Mrs. Nguyen Student nominated Parent Orientation Night
begun her administrative
career as Vice Principal
Chairperson 50th Anniversary Schoolwide Learning Expectations Assembly
Honorary Commisioner NJrYLC
In education, nothing is stationary other than the human element of learning. This is transparent when one looks at longitudinal trends in pedagogic philosophies, strategies, resources, and teaching styles. Part of the endless evolution of education results from the need of educators to always be two steps ahead of their students, who grow within diverse and changing environments. As times change, so do students and so must their leaders who educate them.
Many people want to be a leader, but only very few truly are. The reason is that it takes several crucial leadership qualities to catapult a desire into a plan and even more, into effective action. Some suggest that there are seven dimensions of effective leadership in education, including vision, relationship, systems, reflection, collaboration, analysis and communication. (Reeves, 2006) .
As educational leaders we must recognize our talents and activate or maximize as many of these dimensions as we possess. If we are lacking in one area or another, we must fill this dimensional gap by surrounding ourselves with a leadership team of educators who compensate for such shortcomings.
This applies to all levels, the educator in his role as teacher, as colleague and as administrator. As a visionary, the educational leader is not afraid to ask tough questions and uses the feedback to develop new solutions to an ever-changing educational environment.
“Visionary leaders are not grandiose, as their visions are more likely to be the blueprint of the architect than the uncertain and cloudy vision of the dreamer.” (Reeves, p.35) It is important that the visionary spreads the vision evenly to all members of the team, as this will enable all constituents to identify themselves as shareholders of the success. Effective visions help individuals understand that they are part of a larger world and also reassure them of their individual importance to the organization. (Reeves, p.36) As an educational leader, the building of relationships based on trust and integrity are paramount.
Without genuine leadership, there cannot be genuine success. These relationships must be built from the ground up starting with the students themselves, and cement the way to the top of the school community, and even beyond. Students who grow and learn in a healthy environment, in the absence of mistrust and disrespect, are more likely to observe and absorb the modeled qualities that will allow them to succeed. As a leader, the teacher must ensure that these fundamental relationship connections exist between the students, at a peer level, towards the student from the teacher, from the educator to the parent and primary educator, and beyond. This is labor intensive in and of itself.
The ultimate goal is for the educational leader is to instill a trust that will foster the flow of constructive, two-directional feedback, and thereby facilitate not just a "feel-good moment", but strategic growth of the student and the organization. This relationship building must be set with the single fundamental perspective, that everyone can improve on skills and in knowledge, no matter how long or how little they have been around.
"In education in particular, the presumption that self-esteem is a characteristic to be nurtured and developed in students and adults has morphed into a justification for narcissism, insulating people from honest feedback that is necessary for improved performance." (Reeves, p.38)
Furthermore, the educational leader must be a good listener, in order to detect the warning signs that will help to avoid catastrophe in order to achieve the common goal. This makes the leader reflective, taking time to think about the lessons learned, and notice trends that emerge.
Finally, the leader must be able to collaborate in order to achieve a shared decision, and must know when such efforts in collaboration are counter-productive as well. Sometimes, the leader will have to make decisions without broad support, because the team is without agreement. This is where the skills of communication are pivotal.
“The best analytical leaders are not masters of answers, but rather persistent questioners. Their questions require the admission of ignorance, not the assertion of knowledge. In the field of education, the analytical leader is the one who will challenge assertions about student demographics being the cause for student achievement. (Reeves, p. 56-57.)
As a transformational leader the above dimensions are essential, but augmented by the desire to achieve the necessary goals and targets. The transformational leader is someone who knows, when he or she needs more answers, and is able to call the decision while taking ownership of the outcome.
Reeves, D. (2006) The Learning Leader. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Alexandria, VN.