I try hard to be the best member of the SLT team I can be everyday as a leader in my school. I admit it can be really tough. Especially during winter and when everybody has a cold and the students are fed up. To perk myself up this week I thought I would share some errors to avoid if you are a leader. Be in touch if you have good suggestions.
- Tell your team how important their ideas are to you and how much you want to talk more about it, then never get back to them.
- Check your emails and answer calls when you are in the middle of a meeting with staff.
- When your team member tells you a great idea, tell them about your great idea.
I have been thinking a great deal about success in this area. I think it comes down to a few key principles and this is an attempt to capture the essence:
Purpose: All organisations are essentially collections of individuals with their own personal values and goals. The role of leaders is to try to create the maximum alignment for those values and goals so that everyone pulls in the same direction to the greatest extent. Really strong teachers tend to have strong views about education, about teaching and learning and about relationships with students; they have an intrinsic sense of purpose. However, it doesn’t work for them or the school if they are fighting against the flow; you want them with you, not against you. This requires either a clear, inspiring vision that they buy into, or, more probably, it requires a process that involves them in shaping the vision in the first place. It’s demotivating in the extreme to be asked to work towards goals you don’t believe in; in fact it doesn’t work at all. So, the question is: am I doing enough to forge a sense of common purpose amongst the key drivers in my school? Are we as closely aligned in our goals as we can be?
Challenge: Talented people thrive in a high-demand environment. Great teachers who drive students towards ever higher standards, expect standards to be high all around them. They are usually demanding of themselves and of others; rightly so. This means you have to expect the challenge to be a two-way process; you push me; I’ll push you and we’ll do a better job. That means we need mechanisms that actively seek out opinions and ideas that would lead to improvement. It is also means that we should do all we can to sustain a culture where rigour, high quality and doing things properly pervades. It is acceptable to be very demanding of people if they too can be demanding of you. (Does the converse need spelling out?)
Autonomy: Fundamentally, if we think we’re doing a decent job (and if we’re not), we like to be left alone. Autonomy is the thing teachers crave. I know what I’m doing, let me get on with it. Don’t tell me what to do because I’ve already got enough ideas of my own… It is the great joy of teaching; the freedom to experiment, to perform, to follow your whims, to be yourself…. and those great teachers are no different. Any process that restricts, inhibits, limits, deflects, blocks, restrains… for no reason other than a perceived need for conformity and uniformity or purely to satisfy an accountability measure…. is likely to frustrate great teachers. Conversely, if they feel at liberty to make choices, to do their own thing, to go way off piste whenever they want to….they’ll be flourishing. Real autonomy isn’t automatic; it emerges from a culture where there is a high level of confidence, professional respect and mutual trust. Question: where are we along the control-autonomy axis? How much more freedom could I give teachers within the context of my school?
What comes to mind when you hear the term curriculum leader? Do you have a vision of your HOF standing at the back of your classroom observing teaching and learning? Do you see the instructional leader as the building principal conducting three-minute walk-through observations? Is the curriculum leader the department chair? How many curriculum leaders can one school hold?
Curriculum leadership should not be determined by a person’s title or years of experience. Curriculum development is the essential function of school leadership. Whether this role is carried out by a principal, an assistant principal for curriculum, a team leader, a department head, or by leading classroom teachers, the curriculum defines all other roles in a school. Strong, intentional leadership in curriculum development is a necessity for strong instructional leadership.
Curriculum leadership is complicated because leading curriculum development meetings involves working with fallible, imperfect human beings. A second reason curriculum leadership is difficult is due to the school schedule and a lack of extended time for teachers to discuss and revise existing curriculum documents. I know in my environment the complexity of documents can seem confusing. While it is difficult to ask for each teacher’s input, documents that are top-down rarely receive as much teacher buy-in as documents that were created by the teachers who are required to implement the curriculum. Curriculum leaders must work together to create a culture of trust where teachers and administrators can agree to disagree. Furthermore, leaders must develop quality time and create schedules which provide time for creative thinking and reflection, rather than scheduling early release days when teachers complete fill-in-the blank curriculum worksheets.
Five Reasons Why Schools Need Curriculum Leaders:
- Curriculum Leadership provides clarity.
What should every student know and be able to do?
- Curriculum Leadership provides opportunities to develop and empower future leaders.
Curriculum leadership is not a solo act.
- Curriculum Leadership provides the opportunity for continuous improvement.
Schools should be learning organizations.
- Curriculum Leadership provides the opportunity to establish goals.
Goals provide teachers and students with something to aim for.
- Curriculum Leadership provides the opportunity for improved alignment.
Curriculum development should not be left to chance. Too many schools hope that teachers will find time to work together. With the loss of staff development funds, changes in school calendars, the emphasis on ‘less is more, and initiative fatigue, some schools no longer make time for authentic curriculum development. Curriculum development is the essential function of school leadership. Whether the role is carried out by a principal, deputy principal for curriculum, a team leader, a department head, or by leading classroom teachers, the curriculum defines all other roles in a school.
