In this blog, Rebekah Elliot, OCR Team Leader for GCSE History shares her experience of becoming a Team Leader; detailing useful advice and the support that helped her to successfully fulfil the role.
When I was first approached and asked to lead the GCSE History paper I had marked for years, I felt I was woefully underqualified. In fact, at that stage, I had only recently returned to the workplace from a four-year career break as a stay-at-home-parent.
I’d never been a Head of Department or undertaken any sort of leadership responsibility in teaching.
When you think about a leader, who do you picture? Nelson Mandela? Elizabeth I? Eisenhower, or another great military commander?
There’s no doubt that all these individuals showed exceptional leadership, often in times of immense difficulty, but I discovered that thinking of leaders only in these terms can be unhelpful and can hold you back from stepping up to lead.
So when I was asked to become Team Leader, I was energised by the opportunity.
The support from OCR, my Senior Team Leader and my Principal Examiner were tremendous throughout and I’ve been able to grow both personally and professionally.
Here’s what I’ve learnt on this journey:
It doesn’t matter if you’ve never been the one who has to deal with spreadsheets or has that really defiant student sent to them when the classroom teacher has exhausted all their discipline options.
You have been asked to lead this team because you have marked accurately to standard, you’ve kept to your deadlines and basically, you know your stuff.
Don’t feel like a fraud; you can do this!
If you are organised, you will feel more confident and some of that will transfer onto your team.
If you have new examiners, in particular, they are often quite nervous about the examining process.
Make sure you have everything ready for them ahead of standardisation; that you know the deadlines and batch dates and what needs to be posted where and to whom.
Most people find structure reassuring.
It can be tempting as a new Team Leader to constantly think everything is above your pay grade. However, this approach is unlikely to open up a meaningful, friendly dialogue between you and your team.
If you’re able to deal with a query about the mark scheme or offer advice on where to send a problematic script, then do so.
Former President of The Ritz Carlton Group of Hotels, Horst Schulze, introduced a policy for all his staff, from the maids to the manager, that if they received a complaint they needed to ‘own it’ and if it was in their power to deal with the complaint, they should.
This idea of not simply passing the buck has stuck with me and has been helpful as a Team Leader. However, it is also important to recognise those situations that do need to be escalated and to know that the support is there for that too.
As Schulze also points out, ‘A leader’s job is to help [their team] succeed.’
I’m very eager to hear your thoughts on this so if you have any questions or wish to share some of your experiences, please comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Rebekah Elliot - OCR Team Leader for GCSE History
Rebekah Elliott is a former secondary school history teacher and an experienced Team Leader, Examiner and Moderator for OCR. She has written several articles for business magazines and runs her own private tutoring and teaching resources business.