Date:March 14th from 8:30 am to 10:00 am.
Venue: Auckland Normal Intermediate on
Presenter: Colin Dale who is the ex-principal of Murray's Bay Intermediate and has worked extensively within the community of learning sphere.
Session: Hands-on and interactive with a focus on leading from the middle which is the original purpose for our leaders in CoL.
Colin set this tone from the beginning by reminding us all of the important roles that each individual has in a collective; we each come to the table from a different context and with a different skill set. We all have something to offer, and through our strengths, we can be the change we want to see. Agile Leadership doesn’t come into place by premeditating a goal; rather, it is through setting a flexible course based on the direction of the discussion.
There were a number of challenges that we all faced entering this role, some of them including the search for ways of making new learning sustainable, trying to change the tides of deposit thinking to a growth mindset, and dealing with the social elements entangled with entering a new leadership role. These opening concerns opened the gateway to the discussion on the evolution of what leadership looks like, as more progressive models aim to level the hierarchy. At the end of the day, the question changes from “How do I get people to do what I want” to “How do I manage in order to get the best from people?”
Colin used his paper, “A Better Way to Lead”, to illustrate this point. A key concept in his article included the importance of positive redesigning: constantly adapting what we have to do to the situation. As educators, this is absolutely essential: the world we’ve grown up into is not the same as the world they will become adults in, nor will our opportunities match theirs. The first mobile app was made in 2008; nine years later, there are an estimated 12 million app developer jobs worldwide. As the world is constantly changing, our practices must as well; to stay static in our approaches to education hinders students, teachers, and leaders from growing as innovators. And it’s just plain boring for everyone.
Actively being collaborators and innovators should be a central part of our practice. Simply having fixed units, according to Colin, implies that there is a certain task to be done, and this requirement can confine the potential learning outcomes that can take place. His approach includes setting up engaging scenarios that encourage the learning and practicing of skills in order to find a solution. The learning is organic and is presented as a natural necessity, taking away the strain and pressure often tied to the concept of learning. The result: those taking part feel enabled and feel more open for learning discussions. As the teacher, it’s not about imposing authority to drive learning, but giving others the opportunity to conceptualise and demonstrate their own authority, and the same applies to the roles of leadership.
This innovation and focus on the future come into conflict with the implications behind the phrase: “best practice”. Colin redubs the term as “next practice” to emphasise that as teachers, we should never stand complacent with our practices, nor should we feel defeat from not meeting a certain standard. Next practice is about reflecting on what will cause further progression for personal growth in their career; this model applies to those thirty days into the profession and thirty years. By taking steps to grow in areas that are specific to our contexts and current skill sets, we are not only promoting progress as professionals, but it’s done in a frame that is manageable and values well being. We expect the children to understand their situations and set reasonable goals based on where they would most benefit as a form of good habit; shouldn’t we hold that expectation on ourselves?
The second article we explored, aptly entitled “The Language of the Soul”, put a large emphasis on resilience and how we respond to adversity. We get angry. We cool down and try to rationalise. The way we respond and move forward is defining both for us as leaders and for our own well being. The first step in our discussion was the importance of empathising with others. This is put into action by taking an active part in inviting the party together to develop a resolution. Whether it is with a parent or another staff member, the relationships you have will largely determine how the outcome will shape, and how smoothly it will pave out. Another attribute that factors into the outcome is your humility. Inviting the parties to discuss matters through questions like “How can I make your life better?” or “What do I need to do to help you?” show the kind of respect and humility that makes them want to take part in the conversation; not only that, but it also shares the responsibility of finding a resolution. Along with the pre-established relationship, these questions also contribute to the creation of common ground between the parties. Once established, both parties know that they are on the same side, and future comments and solutions will be stronger as a result.
Innovation in education and leadership practices were presented in a way that was relevant, interactive, and vocalised the need for success to be measured with a broad view. Many also found it refreshing how the delivery of this professional development mirrored the pedagogy it promoted. It proved to us as leaders in training that these ideas feel empowering and motivating when put into practice, reinforcing that we should implement them in the way we conduct ourselves to colleagues and students. Danni Cook’s breakfast was a tough act to follow, but we ended up leaving with satisfied bodies, minds, and souls.