TIM time and task management has TIM wellbeing as it’s core purpose… So take a moment to listen to true TV Titan, Shonda Rhimes as she reflects on what makes her hum and play…
I am serious. This is important stuff.
TIM time and task management has TIM wellbeing as it’s core purpose… So take a moment to listen to true TV Titan, Shonda Rhimes as she reflects on what makes her hum and play…
I am serious. This is important stuff.
Time management is a huge aspect of successful anything or anybody. Without it, all sorts of people become whirling wrecks of stressed, late, overdue and unprepared. School Leadership is no different in this respect but good time management is a more that just a sign of good organisational skills and prioritising.
Time management is one of the stickiest aspects to reflect on, as a school leader:
With the number of child, staff, parent and child protection dramas that can take place in any one day, one can come away from a hard week without having accomplished any tangible ‘work’.
Having battled one’s way through the triathlon of parental anxieties or abdication , SEN bureaucracy; and made space for external professionals who maybe overwhelmed, under-resourced yet still wanting to be re-affirm their worth as practitioners, TIMs may find that every thing takes longer than planned.
Time management is a key indicator of well being and healthy boundaries. As a leader and as a line manager, it is something that TIMs really need to take note of, both for your team and for yourself. So here are EIGHT timely tips for Titan TIMs
1) Get a structured timetable for your week.
Structuring your weekly timetable is one of the most important tasks of the new school year.
It will help you to organise what you do and when you do it, whilst communicating that to your teams and stakeholders.
Without it you will be drawn into the ‘urgent but not important’ chaotic reactiveness that does a lot but cannot actually achieve much.
Set aside a regular, patterned time for weekly, fortnightly or monthly activities such as meetings with your various teams, external providers or parents. It allows you to set aside time for focused leadership tasks or interventions without lurching from one crisis to another.
2) Longitudinal planning.
I made up my own word here to describe longer term scheduling of important routine leadership tasks and activities, that are not daily but really impact the overall effectiveness of school leadership. As an Inclusion Manager your diary can easily end up full of important and ‘difficult to reschedule’ meetings up to four or more weeks in advance. This can mean that you are struggling to find space for more that a ‘quick chat’. Other senior leadership tasks such as the pupil progress meetings; the monitoring of teaching and learning and performance management meetings all need to find space in your diary, too. This is not only for your own continuous development but it helps to ensure that the voice of ‘inclusive practice’ feeds into classroom practice. It also avoids unnecessary grievances by ensuring that annual professional development deadlines, written feedback and data conversations happen on time. Longitudinal planning supports this by pre-booking these kind of tasks/ meetings so deadlines can be met and you can be aware of the potential bottlenecks and adjust accordingly. It also supports the well-being of your staff team because they too can prepare and organise their workload and time management.
3) Good communication about problems, priorities and principles.
One of the biggest time wasting factors is when teams or partners are unclear about the problem, and are not on the same page about what is important and how to resolve. Staff can have underlying principles about how things should be done or may be juggling competing priorities. At these times, it is really important that colleagues listen to each other and avoid assumptions. Questions that clarify can seem a little pedantic but they drill down to ensure a clear common understanding, an awareness of the differences in approach which when acknowledged fosters greater understanding, agreement and unity.
4) Get some boundaries.
It is not possible to overstate the importance of maintaining clear and healthy boundaries. This is not for the controlling megalomania or to be obnoxiously inflexible. It is about being able to bring the best of your professionalism to the role. Broken boundaries often belie unmet needs, unconscious passions or drives and competing or confusing priorities that will result in burnout, sickness and unnecessary additional drama, because believe it or not – You are finite. Inclusion leadership, can require superhuman feats, at times, but if it becomes your ‘modus operandi’, you will run out of steam. These are painful lessons to learn. I have listed some signs. Hear and heed the warnings or suffer the consequences:
Could you be a workaholic? Is early morning/late night working a routine habit? Are ‘Out of hours’ calls or social media contact with colleagues becoming a norm? Perhaps work is the part of your life that you feel you can control as a welcome distraction from other personal, emotional and relational difficulties? Do you notice or have others told you that you don’t seem to be able to mentally ‘switch off’ from work related matters? If this is happening to you, supervision and counselling can be helpful not only to find healthier patters but to help you consider whether your identity is too deeply attached to your work and achievements.
