You might be reading this because you’ve recently taken the step up into a leadership role to become Head of Drama. Or it might be because you’ve recently had to take a step up to cover the role while others are away. Or you might be thinking about what comes next in your career and the step up to Head of Department looks like a sensible move.
Either way, taking that step up into running a department for the first time can be daunting and it isn’t for everybody. It is a multi-skilled job that covers a wide range of responsibilities that goes well beyond the remit you are used to as a classroom teacher.
It is though also a very rewarding job. Although the workload, accountability and responsibility increases so does the job satisfaction and the impact you can make on the lives of students. So here are some top tips to help your first few months at Head of Drama become a successful and joyful experience.
Start with a quick win. Examine closely what is already happening in your new department for something that isn’t working very well. Find something that will make life easier for your staff and for yourself. This might be addressing workload by reducing the number of assessments, or the method of assessment. Or tackling pupil behaviour. Or reducing or streamlining particular administrative tasks. Find something that will have an immediate positive impact on the department and the staff involved.
Get to know your department
Getting to know about your department is one of the most exciting and engaging part of become a Head of Department. It is all about finding out the possibilities and potential within your department. Find out what technical resources you have at hand, what teaching resources you have within your department and how engaged the students are with Drama. Most of all, find out what interests and expertise your staff have. This is not to say that the previous Head of Drama won’t have done this, but you will come with fresh perspective and new ideas.
You will be filled with enthusiasm and excitement about the new role and the possibilities within your department. But too much change too quickly puts people off, scares people and can negatively impact how you are seen in the role. So strategically plan the change to take place at increments across several years. Be open about your plans and invite others to participate and contribute. After your initial quick fix, start planning for one new thing in the first term. That doesn’t have to be an event or performance, but it could be a drive on behaviour or a focus on improving the standards or writing or scripted performance. Give time for anything new to settle in before you move onto the next new agenda.
Get to know the staff around you.
One of the most useful things you can do is get to know the staff that are around you and you will rely on later. The site staff who will be there setting up and taking down seats for you, or locking up after you’ve finished a performance at 10pm. The reprographics team. The person who collates the reports. The cover team. The leader of the PTA who will organise refreshments. The catering team who you organise a lunch for your examiner when they come in. You will rely on dso many other members of staff beyond your immediate department, that getting to know them and just talking to them really helps.
It’s important to develop and maintain a professional network. They are important places to go and ask questions, especially if you want to ask something away from anyone in your own school. There are a vast number of different Drama based Facebook groups which will always offer support, and Twitter still remains very active for Drama as well. There are more substantial organisations you can join, such as National Drama and Open Drama. There are also websites like this one, Burt’s Drama. We publish a new article weekly about teaching Drama.
These are all Drama related opportunities, but remember a Head of Department role is more than that. So seek out groups on curriculum, behaviour and leadership.
But also take what you want from each of them. You have to make sure own way through and establish your own authority by making decisions which are best for you, your students and your school.
Get some rest!
Finally, get some rest! As much as the workload increases and the accountability builds, it is important to avoid the temptation to work all the time. So make time to have weekends to yourself, have relaxing evenings and spend time with the people you love. It is, after all, still just a job. And you will be better at it rested with a relaxed and focused mind.