School leadership comes in many forms and sizes. People are complicated and want what they want and perceive what they perceive. This results in power-plays between groups and individuals. In some cases, notably the pre-iPhone world of management and manufacture, when western manufacturing still provided work for the masses – top down culture, middle management and time served was well established. This has proven to be broadly disastrous in the face of globalisation. Today few kids can expect to fail school, avoid further education and still find a long term job.
So we need a new kind of leadership. We need people who can lead and most of all we need people who genuinely connect, collaborate and share with others. Not people who do it for their own ambition, but ones who actually understand that individualistic approaches to the workplace neither model to children the skills they need, nor will people around them participate with or be subjected by it anymore.
This presents considerable issues for the adoption of so called ‘new’ pedagogical arrangements such as service based, problem, project or game based learning. Not only do people need to understand and be able to implement a multi-focused curriculum to engage and inspire children, but they also need to grapple with their collective and individual power issues that come with the modernist legacy — and indeed general ambition or lethargy of humans.
Edutopia provided 5 characteristics of an effective school team. I think ‘effective’ is a great way to look at running a several classrooms, subjects and teachers. As being effective cannot be disconnected from being professional in the 21st Century ie – Connected, Collaborative, Communicative and Creative.
In a good team, there’s healthy conflict.
This is inevitable and essential if we’re learning together and embarked on some kind of project together. We disagree about ideas, there’s constructive dialogue and dissent, and our thinking is pushed.
Of course this one is really problematic to people who operate on characteristics such as with holding information, excluding people from important discussions or meetings, acting passively at times when action is needed and an array of saboteur behaviours which prevent overall effectiveness. From experience, I am firm on the reality that people who behave in this way are never going to make an effective team member – and these days, that means an ineffective teacher.
What is more scary is the pre-teacher dislike of ‘group work’. Of course knocking out essays and attending tutorials can earn some form of a degree, but with the number of students being churned out these days – the danger is we have people who will readily engage in the pre-iPhone hegemony and perpetuate the exact culture that kills innovation, creativity and the kind of learning episodes that are needed.
Never participate in other peoples power-plays if you want to be in an effective team. It’s socially awkward to say “No”. But that is all that’s required to start a new, and better ‘healthy’ conversation. In situations where you are not included in the decision process, excluded from prior conversations etc., then it’s easy to go along with it, because the intention has been to ensure you ‘get the message’ and comply. These are unhealthy. It’s really hard to say “No” but sadly it’s the only way to draw the line and be heard.
To create a safe and healthy learning environment (Edutoipia link) then everyone needs a voice and to know they are important and valued – students, teachers and administration. It’s not like the Internet isn’t full of great advice about this … but the people with power rarely talk about, or point you to them.