Stop. Collaborate and listen.

I’ve been following reaction to a blog post on Twitter, by Mark Anderson the problem with technicians (@ictevangalist) http://ictevangelist.com/the-problem-with-technicians/ and a subsequent follow up from @jonwitts http://www.jonwitts.co.uk/archives/760 in defence of technicians.

Mark’s post describes the infuriation of teaching for staff when IT seemingly block their desire to embrace new technology. Jon agrees with parts of the post, but outlines difference and issues techs face in education today.

This isn’t a reply to either. More of a personal journey where I have been guilty of both doing too little and doing too much. Finding a balance, and a system that works. The main point however is one of mutual trust, and the impact that can have.

When I started supporting IT in schools 10 years ago, I was the bottom of the bottom of the rung for staff. Valued only in a brief moment when I fixed something, but only in a bit of pity. My £14k a year didn’t make me feel valued. I was young, and eager to please, and progress. I worked long hours,  but suffered at the hands of a work place bully in a system which didn’t allow for anyone to progress unless you were a teacher.

As is often the way, when I decided to challenge myself and leave my comfort zone, the school I was leaving panicked. Perhaps they realised what they were losing, a passionate, determined individual, or perhaps they just couldnt bare the hassle of retraining someone else. Suddenly, the offer of money was no longer an issue, a £4K a year rise to keep me couldn’t keep me. My new school matched an improved offer and off I went. 

Excited to develop myself from working in an atmosphere where I could do what I wanted when I wanted but not get appreciated, I was promised big things.
Sadly they didn’t materialise. Whilst not the worst move, the school I moved to valued staff even less, and crucially there was no ability to deviate, under my then manager, from changing toners.

At both schools, the result of not being engaged with or trusted was the same, staff not listened to nor given  The opportunity to interact with those higher up to harness the incredible power of IT to affect so many parts of a school. Those in higher places with responsibility for IT were not interested.  Those I worked with were overworked and demotivated from years of pushing and getting nowhere. To the point even when new leadership came in they were no longer prepared to fight and engage with new visions, but became locked into downward spirals of protectionism and mundane day to day task. 

Deviation from their set tasks led to worries about who would get blamed, or, who would do the additional workload as no additional TLR structures exists for support staff.

After 4 years, and a time where I concentrated on my own business and family life, it was clear, with a baby on the way, that it was time to move on. I am a confident, not easily scared individual who doesn’t get put off target. This pees off a lot of people who don’t like change. It excites me.

I left my job on a whim for no more money, just a title. But I was now network manager. The boss of the network. I landed with a headteacher who harnessed my passion, trusted my vision and developed my skills. Huge budgets, school wide changes. Instant impacts and overwhelming changes followed. That was 3.5 years ago.

Today, I am a member of SMT. Probably something I am most proud of and most shocked at. It’s not the title anymore, but the recognition that somebody in my role can make an impact and should be involved from the start in the decision making progress. That experts in their fields can and should be listened to despite the fact we are not teachers.

Teams have different strengths. Our SMT and separate SLT structure are ideal in that the leaders can lead (SLT) but the enablers are there to support them (SMT). We have teachers, but support staff are represented with the Senco, business manager and myself. None of the positions are token roles but are in place to enable teaching and learning to be the best experience it can be by harnessing the knowledge and passion of a wide range of staff.

In IT sometimes we have to say no. Mostly we say yes, all the time we should offer encouragement and ideas and workarounds if given the opportunity. And that’s the key thing in this debate that has been going on for years, that I experience even to this day across the 7 schools who sat down and listened to me. Who now rave about their support, but also the impact engaging wth us has made.

One thing I always insist on my team is the need to be professional, and treat others, no matter how hard that is after they insult you and your professional judgement, how you wish they would treat you. In any job that is the same I am sure, but sometimes I wish people could spend a day in our shoes, as much as I would love to spend a day in theirs. There should be no divide in professional respect between me and a teacher. 

We both have hard, demanding, complex, ever changing roles with constant pressure and changing goal posts. It’s not a completion to see who fails first or who we can frustrating the most. It should be how can we be inclusive and work together for a solution that propels our core business, learning for young people forward.
 I can’t teach. But I can do IT – you can teach but you don’t know the impact on your software or your idea on a bigger picture. Let’s work together and learn a solution.