Hi All,

Just thinking of different notions of leadership in education. One of the models is top-down, with leadership emanating from the apex of a triangle down to various designated people who then lead "the masses." Another view is quite different: leadership does not necessarily "reside" in a particular person, or emanate from "recognized positions," but ebbs and flows as a function of relationships in the school.

Gordon A. Donaldson Jr wrote in the article "What Do Teachers Bring to Leadership", "An alternative to the hierarchical model of school leadership is the relational model, which views leadership as residing not in individuals, but in the spaces among individuals." "Teacher leaders also have the benefit of working with others in small, intimate, adaptable groups or in one-on-one relationships... Some of these small units are formal work groups, such as grade-level teams or departments. But many are naturally occurring and informal—clusters of teachers who get into the habit of dropping by one another's rooms, sharing materials, ideas, and challenges or generating a proposal to the principal for a new science initiative. In these less formal clusters, it's often difficult to say who's leading whom. But few would say that leadership doesn't exist among these energetic and closely connected professionals."

"Teacher culture based on relationships is hugely influential in schools, often trumping administrative and legislative influence (Spillane, 2006). Although some administrators and policymakers might see this as a problem, strong relationships are teachers' most powerful leadership asset (Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee, 2002)." (Donaldson, Educational Leadership, September, 2007)

Similarly, here's Roland S. Barth in "Improving Relationships within the Schoolhouse,"

"Congenial relationships represent a precondition for another kind of adult relationship highly prized by school reformers yet highly elusive: collegiality. Of the four categories of relationships (parallel play, adversarial, congenial, and collegial), collegiality is the hardest to establish.

Famous baseball manager Casey Stengel once muttered, 'Getting good players is easy. Getting 'em to play together is the hard part.' Schools are full of good players. Collegiality is about getting them to play together, about growing a professional learning community.

When I visit a school and look for evidence of collegiality among teachers and administrators—signs that educators are “playing together”—the indicators I seek are

* Educators talking with one another about practice.
* Educators sharing their craft knowledge.
* Educators observing one another while they are engaged in practice.
* Educators rooting for one another's success.

Empowerment, recognition, satisfaction, and success in our work—all in scarce supply within our schools—will never stem from going it alone as a masterful teacher, principal, or student, no matter how accomplished one is. Empowerment, recognition, satisfaction, and success come only from being an active participant within a masterful group—a group of colleagues."

(Barth, Best of Educational Leadership 2005-2006)

A question it'd be interesting to explore at CR2.0 is where is the leadership in your school, and do you feel you can enter into the leadership in a smooth and healthy way? As we work towards reform and "21st-century learning," are you finding examples of teachers "taking" leadership on their own (interesting word, "taking", because sometimes if you take it there's MORE, not less of it); do you have suggestions of what we can do to move into educational change through viewing leadership differently?

Tags: change, collegiality, leadership, reform

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There are so many ways to define and look at leadership. A successful leader is the leader who adapts to the needs of the organization at the given time. Sometimes a strong, even dictatorial, leader may be needed. (When Indira Gandhi called an emergency in India and took control of things, my relatives in India were both appalled and thrilled--what a shocking development in their budding democracy but suddenly and for the first time the trains all ran on time.

It seems to me, however, that schools rarely need a dictator or even a top down style of leadership. For one thing, that does not set the best example for the students. If we are trying to teach that everyone is involved in the learning process and thus the administration of the classroom, at least in some degree, teachers need to feel the same value in the decision making of the school. Should a school be run much like a classroom is run? We value a child who "plays well with others". Should not the same be prized in a teacher? We like students who are all working together for the common good, rather than competing for grades or the role of teacher's pet. It seems that is the basis of a good model for life. If the classroom is not a good model for life then we need to change classroom values or our expectations of adults and "real life".

The other model that comes from my sociology texts of long ago is to look at any organization as a family. The leadership (principal/head of school) is the patriarch. Maybe there is an assistant head who is the gentler but still firm mother figure. Then there are the siblings--we hope they are all adults in this role--and even a few just kissing cousins who feel left out most of the time. The siblings develop a pecking order. That may be based on birth order, either literally or as to who was hired when. It is the job of the head to make sure that everyone feels comfortable and works up to potential. The family can be a very dysfunctional family or happy and contented. This puts a lot of pressure on those parental units, but good parents will make a good relationship for all and keep the sibling rivalry and squabbling at a minimum. They will show respect for the children and value their input, encouraging them to assume some leadership in the family and the world.

In any model, there will be teachers who assume more leadership than others--whether they take it, grab it, or have it thrust upon them. It matters, at least to me, what role is assumed in getting the leadership. I don't like those who bully or brown-nose their way to success but admire and respect those who seize an opportunity to rise to the occasion. Those who have it thrust on them can be set up for failure--a terrible feeling, to be sure.

