Recently I finished re-reading one of my favourite reference books by Fullan and Hargreaves, “Professional Capital – Transforming Teaching in Every School”. It has, as its central message, putting teachers and teaching at the forefront of school improvement. Through the path of breaking down the barriers of classroom isolation and engaging in a collaborative culture of learning, raising teacher status will improve student achievement.
Without doubt we need to set the bar higher in our schools and I believe this starts with the teacher. Even a poor teacher will inevitably produce some improvement in students’ learning over a year. What role does the educational leader of your school play? Are they visible? Do they complain of bureaucratic endeavours hiding behind their desk (is the door open?) or are they in the trenches along side their colleagues. There are many views on the role of the educational leader in the contemporary learning environment but the high performing schools have the teacher at the heart of providing an effective learning platform.
Fullan and Hargreaves discusses the need for colleagues to work more collegially and to bring leaders to account for their actions. They urged teachers to become a true pro. Not just a good teacher. This is where you need a strong educational leader to nurture the talents and guide the professional learning.
Educational leaders need to be focusing on the things that our best teachers do which make a difference to student learning. Its simply not best practice in expecting teachers to improve by handing resources to them. Professional learning is an active intention not a passive one and needs active engagement by all members of the school. Improvement, and more importantly, sustained improvement comes from teachers thinking differently about teaching and learning. It is having professional conversations about their practice, learning from each other and then implementing the teaching strategies that work.
Re-reading “Professional Capital” reinforces my view that the unfortunate reality is that many schools still promote leaders based solely on performance in roles vastly different from the one they’re being promoted into. Unfortunately, with less aspiring leaders about, too often managers are thrown into executive leadership duties without the skills and guidance required to excel.