30 mar Education and Leadership: promoting change
Every professional in the realm of education has the power to influence positive change, for instance, aligning theory to practice as extensively discussed. In this post, leadership will be brought to light for a discussion on how educational leaders may contribute to building the learning environment and causing a great impact on education.
Firstly, we are assuming that the more senior you are, the more chances you have to affect the lives of learners somehow connected to you. That means a trainer may impact teachers, who will in turn influence their learners, managers may contribute to the atmosphere of the school they are responsible for and to the views of education in their environment. From this perspective, leaders seem to have a tendency to achieve a greater number of learners, therefore being powerful agents of change in schools.
Leaders may take the best in people and inspire them to make it even better if they believe that everyone can shine, given the right conditions. Making a list of actions to take towards this inspirational role, may not be as efficient as starting each interaction with a firm belief that teachers can always shine bright. If teachers seem unsuccessful in the profession they chose, leaders may feel at least partially accountable for these results. If a learner has no moment of brilliance in the language classroom – that goes beyond mastering grammar or the right pronunciation – teachers could be considering other ways of helping learners go further.
If we believe education is not ‘one size fits all’ and we truly embrace diversity, the vast amount of possible conditions to work, collaborate, produce and learn is key to our work. Consequently, as leaders – managers, trainers and teachers – we need to keep researching and learning to truly work with differentiation. At the same time, we should be avoiding to enthusiastically talk about differentiation while behaving as if we expected everyone to do as we have always done. Progress comes to all areas and education can be seen as the vanguard of innovation, since it is the area where creativity can be mostly encouraged.
For instance, teaching 21st-century learners requires 21st-century teaching skills and an understanding that they will not all behave equally, for various reasons. Teachers and educational leaders are then faced with the challenge to question well-established beliefs and practices if they are to grow and develop to be 21st-century educators. Not only are the children we teach different from the children we were in school – background knowledge, abilities, exposure and availability of content in the world they are growing up in – but also the world they are going to inhabit demands a plethora of skills the teachers a century ago may not have imagined.
Overall, going in a different direction from what has been common practice – and that has worked for a long time – takes a lot of courage above all. Innovation is not always perceived with a positive look, even in the realm of education. It is just like the anonymous saying: ‘those who dance are considered insane by those who cannot hear the music’. We do not all see the world in the same way and some of us might be dreaming it has changed so dramatically in the past decades and that it demands different attitudes and practices in education.
The vast majority of teachers I had the pleasure to meet throughout my professional life started the career with a dream of doing meaningful work with their learners and to inspire action and collaborative, productive behaviour. I truly believe they are the key for meaningful and positive change in education, and their leaders can make wonders by inspiring them to keep aiming higher and reaching out for improved learner outcomes for all their students.