Evolving Perspectives: Leaders and Leadership
This article focused on the priorities of a principal and senior leadership. It focused on three main areas that administration is meant to improve, and what the challenges were in achieving these improvements. These areas of focus were the opinions of Ken Leithwood, who is a professor of Educational Leadership and Policy at OISE.
Dr. Leithwood mentions three areas that have become the main priority of principals. The first is that principals are responsible for raising school achievement. They are not just responsible for creating an environment where it can happen, but need to ensure that results do happen.
The second area of focus, which is more recent, is that principals need to close the gaps in student achievement. Principals are taking responsibility for the learning itself in the classrooms, not just providing the environment for good teaching practices to take place.
The third focus, which almost mirrors the second reason, is that principals are responsible for “turnaround efforts” at a school. It use to be that principals were focused on kids that were ‘At risk”, now the focus is on the whole school improving, so the focus of turnaround has changed.
The challenges to bringing this type of change are many. First principals now have to help develop good teaching practices with their teachers. The challenge with this is first convincing teachers that they may have to change or adapt their teaching practice. I think of the focus that school boards are giving to technology these days, and how not all teachers are convinced that this is the best move. The principal on the other hand believes that interrogating technology in a meaningful way will improve student achievement, now has to find a way to work with that teacher to inspire them to give technology a chance. The question is how do you convince people to change their ways, when you both have different view points for what is the best course of direction? Add on top of that, your job is dependant of that change happening.
In the article, they mention building healthy relationships with staff being a priority for principals. This is a first before you start collaborating with others. After a positive relationship is established, it is more likely that two or more people can work together on the “big picture”. As more relationships are built, then more people are become focused on the main purpose. This cohesiveness, is the answer in how people with different viewpoints can work for the common good.
I assume, in the course this is an area we will explore, the building of healthy relationships with staff; how to go about this and ways to deal with different personalities. This will come done to our leadership style, something I read about in a book called “Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead With Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman. The book states that strong leaders have strong empathy skills, and this helps lead to strong healthy relationships.
Closing the Gap
The second focus of closing the gap is one that Dr. Leithwood said that “we know less about how to do this then we would like to know.” There just is not enough data and advice out there, but there was one area that principals agreed on, and that was to help close the gap, parents had to be part of the picture. Evidence is clear; students that get parent support are more successful at home.
When principals look at their role as one that is meant to improve student learning, then anything that can help with that, should be considered. It’s not just what takes place within the walls of the school that the principal needs to influence. When this is the mentality, then principals will look to connect with parents, and bring them in as partners with the school.
Getting parents to partner with schools can be a challenge due to busy schedules, but with technology and social media, it is more manageable than ever. Tools like websites, email, Twitter and Facebook, can help connect parents to the school community and keep them involved on a daily basis. No longer do they need to wait for the monthly newsletter home or that call home to know what their child is doing in school, and what they can do to help.
Taking it to the Next Level
Lastly, the article talks about how principals are responsible for turning around a school, and always taking it to the next level. There is never a place a school can reach and feel like that they have arrived at the top. There is always room for improvement, and principals need to find a way to lead their school there.
These are the focuses of a principal according to Dr. Leithwood, and they may seem like daunting tasks, but with the right leadership skills, people are capable of coming together, and bring positive change to any environment.