So I visited a school recently in the capacity of moderator.I mentioned briefly what is the role of a moderator here.
I arrived very early and as usual waited patiently until the relevant personnel arrived. I was greeted by a friend, who was one of the vice principals at that school. As we chatted in her office, one of the teachers, with whom I would be working, came to let me know that they had opened the Chemistry Laboratory and were ready for me.
As he escorted me to the room, we chatted about the moderation process. I realised that he had some misgivings, so I reassured him that the process was not meant to be punitive. He very quickly let me know that that was not his concern.
He complained. I responded as best as I could. He continued to complain. I started to respond. He interrupted, became a bit emotional, then I responded. Even as I spoke, he interrupted again; this time even more agitated. His voice began to quiver; beads of perspiration began to swell, soon becoming heavy enough to cascade down his countenance.
I interrupted him because I felt that, if allowed to continue on that emotional trajectory, his perturbation would lead to embarrassment and regret. Trying to reassure him only served to exacerbate the situation. Eventually I told him that I would just look at the lab books, make notes and then call him to discuss any matters of significance.
I say this with the fullest confidence: I was not threatening. I was calm. I was reassuring. The problem was that the teacher had some preconceived notions and there were some underlying layers of frustration created by problems with which he had been dealing for some time before.
The layers had to be peeled back to reveal the sources of frustration.
He felt excluded and undervalued. This was because he claimed he did not receive sufficient communication about the moderation process. This process is being conducted for the first time in our country, in this subject.
As a result he was unsure about what to expect and had many unanswered questions, the answers to which he felt other schools had received access. He was particularly worried that it would negatively impact on his students’ grades.
At this point I must say that his school been closed because of industrial action for approximately two terms prior to the last term which ran from January to March.
His school would have received the same correspondence from the Ministry and the examining body as all other schools.
The Head of Science would have attended the same workshops as every other head in the other schools.
The thing about it though is that he still felt excluded. It was his belief, valid or not, that the communication had not filtered down to them.
It seemed too that he felt a moderator was sent by the powers that be, to question him, a seasoned teacher! Did “they” feel he was not doing a good job? Do “they” know the challenges he has to face on a quotidian basis? Are “they” aware of the many duties and responsibilities a teacher already has and if so, why are “they” adding more?
The constant interruptions led me to infer that there was some insecurity on his part and maybe even a dose of chauvinism. On that last point, the jury is still out.
As I peeled off the layers, the core of the problem was revealed. He was overwhelmed by the perceived extra volume of work and the anticipation of moderation but more conclusively, he was overworked!
Chemistry laboratories require a lab technician to do the technical stuff involved in lab preparations. Lab assistants will do just that: assist the technician. It is not a requirement for assistants to mix chemicals for example.
That school has not had a lab technician for just over one year. The teacher has had to do all preparations for lab exercises for at least four classes, in addition to teaching those and other lower level classes. His breaking point was approaching!
This situation reminded me about the principles involved in clinical supervision. Principles which are applicable to anyone in a leadership position and that means any one. We are all leaders in different ways, different positions but with a need for the same approaches to our tasks.
For any meaning in a relationship and for steady progression to maximum potential, the parties involved in any type of relationship need to actively and consciously take steps to develop the key elements of collaboration, communication and trust.
Collaboration and communication entail working closely together, sharing ideas and innovations in an attempt to achieve a mutual objective. It requires consistent reporting of new developments in both directions, leader to employee or spouse to spouse or parent to child for example.
Not only must such collaboration take place but it must be clear and simple so that there is no misunderstanding by either party. The perception of collaboration must be evident to both parties.
In so doing confusion, inferiority, devaluation, lack of motivation and frustration may be avoided. In their place the seeds of trust, planted by collaboration and proper communication, begin to take root.
This is critical in any relationship. Consider for example a romantic couple who may want to elevate their status from being single to being married. This is a big step; a step which requires deep thought and commitment. It requires placing your life and your love into a mutual basket with someone else’s.
Physically, emotionally, mentally, morally, spiritually and financially are just some of the ways in which the consequence of that decision will affect both persons.
A professional relationship also calls for commitment in various aspects of the union.
Similarly to attain growth in any relationship, all relevant aspects of the relationship will have to be addressed. Either party will be exposed and vulnerable to the other in some way. This means that in order to move up from one rung of the relationship ladder to another there has to be a level of trust involved.
A true leader will take up the responsibility of ensuring that communication channels are always open and cogent. He or she will lead compassionately, listen actively and be encouraging.
A leader will be supportive of new ideas and help sustain ongoing projects. There will be minimum chance for frustration as matters will be attended to with expediency and wisdom. Problems will be dealt with prudently, with one party allowing the other to come to a solution, coming to a mutual agreement or suggesting a possible solution(s).
A true leader recognises that growth takes place in an atmosphere of collaboration and trust.
What type of leader are you in your relationships? Do you interact with compassion, sincerity and wisdom?