cc licensed photo shared by Life Inspired Photography
There is a lot of literature out there about being a leader and the importance of leading not managing. This solid advice includes building trust and relationships but let’s not forget about the management of 21st century learning environments. I am not talking about making sure there is heat in the building…although heat is good. I am talking about the structures that need to be in place for effective 21st century learning environments and the skills that go with developing and nurturing these environments. Sometimes we don’t have the right balance of both and this can cause barriers in organizational/school/classroom change. This balance does not necessarily mean 50/50. At times, you may need 90% leadership and 10% management which could mean that you have not yet established solid trust and relationships and, therefore no learning will move forward for anyone in the organization/school/classroom. It could be 20% leadership and 80% management which may mean you have established trust and relationships and now it’s more about facilitating the teaching of skills and/or structure for effective learning. For example, when we think about 21st Century pedagogy which includes providing individual learning in a variety of formats for all children in a classroom, we think about how great that would be. I have not met an educator that did not agree with the fact that facilitating personal goals for all students and allowing for many choices in the learning process would be best for students. BUT…. where the resistance comes in is the “how”…how can that possibly be done? It’s the “how” of letting go of that control in an effective way. Just the thought of following through with this kind of environment can be overwhelming and paralyzing for educators. However, if the management structures of the change are examined and broken down into manageable chunks then organizational/school/classroom change could be more successful.
Recently, @jimknight99 tweeted out about a book by Monty Roberts that is a recommended read for instructional coaches. In this book Roberts (2001) writes about 0-10 learning. If all learning is from 0-10 then the 0-1 learning is building trust and relationships. If this 0-1 piece of the learning is not solid then no learning will happen. When I think about organizations/schools/classrooms, this is also true. I would then add to this idea and say the 1-2 learning is managing this type of environment. This 1-2 piece includes explicitly modeling and teaching the routines and structures of the learning environment before the content. The 21st Century learning structure is new to many educators and students (unfortunately we have trained them in a traditional structure for years and the majority of them comply!). Often this piece of professional development for educators is left out because we assume that educators can figure out how to manage this structure of learning for themselves once they change their pedagogy but, in fact, that is usually where they become paralyzed resulting in one of two things: end up going back to old ways or not feeling like they can be successful and do not even begin.
Think about your situation… What leadership/management balance do you
need to do for organization/school/classroom in order for effective change to
Flickr Photo: Press Factory Juggling Group by chamsin
As leaders, we often hear from our staff that we have “too many balls in the air” and we are just “adding one more thing to our plates”. We need to listen to this feedback and recognize that we may have too many school goals or these goals might not align with what we really want to accomplish in regards to student learning. When too many goals are in front of us or when goals do not align then staff will get overwhelmed and, as a result, feel like they do not do anything well or only skim the surface.
Part of being a leader is making strong connections and alignment between school goals and what staff is actively doing to move towards reaching those goals. In the book The Leader in Me, Covey adds a visual on page 179 that resonated with me. It is a picture of arrows pointing to stakeholder needs (student learning) and inside the arrows are things/actions that a school is doing such as mission, vision, strategies, etc. Some arrows are pointing all in the same direction… some are not.
As a leader in your school, ask yourself:
If the things we do as a school are put into each arrow, would all of the arrows point towards improving student learning?
Do I, as a leader, develop and facilitate meaning processes to align school goals and actions?
Do some arrows need to be taken way because they do not align?
Are some arrows actually barriers that hinder student learning for the 21st century?
If our arrows do align, what can I do as a leader to help make connections for my staff?