Curriculum development is a rewarding process which enables teachers to have professional conversations about the intended and taught curriculum. Conversations about what is real. Pedagogy.
My personal experiences with curriculum development and observing the work of teacher teams in multiple school systems and academic research has led me to identify the following five barriers to curriculum development: Time, Process, Tradition, Competition, and Motivation. With proper planning, scheduling and support from school administrators, each of these barriers can be removed.
What have been some of your barriers?
Professional developments are great opportunities to collaborate with staff members and meet educators with similar goals in nearby schools. Are some quick tips are for teachers looking to make the most of the knowledge within their own school building, maximize their use of social media, and connect with faraway teacher friends.
- Ask For Help
Be this person. Ask a question, borrow a resource, solicit advice, and just chat with my colleagues.
- Get Free Stuff
Traveling to a conference can be logistically and financially challenging. There are many live and recorded webinars that provide insight into how to effectively integrate a new learning tool or introduce a strategy to incorporate into a lesson. Gather a group of teachers after school, request coverage for a period, or host a lunch for your colleagues to watch a webinar together.
- Keep Track
Use a blog or a tool like OneNote to gather your evidence.
- Hold an “Appy Hour”
We are often so caught up in our own day and schedules it’s hard to know what is happening in the classroom next door, let alone on the other side of our school building. Dedicate one afternoon a month to connecting with your colleagues. See the next two points.
- Follow Follow Follow
Twitter is an amazing resource for teachers, and it’s had an enormous impact on my professional growth as an educator. Once you’ve gotten started with an account and are checking in regularly, make a commitment to follow five new people every week.
- Join a Chat
Twitter chats are a wonderful way for teachers to connect with likeminded educators who have actionable ideas and advice to offer. By joining a chat, you can read through the tweets people are posting to a chat’s hashtag or dive in by answering and posing questions.
Have you any tip?
Go onto Twitter or Facebook or any such site you will find people having their say on leadership. Thousands of books have been sold on the topic of leadership. I have brought many of them. When you visit the library or search for an e-book, you can find topics about business leadership, military leaders, great sporting leaders, leadership wisdom from presidents, ethical leadership, and the list is limitless.
The field of education needs more curriculum leaders. People know about curriculum leadership and some educators do a great job of leading their class or their team. Curriculum leadership involves working with multiple people to ensure that the curriculum is aligned both horizontally and vertically.
When educators think of curriculum development and curriculum alignment, they often reflect on a time when teachers meet and discuss the nuts and bolts. What our system needs are people with greater vision. A flavour-of-the month approach to curriculum development will not support students or teachers and it creates a disjointed curriculum. It creates a culture amongst the team of yes “this will come and go, it’s only a fade.”
We need curriculum leaders who will challenge and advance pedagogy. We can all serve as a curriculum leaders. Ask yourself the following questions about your department:
- What is Curriculum Leadership? (Clue: Its not about making sure everybody has textbooks)
- Who are the Curriculum Leaders in our school?
- What goals do the Curriculum Leaders have for this school year?
- How will we measure progress towards the goals?
- How are we progressing right now with these?
- Do these meet with the school wide goals and my own personal goals as a teacher?
Lots to think about here but worth but worth putting these aside for a Departmental or Team meeting I think.
I can’t accept and continue to allow educators to believe that integrating technology into instruction is optional. As individuals, we can choose to ignore the influence of technology in society, but as educators we are robbing our students of experiences they will need to be successful.
I can’t accept that we have one of the most important jobs in the world.
I can’t accept and continue to think that learning is limited to what happens within the four walls of a classroom. Learning happens everywhere.
I can’t accept and can’t allow ourselves not to be held accountable. We as the educators are responsible for what happens in our schools, and it’s that responsibility that makes working in education awesome. #Justsaying
Do you agree on these?
As teacher I can’t accept a number of things:
I can’t accept what’s been done in the past as the only way to do things in the future. Obviously changing just for the sake of changing is not appropriate, but we can’t ignore the changes that are happening all around us, and as such there must be corresponding changes in education.
I can’t accept not teaching the ‘whole’ child. More and more frequently our students are entering our schools with needs that extend far beyond just ‘learning.’ In order for education to be successful, we can’t ignore the external factors that play a critical role in what we do in education.
I can’t accept working in isolation. The world is rich with opportunities for collaboration and there is no possible way to argue that we aren’t stronger as a team and stronger working together.
I can’t accept that our content is more important than the relationships we establish with our students. It is with almost absolute certainty that students won’t care about your content if they don’t care about you. Develop strong relationships to truly bring your content to life for your students.
What are some of things you can”t accept in education?
Here are two things we need to do in schools:
The industrial model of teaching is failing our 21st century learners. We must rethink everything we’ve ever learned about being a teacher.
Every student deserves a personal learning plan with the resources provided to ensure success. I would add to this a talent portfolio that outlines the student’s interests, abilities, and learning styles. It’s time to put aside the standardized classroom model and put in place individualized learning for every student. Our system here in New Zealand is ideal for this.
Tags: 21 century, Teaching, NCEA