OK, once again I have rambled. It is interesting to think about. Perhaps "new age learning" opens new opportunities for some budding leaders but it may bump others to the back row. Just as you would in your classroom or your family, it seems leadership and those who are led need to be aware of that fact or they will leave some behind and not get the best leadership and scholarship available.
Linda, there's much to talk about here:
You wrote, "It seems to me, however, that schools rarely need a dictator or even a top down style of leadership. For one thing, that does not set the best example for the students. If we are trying to teach that everyone is involved in the learning process and thus the administration of the classroom, at least in some degree, teachers need to feel the same value in the decision making of the school. Should a school be run much like a classroom is run? We value a child who "plays well with others". Should not the same be prized in a teacher?"
So one of the messages I'm hearing is that the whole school climate needs to be examined, for whether it allows what we consider the best classroom practices to flourish in a larger context. Or better yet--not just allows but encourages the healthiest practices of vibrant classrooms. Ok, so what are ways to nurture this along?
Thank you so much, Linda, for your comments!
Schools are complex organizations that must be lead effectively if learning is expected to occur. This is a reminder that in most schools it is difficult for the school assigned leaders to control things directly. Still today after many years of refinement in the literature about the role the school leader should portray their exist those assigned school leaders who still believe that leadership is the art of standardization. Leadership as the art of standardization is a way to control how individuals behave, think and act indirectly by standardizing the work they do. Those who practice the art of standardization rely on their ability to be direct supervisors and allow for the hierarchy to emphasis ways to delegate the school improvement process. This type of leadership has its bases from the old school of Fredric Taylor and decisions about school effectiveness is based on the anticipating the standardization of all teaching, learning, curriculum, assessment, and management. The art of standardization encourages the development of instructional delivery systems in which measurable outcomes are identified and tightly aligned to a set curriculum and to specific methods of teaching. Once instructional delivery systems are in place, teachers are supervised to ensure that the approved curriculum and approved methods of teaching are being followed. Students are tested to ensure that the approved outcomes are achieved. But the railroad theory works clumsily at best. Many teachers and schools do not like being put into straightjackets. Teachers often complain of being subordinates and the community is left believing in the myths of public education. To offset the art of standardization school leaders will need to change their belief systems to counteract the hierarchical roles once anciently practiced in the old school of leadership.
The process of “Empowerment,” or articulating a vision for the future, is the first step in offsetting the lack of direction. It should be noted that Empowerment or vision statement development is not a stand-alone entity created by one for all others to follow. True empowerment is a shared commodity that belongs to all stakeholders. It is important to note here that a vision, once shared, can lead to common aspiration and a sense of connectedness among stakeholders. A shared vision leads to common commitment.

A shared vision is not an idea; rather, it is a force of impressive power. It may be inspired by an idea, but once it goes further—if it is compelling enough to acquire the support of more than one person—then it is no longer an abstraction. Few forces in human affairs are as empowering as a shared vision.

At its simplest level, a shared vision is the answer to the question, “What do we want to create?” Just as personal visions are pictures or images people carry in their heads and hearts, so too are shared visions pictures that people throughout the school carry because they reflect their own personal vision. Therefore, shared visions create a sense of community that permeates the school and gives purpose and meaning to diverse activities. Shared vision is vital for the learning school because it provides the focus and energy for learning.

Strategy I of the Leadership model therefore means that a learning school cannot exist without a shared vision. Without a focus and commitment to some vision or goal that the stakeholders truly want to achieve, the forces supporting the status quo can overwhelm the forces supporting meaningful change. With shared vision, the stakeholders are more likely to expose their accustomed ways of thinking and redefine them in more cooperative and constructive terms, thereby recognizing personal and organizational shortcomings. Thus, developing a collective vision for the future of the learning school is the first strategy to a systematic design for successful implementation. In the next section, the reader will learn how to apply Strategy I, Empowerment, as a tool for bringing individuals with various personal competencies to share a clear focus and understanding of a school’s goals, objectives, and long-range aspirations.
Hi Mike,
When I read your first reply I kept thinking, "vision, vision, we need vision..." and then your next one is all about vision! So we need leadership with empowerment and vision, a community dedicated to healthy learning. How Utopian is that? It must be achievable; it's so sensible and right. (Are my biases showing at all?)
What writing have you provided us with here? Is it part of a book?
HI Connie
I admire your quest for the definitions of leadership and how it effects our schools, teachers, and especially student learing. The vision of leadership can be aquired by anyone especcially when contriversial issues strick at the heart of what we believe. And vision usually emerges as we look at our purpose and someone else challenges its existance. This is when an idividual looks at the challege and articulates to others what it is that holds us together in challenging times. The best example I can give is a vision is shared when you and I have a similar image of how we conduct our professional activities within the same organization. Some teachers feel oppressed trying to conform to all kinds of rules, goals, many of which they don't believe in. Obviously, some changes in the structure of schools need to be made when these perceptions dominate daily thought. We need to find ways to get teachers working together; we need to establish environments where teachers can reflect on what they are doing and learn more about what it takes to work as collaborative teams. Some of the problem is the tendency of the very nature of schools to fragment knowledge into separate specialized pieces without an overarching and integrative vision or purpose for the school itself. That is why I believe that the emergence of collaborative environments like Web 2.0 will flourish in the near future not just for special interest groups but for the globalization of education as a whole.
Hi Mike,

This, I believe, is central:

You wrote, "We need to find ways to get teachers working together; we need to establish environments where teachers can reflect on what they are doing and learn more about what it takes to work as collaborative teams."

