Who are the real stars of the show?

"For life is quite absurd,And death's the final word.You must always face the curtain with a bow!"
“For life is quite absurd,
And death’s the final word.
You must always face the curtain with a bow!”

This post on “Those Flippin’ Pyramids of School Hierarchy on the meridianvale blog has been rolling around in my mind ever since I read it, and it has just formed itself into an analogy. So I thought I should write it down. If you read only one thing, read the meridianvale blog! But if you read two, then read on…

In a theatrical production – play, musical, film or television drama – the ‘stars’ are the players on stage or screen. This of course has the ‘diva effect’ on those stars. But as anyone who has spent any time around the preparations for such a production will know, their performances are only ever possible if the many backstage players work hard to put everything in place: the writers, directors, producers, stage hands, costume designers, set designers, prop makers, lighting directors, sound technicians, box office staff, cleaners, runners and on and on. All of this backstage army is in place to ensure that the audience can enjoy the best production possible, immersing themselves in the story and suspending disbelief as the actors become their characters and the plot becomes reality. Everyone’s work is dedicated to what happens on the stage or screen.

As it is in a school. The teachers are the stars of the show: everything else that happens in the school should feed into making their performance the best it can be, so their audience – the students – get the best show on Earth. Everyone’s work should be leading up to ensuring the students can immerse themselves in their learning and become lost in the ideas and activities they explore in their lessons.

So what are the roles of those not teaching? As in the theatrical world, there are many vital staff (mostly) behind the scenes making everything possible – teaching assistants, technicians, administrative staff, cleaners, receptionists, counsellors, nurses, bus drivers, canteen staff, caretakers and computer technicians, to name but a few. And as in the theatrical world, where there are the writers, directors and producers, schools have their subject leaders, pastoral leaders, senior leaders, headteachers and governors, backed by local authorities, educational charities or the Department for Education. Like writers, subject leaders develop the curricula, with the help of publishers and more often than not their teams of teachers (in a Mike Leigh-style improvisational creative process). Like directors and producers, senior leaders and governors will decide on the ethos and systems that keep the school working, and drive the actions of the rest of the staff towards the main event: great lessons. And of course the rest of the crew – the support staff – work to ensure that everything is in place so the students can get to their lessons, and everything necessary is ready.

Everyone’s activities must be driven by the aim of supporting the main event: great lessons.

Like actors in a West End or Broadway show, putting on perfect and energetic performances every day, teachers in schools are the stars driving their lessons day in day out. A subject leader, head of department or senior leader should constantly ask themselves: “How will this make better lessons possible? What do teachers need to make this happen?” Indeed, they should constantly ask teachers what they need, and make sure they have it. They will also, through their experience and wisdom (one hopes) spot things the teachers may not have noticed, or had time to consider, and give support and guidance when needed.

Let’s keep this show on the road!

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