Routine neglect of self care tasks and activities? – These might include activities such as cooking, cleaning, exercise and fitness, knitting or playing an instrument. It certainly includes prioritising your own health appointments or spending time with non-work and ‘non- education’ friends.
5) MORET – Model, remind, encourage and thank.
It sounds like a fine wine – and if you can do it well it may even taste and feels that good too… but it’s my acronym for helping others in this area.
MODEL good boundaries, appropriate delegation and diary/ time management, but also appropriate self-care… (see below).
REMINDer emails and texts will keep your teams/ staff on their best game – so schedule them in, way in advance and where possible delegate these tasks to your admin team.
ENCOURAGE and praise your team as they are working towards a deadline. It creates a culture of value and praise. Ask people to share ‘how’ they organised themselves as well as ‘what’ they achieved. Good time management improves their well being, confidence and job satisfaction.
THANK your team when they submit work on time. It certainly makes your life easier and contributes to the smooth running of the place, but most importantly it recognises their time and effort. Remember also to thank those who come to speak to you, in advance about not being able to submit on time. It shows self-awareness and mutual respect.
6) ‘Working’ meetings rather than ‘To do list’ meetings.
Try to avoid meetings where you sit, discuss and then agree to do the ‘main work task’ at another time. The fact is – time is so precious that you want to keep these kind of ‘go home and finish off’ tasks to an absolute minimum. Obviously that policy or report cannot be completed during in a meeting with other colleagues sitting around you, and it is essential to read the needs of the person with whom you are meeting. If they are in serious distress – address that first. However, problem solving tasks like; creating new record keeping templates, minutes, scheduling meetings, quick email queries – can be done during the meeting, as a response to the discussion. As an added bonus, it gives the person the confidence that you have taken their issue seriously.
7) Managing people: Efficient v. Effective?
By far the most time consuming aspect of school leadership is the management of people – and to be honest this is right because in education especially human learning and development are the purpose, process and product of your good leadership, and this is what it should be for all leadership roles. Yes , you need to be efficient. Yes, you do need to be effective for the most vulnerable in your community. But if you fail to invest enough of time in the efficient and effective development of your staff team it’s difficult to see how you can foster or claim long term or deep seated success.
8) Time keeping and lateness
Time keeping is quite a different to time management. It is possible to manage the time demands of a task well and end up late to your next meeting . However routine lateness can be a sign of poor organisation, poor prioritising or the first sign of a deeper wellbeing issue such as overwhelm and depression, overwork and the need for growth and change. The root can vary from perfectionism or underlying attachment issues that manifest as a fear of being too early (or too late) or transitional issues stemming from an inability to leave or a habit of delay, when needing to move on from the previous activity or task.
It needs to be treated with understanding but also consequences, that help the staff member reflect on what is going on for them and how it impacts children, other colleagues and particularly safeguarding.
So that’s my EIGHT time management tips to keep you TIM Titans on top form… but don’t ever forget how to dress up, dance and play: Always make time for that stuff.
After an almost two year hiatus TIM is back, and you might be wondering why I took a break and (of course) why I have chosen to pick up again. So this post is designed to feed your curiosity.
So here are my three thoughtful reasons for taking a break from TIM:
Capacity & Change
Depending on national and local decisions about SEN/D or funding, sometimes additional space is needed to think through the implications and logistical issues.
Since the funding changes of 2013 that proceeded the SENDA 2014, Higher level SEN has had an impact on school budgets and depending on a school’s size, resources, offer and ethical perspective, this has meant rethinking the organisation and delivery of inclusion, including staffing.
For my setting that led to a reorganisation in 2015-16 and a restructure in last half 2016-17. The former was a mainly positive experience which gave staff an opportunity to reflect on their skills and future interests and allowed the school to invest in leader specialisms in key areas.