Maybe this could be another thread, or could be continued here. How do we create the reflective environments? CR2.0 is good for a wide connection; what can be done locally?
What I am describing here is the development of a learning school; a school which holds true to the same vision and the majority working toward the holistic vision that binds individuals together for the same cause. This can only be accomplished by setting down as a school and developing a collective vision on who you are and what you want to achieve.

It is true that the combination of self-contained classrooms and a heavy teaching schedule gives teachers few opportunities to share common problems or sustain an intellectual life. Under such circumstances, the opportunities to share vision are nonexistent. In that case it must be a planed event. Time must be taken to look at change and reflect the ideas of purpose. A good start would be constructing a wiki site where refection of purpose can take shape. Secondly the school structure has to be changed to allow collaboration to occur, through teaming or other avenues that allow agendas to be constructed and solutions to problems amended through collaboration.

In a larger sense schools are communities they are centers repositories of values, sentiments, and beliefs that provide the needed cement for bonding people together in a common cause. You should construct questions that are reflective and answer such questions as these;

• What is this school about?

• What is our image of learners?

• What makes us unique?

• How do we work together?

• How does the school as community fit into the larger school system? How do parents fit into the picture?

• Why are all these questions worth asking and answering?

What you want to construct is the need of bringing together notions of leadership, professionalism, community, and shared purpose. When there is a shared covenant of values, leadership possesses moral authority and empowers members to act.

I am not sure if this helps but I do know from experience it does work and it can happen with the right leadership in place.
Hi Mike,
The processes you are discussing that lead to change are valuable and worthy. We're involved in many of these initiatives at our school. Actually setting into the schedule time to collaborate was a major step forward.
I really like your idea of setting up a wiki for reflection, and love those questions you ask.
Can you write more about how you set up the wiki (I don't mean technically, but "philosophically"), and how it's actually progressing as a tool for reflection?
By the way, have you read Roland S. Barth's Learning By Heart? He advocates many of your ideas, particularly the overall belief that schools should be places for learning, for EVERYONE in the community; that the adults must be actively involved in their own learning not only for their own growth, but also as active modeling of what we're trying to get the kids to do. A wild idea, huh?!
On that note, I once blogged about where do all th people with advanced degrees in Ed Tech go to after they get a degree? It doesn't seem like they hang out around these places, thats for sure.

Here was the entry. It was called "The Zealots are the Leaders"

I think it fits well with this discussion.

Zealots as the leaders. That can either be the best of all possible worlds or a really frightening thought. When and at what point to zealots become fanatics and/or extremists? A leader who is not open to the thoughts of others is not a dictator. If I believe firmly and without question in any thing, but for the sake of argument let's say technology, then I begin to see anything and everything through that lens. If you do not see technology (or whatever) as the all-being savior of education then clearly you are not thinking straight. You get the picture.

Enthusiasm is wonderful and necessary. A point of view is not a bad thing either. Zeal is great. But when a person is too narrowly focused disaster awaits. Think of people of power and the end is all too clear.

From the best view, it is zealots who excite those on the lower tiers to do and think and act and join the enthusiasm. As long as it is tempered, I am all for it.
I think we confuse administration and management with leadership. They may be the same people, but even then the roles are different. Very often, however, managers and administrators think that they are leaders, when it is disastrous;y true that they are not. A pragmatic definition is that leaders are those whom others follow. And frankly they can arise from anywhere - to some they'll look like enthusiasts, other will see them as subversives, radicals, prophets, troublemakers, visionaries, etc. But whatever label or opprobrium they collect, there will be others on board and sharing their enthusiasms, viewpoints and resources.
I have a dynamic view of leadership. I believe it varies with the tasks and challenges. (And our structures don't like that!). In my classroom (if I'm allowed to obtrude a mark of ownership!) I may have leadership with regard to thinking/researching and presenting skills, but one or other of my students may well have leadership when it comes to creating a network, video editing, sound manipulation etc... My management challenge is to enable the leaders to lead at the appropriate moments. So it is in the wider school community: a challenge to recognise the appropriate leaderships and release or enable that leadership appropriately. The technical leaders may not be educational leaders, and the educational leaders may not be the school culture leaders.
In any case, we need to move as far as we can, ourselves. If our educational integrity requires innovation in our classroom, then we need to implement what we can, now. There's no point waiting for the next person. And it may be that we discover that the leadership mantle happens, for this moment to be ours! And if our structures oppose our integrity, then the confrontation needs to happen, or we ship out, or we sell out!



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