There a couple of premises (that have emerged from my reading and research so far - all part of the learning) that underlie all of my work that need to be made explicit .
- The first is that effective schooling is schooling that helps ALL children develop, cognitively, socially and emotionally, into individuals capable of realising their potential.
- The second is that to achieve this requires effective teachers and teaching.
- The third is that effective teachers and teaching is most likely to occur in a culture of professionalism and learning.
- The fourth is that a culture of professionalism and learning occurs within a web of interconnected variables, from school resources and programmes, political agendas, individual skills and dispositions, cultural beliefs and values and more.
- The fifth is that the primary role of school leaders is to create the right synergy across the right interdependent variables to empower everyone to work towards the first premise.
My research has really been focusing on what all of that means, what that looks like, and what schools, particularly school leadership, need to do to achieve it. So what am I learning in regards to this?
- Context matters. You have to understand the context of the school - where it is at now and why.
- Systems thinking: you have to be able to engage in whole system thinking, to understand what the different parts are and how they interrelate.
- Goal setting: you need to develop a sense of where the school wants to go. That involves some deep thinking about what developing cognitively, socially and emotionally into individuals capable of realising their potential actually means. It also involves value-based decision-making.
- Prioritising: once you understand the context, see the system, have the goal, you need to be able to identify what will best get the process started and keep it going.
- Plate spinning: Alongside that, even while you focus on one thing, you need to be able to keep an awareness of everything else, and know if or when to switch your focus to something else and to what extent and for how long.
- Clear and shared understandings: among the whole school community - of what the goal is and what a culture of professionalism and learning looks like, how it supports student learning, and the part everyone plays.
- Rigorous monitoring, evaluating and reflecting: constantly looking for, collecting and analysing data in order to critique your actions and make the next decisions.
- Critical mass: there need to be enough people involved in all of the above to keep the process going.
What else am I learning? That school improvement and leadership is complex and challenging and ongoing. There are no easy answers and bumps and set backs are par for the course - as are successes and triumphs.
Also, I’m developing a couple of core convictions:
- that despite social, emotional learning being on the agenda for decades as a requisite for cognitive learning and development, we are still not making much progress in that area, perhaps because teachers/ adults in schools/ homes themselves have not experienced being emotional, social, cognitive learners.
- that whole-child education will only ever really take effect when we engage in whole-teacher education.
Now back to the data.