The latter was forced by the recent Fair Funding Formula (a political oxymoron) and the government’s much favoured research by the Sutton Trust that has been used extensively to influenced thinking in the sector about the role and effectiveness of support staff in classrooms.
Restructures are just plain awful. Period. It’s an anxiety ridden process that triggers deep seated emotions and feelings amongst staff. I really hoped that we would get a change of government policy in time, but it wasn’t to be and it was traumatic to lose people who had contributed to our success, but there wasn’t an alternative way forward.
As a TIM who has trained and lead the majority of the support staff – over a number of years, these two processes dominated SLT time, thinking and energy so TIM just had to take a backseat.
Wellbeing & Authenticity
I started writing TIM because of my first hand experience of the impact of the stresses of TIM’s role. I was quite simply struck by the simple question: How are other Inclusion Managers and SENCOs dealing with the demands of this mammoth role?
However over the last two years that discussion has had to continue at an even more personal level as my own health was challenged by emotional overload and physical illness. At the time, it was tough to talk about experiences or share reflections with others when I was still weathering the storm myself.
For me, ‘praxis makes perfect’ and TIM is about all sharing the ‘praxis’ – words and action, that have helped me and I believe can help staff to meet the demands of Inclusion more effectively. However, if I haven’t got that right for myself – I can’t speak with authenticity, so silence is always a useful option.
Celebrating successes & a new season
So 2016-7 marked our fifth year since our last Ofsted and in amongst all of the above, we were confident that as a school, we had capitalised on our strengths; addressed our development points and were ready to upgrade our category.
Our inspectors eventually arrived in May 2017 and over three days with 5 different inspectors, lead by one of OFSTEDs senior inspector, we got the result we wanted.
For our team it was an emotional time: Over the last seven years we have certainly seen our school community go through some extremely difficult times, and we went through that with them. That struggle has been present in our community for more than a few decades – so it was a sweet reward to be recognised for what we are offering and to be able to celebrate with our families and our supporters. We celebrated in exuberant style.
So – no more inspections for us, under the current schedule, but we still have plans to take over the world or maybe just the DfE, so watch this space!
In amongst all of this, I managed to complete my SENCO Award qualification and rediscovered my love of academic study and learning so now that things are more settled; the systems are well embedded and our teams are confident, I will be carving out some time for engaging with some non – education based study – just for the love of it.
Given that this is the season for ‘Goodwill to all TIMs’, I thought I would share some top tips for new and exhausted TIMs and SENCOs, for the common good.
Once you’ve digested the wisdom, sit back and reflect on the exceptional achievement of surviving the Autumn Term! Bravo T.I.M!
1) Learn to prioritise and delegate.
Think about all the tasks that you need to do and decide which ones only you can do and which ones you could delegate to a capable colleague. Routine tasks like contacting parents and professionals; booking in translators; even completing the basic information on Annual Reviews and EHCP can be adequately done by someone else. If the task is simple or repeatable… Delegate it. Also, if you notice that admin tasks take up more than a day a week, you absolutely need some allocated administrative support. If you have teaching responsibilities on top of everything else… For you, SEN admin support needs to be a non-negotiable requirement.
2) Create strong systems and schedules.
Following fast on the heels of prioritising and delegating is the art of system and schedule creation. You will need systems to be a TIM. I particularly recommend:
3) Grow your vision
Tip #3 assumes that TIMs have already thought about their vision for inclusion. Without a vision, every plan and effort will eventually fail. If you are TIM and you don’t have vision yet please look out for the blog , ‘What’s the vision? What’s the point?’.
4) Develop your communication & advocacy skills
INCLUSION is a fascinating, impassioned area of education but it really doesn’t come naturally to everyone in your school. PLEASE do not be devastated by the fact that some colleagues are not remotely moved by your ethical drive and moral purpose!
Your Head may have a rudimentary interest or awareness of your actual role; SLT colleagues may imagine that you spend your days filling in a few minor forms; Teaching staff may feel that you really should be personally supporting their SEN/D child or emphatically creating the ‘additional’ resources that they require.
