that explores the importance of systematizing and structuring a small business for long-term success. The book argues that most entrepreneurs start a business because they have a particular skill or passion, but they often lack the knowledge or experience necessary to create a thriving business because they put insufficient time and energy into thinking about systems and follow-through.

To overcome this myth, Gerber suggests that small business owners need to adopt a more strategic and systematic approach to running their businesses. He argues that they should focus on developing a clear vision for their business, creating standard operating procedures and systems, and delegating responsibilities to employees. It’s the same with schools.

So to all my colleagues who have worked hard to put on best practice carousels that didn’t work, I apologize. As the headteacher, I should have realized sooner that I should have structured what I wanted with better planning, systems, and follow-through. I’m sorry. Really. It’s not you. It’s me.

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