Educational leadership is a choice

Educational leadership begins by being a choice.

Rodd (2016) proposes that leadership is a choice and must be chosen and fully embraced by the person. This will have a direct impact on the motivation, accountability and ownership of the leader’s role and therefore on the teaching and learning outcomes practiced by the team.

Choosing not to be a spectator, or simply to be a role-keeper, and fully embracing the opportunity to lead pedagogy will have significant benefits.

Instructional leadership has a significant impact on children’s learning and it also impacts how the team learns and adopts new ideas.

It is important for the way you approach teaching and learning

· It is important for your educational team.

· It is important for children.

· It is important for families.

Educational leadership takes courage. Courage is the ability to say what you think with all your heart and involves facing our fears, going into the unknown, taking a risk and tapping into your own inner strength. It’s basically about how you move forward. Brene Brown (2017) offers the contrast of choosing courage over comfort, which is an empowering idea as an education leader.

· What acts of courage does educational leadership require of you?

· What comforts or securities must be set aside to move forward?

Learning is central to the role of educational leadership. Creating the context, conditions, and relationships for teams to reflect, inquire, and question themselves is what underpins the team’s ability to engage in authentic learning. The following four ideas are presented as important factors in creating these conditions:

1. Build learning relationships – not conforming relationships

2. Empower your team – no power over your team

3. Accept difficulties and challenges – not formulas or recipes

4. Engage in learning together – not isolation and individualism

1. Establish learning relationships

The consequence of thought is learning, so how do we create thought? Some ideas worth pursuing might include:

· Ask powerful questions.

· Engage critically to foster depth of reflection.

· Recognize the value of reflection and give it the time it needs.

· Empower people to find solutions.

· Model thinking by speaking aloud about your own curiosities and conflicts.

· Reflect with others to co-construct meaning. This often means moving beyond the type of hallway conversations.

As an educational leader, two important questions are worth considering:

· How can I position myself or how can I position myself as a learning partner with my colleagues?

· How to construct the learning relationship as an active and experiential process?

2. Strengthen your team

Developing your team to its potential requires a wide range of enriching experiences driven by the team’s interests, ideas, and curiosities in early childhood education. How can instructional leadership empower the team to pursue these ideas?

3. Accept difficulties and challenges

Fullan (1997) discusses the idea that problems are our friends. Imagine the possibilities of a shared pedagogy where people are able to “spark new ideas from each other as they debate and disagree, while remaining ready to listen” (Fullan, 1997, p32).

Daniel Goleman’s (2005) work on emotional intelligences offers a perspective for looking within the capacities we can cultivate as educational leaders. Here are 5 questions I ask:

1. Self-awareness – How is my mood, emotions, or energy affecting this conversation right now?

2. Self-regulation – What judgment should I retain in this conversation, what impulse should I redirect?

3. Motivation – How do I find the energy to pursue this authentically? What conversations should I have and with whom?

4. Empathy – What sensitivity should I exercise here? Am I listening deeply?

5. Social abilities – How can I best preserve, cultivate and connect meaningful relationships within the team in this scenario?

4. Commit to learning together

The power of people participating together is a goal worth pursuing in any early childhood setting. But what does this mean for what we need to change when individual educators plan isolated learning? Is there very little time to bring teams together to think, plan and imagine? Let’s be honest and think about:

· How can we re-imagine how meetings and planning time are organized to think about the collective and not the individual?

· How can we consider using our time differently than before?

· Is the agenda of our meeting an obstacle to participation?

This piece first appeared on Kelly Goodsir’s website KG Learning. Access the original here.

Further reading

Brown, B. (2017). Braving the Wilderness: the quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone. Penguin Random House, UK.

Cagliari, P., Castagnetti, M., Giudici, C., Rinaldi, C., Vecchi, V & Moss, P. (2016). Loris Malaguzzi and the schools of Reggio Emilia, a selection of his writings and speeches, 1945-1993. Routledge, Taylor and Frances Group.

Fullan, M. (1997). The complexity of the change process. The challenge of school change: collection of articles, (p27 – p45). Hawker Brownlow Education

Goleman, D. (2005). Emotional intelligence: why it may matter more than IQ. Bloomsbury Publishing PLC.

Robertson, J. (2016). Leadership in Coaching: Building Educational Leadership Capacity through Partnership, 2nd Edition. NZCER Press.

Rodd, J. (2016). Lead change in the early years; principles and practices. McGraw Hill Education, Open University Press.

Wheatley, M. (2002). Turning to each other: simple conversations to restore hope for the future. Ready to be disturbed. San Francisco: Berrett-Koshler Publishers, Inc.

Janice G. Ball