The diversity of perspectives on TIMs role are innumerable, so to help disabuse colleagues of their misconceptions, you will need to become an effective communicator and advocate for inclusion and your philosophy of TIM role. Cool tools for this kind of advocacy include:
So communicate, advocate and share the beauty and burden of Inclusion with everyone!
5) Visit other venues
It’s always good to step out and see what other TIMs and SENCOs are getting up to. Good ideas don’t just turn up in a vacuum… They need observational field trips and time to reflect and respond. Inclusion management is all about problem solving and each setting may come up with different solutions to the same problem… so make some links with the ‘out of the box’ breakers in your borough. You’ll be glad you did it!
6) Read, Read, Read!
This is an important aspect of TIMs continuing professional development… as it is for any leader. And by this we mean, reading in addition to the routine letters, advice, reports and plans for the children in your setting. TIMs need to find time to read about their own leadership style, the ethics, principles and changing practice of inclusion. Articles are great and will augment your training with research but reading that triggers more reflective practice is the holy grail. Check out TIMs booklist for suggestions.
7) Connect with non-Inclusion school leaders.
INCLUSION should be part of the ‘bread and butter’ aspect of planning and teaching for every day learning, rather ‘the niche’ slice of cake for special occasions. It should never be allowed become a silo specialist. So spread yourself and experience around… Make friends with Assessment, Teaching and learning colleagues, be nice to your SBM and poach ideas from your EYFS leaders. Work on joint projects to get inclusive approaches embedded. Don’t forget to broaden your horizons by networking outside of your setting too! Whatever you do, DO NOT allow Inclusion Management in your settingto ‘play the role’ of the powerless, put-upon Cinderella constantly cleaning up behind the less thoughtful initiatives of her mean step-sisters ‘Teaching’ & ‘Learning’…. That old pantomime is a real drag and a sure sign of weak leadership!
8) Get out of that office!
TIMs need to ensure that they escape the office to see the practice in their setting. It is too easy to be overcommitted with referral meetings, SEN review meetings, Team Around the Family (TAFs) and not forgetting the routine senior leadership meetings too! Whilst these meetings are always important and are a key part of maintaining accountability, they have to be counter-balanced by opportunities to develop an awareness of the quality and consistency of the provision. Being visible to children; dropping in to touch base with staff and observing the general dynamic of relationships and learning provides the insight that gives a TIM has presence, is present and can be precise.
9) Get some supervision!
It is a big job… and yes someone has to do it… but it is too big for TIMs ‘take it all home’ on their own or to share with their family. The frustrations, the failures, the incessant ‘gate-keeping’ survival tactics of the various agencies plus the plain bureaucracy of SEN – (a situation perhaps worsened by the new SENDA 2014) – all means that there is far too much emotional energy to be contained by one person; in one office. TIMs and SENCOs are consequently on the frontline for ‘SLT burnout’. Make no mistake – your Head and your Governors have a duty of care to you, your team and most importantly to the vulnerable learners in your school to ensure that you are well supported. An occasional ‘chat’ with the Head sets a poor precedent, for the emotional demands of the role.
10) Do something else!
Make sure you retain other interests other than work. Remember that you are a person first – Not a job title. Your life outside of school should enrich and resource you… And if it doesn’t, you really do need to address that. All work and no play makes TIM a tiresome, bitter and exhausted bore.
The Inclusion Manager (aka TIM) is a special breed of school leader.
They can be highly passionate people who are working closely with very vulnerable children and families in complex situations. For a range of reasons, these families may be unable or adversely affected in their ability to engage with the rigorous advocacy of their own child’s needs. And so into the ring steps TIM.
Alternatively, TIM might be required to consider and articulately challenge nonsensical interpretations of statute law, or opportunist ‘entitlement complexes’ that seek to capitalise and make a mockery of the intended purpose of equalities and inclusion principles.
The ability to switch from diplomat to counsellor; from political advocate to trainer; from school improvement consultant to HR manager has to be part of the core skill set of the job, without forgetting the range of children whose personal stories; emotional learning journeys and staffing management have to be contained and constantly ‘held in the mind’. TIMs diary is ever busy and bustling with things to consider, plan, respond to or ‘crack on’ with.
