1 July 2015

Leadership Reflection

There has been nothing in all of my time in teaching like finding myself in a brand new school with the unique opportunity to lead from a blank canvas. 6 months into our first year, it's fair to say that there have been times that this has felt somewhat overwhelming.  But, it is also a huge, huge privilege.  

It seems that education has been on a fast/slow journey over the past two decades that I have been teaching and most of the change has happened by osmosis... We have been teaching ourselves and sometimes we have not always got it right but it's felt right because no one else has done it better.... yet!

In the school setting, I have previously felt like I was often on a treadmill... repeating the systems and programmes put in place by those who had gone before us. Being in a new school has given us licence to go slow and to keep continually asking 'Why?' and being entirely clear on that before anything needs to happen. 

Work that we have done with Julia Atkin has helped me to continually focus on the development of our shared beliefs. It has taken time to develop these but it has been important to go slow and build a solid foundation at our school. We have unpacked the principles of our beliefs together and again, this has taken time but has been key to every conversation, decision and purchase we make. 

The measure of these beliefs and principles are the emerging practices that can be seen when you walk around the school.  Practices that are not in line with our collective beliefs just 'feel wrong' and give cause for powerful conversations and reflection. 

I have found the shift from pipeline 2 leadership to pipeline 3 exceptionally challenging. There have been times that the 'pit' has felt like an all too familiar place but I have found myself developing greater resilience and a genuine enjoyment of the new learning in this role. The climate of possibilities that come from the 'blank canvas' was once overwhelming but I am genuinely excited by it now. 

Reflecting half way through our first year, I thought we would be further on than where we actually are. I was not ready for the time that was needed for building relationships. (Needless to say, this was a complete oversight on my part. A brand new team coming together, for goodness sake!)  I am very aware that the biggest investment we have made so far is in the development of relationships. Karen Seashore Louis (2007) showed that school leaders must conceptualise "...trust as the bridge that reform must be carried over, but rather than being solid, that bridge is built on changing emotions". Karen goes on to suggest that without a strong focus on developing or strengthening trusting relationships the reality will be that little change will occur. She also suggests that the absence of trust works to the detriment of the children who need newer pedagogies to thrive. 

I have also learnt that it is key to really understand where people have come from and what they bring to the team. This is their threshold and knowing more about the schools that they have come from could help eliminate so many assumptions about people, their beliefs and their practices.

Tonight, I read a post about leading through change. I need to delve through this a bit more
 but I was quite taken by Rob Willis' link to organisational change management. I could see how this fits with our thinking but also keeps me focussed in my leadership role... I have transferred his notes onto the concentric circle model that we have been working with this past year. 

What it reinforces to me is that it is essential that everything we do and the culture that we establish is centralised by our vision and our beliefs. My role as a leader is to focus on the people, the thresholds that they come from and to make no assumptions about their beliefs, principles or practices. All stakeholders need to feel enabled to take a lead in developing our culture and that their leadership ensures that the school reaches its potential/ vision over time.