For Fullan (and many others, including myself) teaching and leadership is about moral purpose, relationships, sense-making and a greater good. Sadly, I feel I entered a teaching profession that was still driven by the need to swell a country's economy (nothing wrong with that but it is not enough) and gave too little attention to the wider purposes of education (despite the political rhetoric used to gain votes).
And as I look into the factors that support or challenge teachers' learning and cultures of professionalism, I am increasingly struck by how, as a profession, teachers are lacking the tools and support to create the social and emotional environments which we now know are key to enhancing student learning outcomes for all students, and closing the gap between the highest and lowest performing students. I don't blame teachers for that. Many of us are products of a society and political system that, in the words of Pasi Sahlberg, has prized competition over collaboration, standardisation over personalisation, choice over equity and and test-based over trust-based accountability.
So how do we turn the tables? While many schools have introduced Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) programmes, not many have provided support for teachers in developing their own skills in this area. Adults continue to grow cognitively, but many become stuck without the right support (see Kegan's work on stages of adult development and Dweck's work on Mindset). Yesterday, I wrote about coaching as a way to achieve lasting change in teachers that impacts student learning. I talked about the course I am taking which emphasises the differences between good and effective coaching, one of which is identifying high-leverage areas for growth. Well, I would argue that developing the social and emotional intelligence of teachers is one of those areas. While I am not alone in this view (see the work of Kusuma-Powell and Powell; Hargreaves and Fullan; among others, including this interesting article Teach the Teachers Well), it is not without controversy - some critics suggest it is getting in to the world of thought control (see Coffield, 2012) and governments and societies see it as the 'soft option'.
But the more time I spend working in schools and trying to lead change which results in better student learning for all, the more I feel convinced that an important, perhaps even the most important, part of this is giving teachers the skills, tools, time and support to develop the skills that enable them to truly become transformational leaders of learning.