When I think about leadership in my mind I compare the various administrators I have had over the years. In my current job as part of a PBL school I think my administrator has some great qualities that could be valuable to everyone. The most important one is that she empowers, first teachers and then students. Last spring as a team we started a new school. For most decisions we discussed and came to consensus as a staff. In this world of top down mandates this was such a refreshing change. I know that I had a real voice as I advocated for things such as school-wide standardized grading system and open filtering policy.
|by Boudewijn Berends|
When it comes to technology she is capable but not necessarily “networked.” Once again she does try to limit what teachers and students do with technology to what she is comfortable with. She trusts us as professional experts with open internet to use online tools for learning. She always advocates and supports students and learning rather than worrying about controlling.
My curriculum is wide open as long as I addressed the state standards. There is no judgmental oversight and I am encouraged to be innovative and creative. I sometimes come up with crazy ideas and she supports and encourages me to try new things. There is no fear of being judged as a failure for trying something different. I know that this kind of openness and freedom is not the norm in education in the U.S. today. But I can tell you that I have never felt more professional and enjoyed teaching as I have this past year.
At first appearance these may seem like small things but I think this country needs more of this kind of leadership: trust of teachers and their professional judgement. I think administrators need to be more “hands off” in dealing with their teachers and more “hands on” in resisting outside forces demanding standardized testing and cookie cutter curriculum.
The payoff for this is huge. As my administrator relinquishes power and control to me, I do the same thing in my classroom by giving power and choices to my students. Just like me they enjoy school more than ever! Students are treated as responsible and given the opportunities to be creative in their learning.
Politicians and ed reformers need to spend less time trying to get everyone to be the same (control) and trust more in local teachers and students to creatively explore passionate learning.