To be effective, the role has to be strategically empowered and accountable – and in contexts that describe themselves as ‘challenging’, TIMs really should be senior leadership team appointments.
Long gone are the days of the insular ‘niche’ EMA coordinator or the shy and softly spoken SENCO.
TIMs of this modern era are part warrior, part life coach and essentially advocates who have to be able to:
– Set the principles, boundaries and methods of a team.
– Step up to the plate to hold SLT and teachers accountable.
– Negotiate and sometimes battle with the LA officials and an entourage of other professionals.
– Support the fears, grief and occasionally desperate behaviour of exhausted, isolated and vulnerable parents.
It’s definitely not a role for the faint hearted. Striking a consistent balance between these diverse identities can be tiring and TIMs should be encouraged (or directed) to engage with quality external supervision. (FYI School Business Manager… A ‘quick chat’ with Head really won’t cut through the chaos.)
The role constantly demands resilient emotional intelligence, critical thinking, communication and social skills that enable TIM to facilitate inclusion by overtly informing, influencing and instigating staff, parents and children – yet covertly and deliberately allowing space, time and dignity for intrinsic motivation, personal learning and reflection.
TIMs day might start with counselling parents through the slow death of deeply held dreams to acceptance and new optimism and aspiration for their children. It might end with supporting staff through the experiences of challenging behaviour, allegations or extended seasons of regression.
Whilst it can be exhilarating to note that ‘no two days are ever the same’… over extended periods the impact of such a diverse range of tactical roles and emotional ‘gear changing’ can and does take its toll.
It is an emotionally expensive role and TIMs should check to ensure that they have the personal and professional support required – before they ‘open for business’.
At times, when the situations are extremely emotionally draining or even toxic, TIMs need to be especially mindful of the impact on both themselves and their teams.
Sometimes this means having to make the difficult decision to change or withdraw the support to protect against abuse, or give everyone involved some respite but even within these moments there has to be the genuine desire for better more positive relationship. The olive branch must always be there to be grasped.
For some TIMs, the strong and seemingly ‘natural’ desire to robustly ‘step in’, support, intervene and ‘put right’ has to be actively counter-balanced with effective personal – professional boundaries and an awareness that seeks to empower children, parents and staff to step up to the plate.
This ensures the support is person-centred yet critically biased towards the best interests of the child.
Patience is also a key ingredient because families must be able to own the decisions made, and this can take a very long time. It can be a frustrating and time consuming business – but priceless in its reward.
In situations where the child is not at risk, TIMs main role is to retain the synopsis of ‘the journey so far’, reflecting back to the family and other professionals the key discussions and thinking on the way towards a particular decision.
With the right vision, planning, systems and support it is an exhilarating, challenging and even rewarding role.
Without these, think carefully about accepting the post.
If you are particularly passionate, brave or confident… remember to punch and pirouette carefully.
The very first thing the rookie inclusion manager must learn is the perfectionism is a fast ticket to madness. Perfectionism is a habit common to many teachers: As a teacher- you are running your own show and are responsible and mostly in control.
As a manager – you remain responsible, but it can seems that you have absolutely no control over what does/does not happen in the classroom/ intervention room. This is tricky enough to contend with – not least because your ego / high expectations of your practice are probably what have got you to where you are now!
However, if you don’t relegate the perfectionism, it will quickly relegate you to the dreaded ‘burnout’ – because the professional dissatisfaction will eventually become emotionally and physically overwhelming.
This is not to suggest that the best TIMs can afford to roll about in their own chaotic mess. Who can risk that when they are juggling the most vulnerable children in the building? No, no, no!… The secret to fewer grey hairs is to establish well-thought out, strong, robust systems. Calmly implemented and patiently monitored.
Inclusion is about excellence and experimentation, it is about reflection and realism built on the positive appreciation of what is already working well.
Perfectionism can’t cope with any of these features. Progress for children and for leaders is all about patience, perseverance, persistance – but not perfectionism.
So Lesson #1: Delete the perfectionism.
“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” — Maya Angelou
Reflections on the unexpected methods, management and madness of inclusive education.
The life and times of a Jonah-esque candidate for ordination.