As I begin my 6th unit in my Master of Education (Teacher Librarianship), I do so with some anxiety. As we approach the end of March, I will have been out of the classroom, and out of the school environment for 2 years. This is the most significant break from my teaching career, and although I have been continuously studying since July 2013, I am beginning to feel a disconnection between my studies and my personal experiences.
A significant aspect of this has been the opportunity provided by this time off away from my career. As we are on an overseas posting, I have not been in a position to work, and so have been forced to take a much needed break and to really reflect back on my last teaching position, which was difficult and traumatic and had me seriously questioning what I wanted to do with my career. I think this has been an important opportunity and one that has helped me to see both the positive and negative aspects of who I was as a teacher at the time I left I my job, and what it is that I want from my career when we return to Australia.
What I have wanted, and still want from my studies, is to not focus my experiences on my last teaching position, but on my career as a whole. So this is the mindset with which I began the reading of Chapter 2 by Marzano, Waters and McNulty (2005), and these are some of the ‘statistics’ of my personal experience that I bring with me when I read the modules.
- · I have worked in 10 different schools over the past 20 years. I am only counting those where I have held either full-time or part-time positions for at least one term (and in most cases these positions were between 1-4 years), and where I was involved in staff meetings, planning, assessing, reporting.
- · I have worked for 12 different Principals and 11 assistant Principals in those 10 schools, and therefore have seen a variety of leadership / management styles. I have worked for some truly great Principals, and others who were not so great.
- · I have worked with great teams of teachers, and I have worked in not so great teams.
- · I have held a leadership position on the school executive and I have been regarded as a leader by many of the colleagues that I have worked with.
So when I consider the theories discussed in Chapter 2, I am thinking especially those effective Principals and assistant Principals that I worked with, and what the abilities and skills qualities were that they demonstrated as successful leaders.
I believe that effective leadership in schools comes down to understanding the personal needs of that particular school. Every school has its own journey. Where a school has had effective leadership, I believe they have experienced leaders who:
- · Are a visible presence throughout the school – in a positive and supporting way
- · Create a shared vision for the short and long term goals of the school
- · Have a clear voice that demonstrates a sense of purpose and direction
- · Have a strong understanding of curriculum, resourcing, budgeting
- · Support the day to day instructional needs of the school
- · Have an ability to adapt to change and steer the community of the school through necessary changes
- · See the teachers and staff within the school as their greatest resource and asset
- · Believe in building leadership, confidence, skills and growth in their staff and students
Schools who have had a difficult journey with leadership, may also need a leader who can build both trust and confidence in accepting change, rebuild morale and effectively steer the school towards needed improvements.
Having held a leadership position, I see my own leadership style as aspiring to be democratic, including other teachers in decision making processes, while also being able to make necessary decisions. So I was pleased that the leadership styles quiz on the Buzzle (2015) website agreed with that. My result from the quiz stated
“Your style of leadership is democratic, a.k.a. participative. It is considered as one of the most effective leadership styles in ideal situations. As the name suggests, democratic leaders consider the suggestions and opinions of group members and involve group members in the decision-making process. But they make sure that the final decision is taken by them while being in sync with the majority. This kind of leadership motivates the followers and encourages the group members to participate in the process. It ultimately improves the creativity and productivity of the members. It is one of the ideal leadership styles in an education system”.
So in reflecting on that result, and my past experiences, these are my current thoughts about myself as a leader.
I aim to be a proactive leader who demonstrates initiative and keeps an eye on my team members.
- · I don’t want to be a leader who just accepts the status quo and only deals with problems if they arise – the leader who believes that a problem only exists if it darkens your doorstep. Teaching can be an isolating profession – a good leader often notices if there are difficulties before a teacher asks for help.
I aim to be an empowering leader who recognises and rewards accomplishments and strives to build up my team, not cut them down.
- · I don’t want to be a leader that belittles my team in front of others when something goes wrong.
I aim to be a forward thinking leader who meets the challenges of the 21st century and has the ability to stimulate change in a school
- · I don’t want to be a leader who says ‘we don’t do it that way", who is afraid of change, who can’t think outside the box
I aim to be a leader who understands that my team are the greatest resource in our school
- · I don’t want to be a leader who does not support other teachers, does not provide learning opportunities, does not encourage growth and achievement
I aim to be a leader who continues to learn
- · I don’t want to be a leader who believes that I already know it all.
I have a lot to think about, about myself and where I want to go in my career. One thing I do know, is that I am good at what I do, that I have been acknowledged in my career as having leadership skills and that I owe it to myself to capitalize on my skills and my achievements when I go back to work.
I look forward to moving ahead with this unit, and building my knowledge and understanding of leadership in education.
Buzzle. (2015). Leadership styles quiz in Buzzle. Retrieved from http://www.buzzle.com/articles/leadership-styles-quiz.html