Category: Leadership

How to Avoid Being Napolean Bonaparte

How to Avoid Being Napolean Bonaparte

I’ve long held a suspicion that there is a difference between an administrator and a leader, but now I know it is the truth. My current school has suffered through major changes several times since I’ve been here and now it looks to restructure again with its expanded campus. Needless to say, this has provided a lot of fodder for me to consider what is my role at the school and made me reflect on what is the distinction between someone who sees themselves as a someone who “ticks off the boxes”, my definition of an administrator,  or someone who is in fact in command of the school, my definition of a leader. As I see, you can’t lead people who don’t want to follow you, but you still can be an administrator who manages things lovelessly.

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And the difference between the two is what are the values of the person in charge: completing paperwork or developing trust. Whether or not someone at the top is an administrator or is a leader, they influence the culture of a school, but the outcomes of their decisions permeate all areas of school life. The perspectives they hold about education plays a major part in how school policies and procedures are shaped and implemented.

Some of the fault in exercising power comes from the fact that the higher you climb in a hierarchical structure (which most schools ascribe to), the more you are the target of criticism and complaints. How you handle being the target of these remarks and gossip makes a huge difference. You have to ask yourself: Do I want to be liked or do I want to be trusted. The nuances in this perspective cannot be underscored enough. To put simply, if you think of your title like winning a popularity contest then you will always be defending your title. If you think of your title as earning a vote of confidence, then you continue to work toward maintaining and developing the strengths of your organization.  When you are in a “title”, there is hubris and then there is humility that becomes the norms of a school.  You get to decide which will define your use of power.  Douglas MacArthur said it best:

A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.

As I wrap up my school year and prepare to move to another school, I will store away the memories of these experiences. Although I will not be in a leadership title next year, I have come to understand that “words without actions” are meaningless, so I feel strongly that titles without real leadership qualities are void of any value. I am a bit disenchanted with any grabs at power at the moment because I have witnesseleadershipd first hand at how detrimental it can be when people thirst to be given power or maintain control over others. I have come to feel relief in taking some time to redefine what I am and how I can best serve my new school community and the field of education at large. Alas, that will be my new focus–out beyond the 4 walls of my school–and look to how I might contribute to making a difference, not just in the International Baccalaureate, but in the larger conversation that is taking place in education: What really matters for our learners as we look to the future?

What about you? What are your thoughts about school leadership? What perspectives am I missing?

Equal is Not Fair

Equal is Not Fair

In some ways, I am lucky to be a small school. We don’t have grade level teams that demand that we all do the “same” thing in our classrooms. However, homework and communication are areas that are fraught with disagreement, as teachers feel compelled to do what is the “norm” and may not strive to be creative. Conformity kills innovation. I’ve been in many a staff meeting in which we have to reach a consensus, and decisions may not be what’s best for their student’s needs but may be the whims of parents or what is easiest for teachers. We end up settling on “good enough” so that we can strike a “middle ground”.  As a teacher who feels that I got one shot with the kids I got this year, I cringe when we create a status quo school culture and, ultimately, I feel that makes teachers less than who they want to be.

George Couros points out why administrators impose these constraints in the Innovator’s Mindset:

The fear that drives leaders is not always about failure. Sometimes, the real fear is of success. If something works, other educators in the building would be expected to do it, thus creating more work for everyone…innovative intiatives ..might create superiour learning opportunities–opportunities  that aren’t offered in another learning environment. If what’s best for learners is our primary concern, equity of opportunities will be created at the highest levels, not the lowest.

I hope that in the future, school leaders choose to raise the bar and not lower it, in an effort to be democratic.  Because what may be equal is not fair, especially when one wants to inspire teachers and students

Leading Curriculum: A Brief Reflection 

Leading Curriculum: A Brief Reflection 

It’s hard to imagine that this year is drawing to a close. As I’ve entered into a new era of my leadership skills, I feel the need to reflect on what I’ve accomplished and what is still for me to do is vital.

My favorite part of this year was definitely working with teachers, coaching and mentoring them. I love planning and delivering professional development that engages and enriches the practice of teachers. I appreciated their dedication to our students and to developing a strong curriculum in which students felt valued and challenged. I feel a heavy obligation to take good PD and make it great with rethinking how we can do PLCs and in what ways we can also allow for differentiated learning among our staff. This is definitely my summer homework as I think ahead for next year.

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The Grade 5 Exhibition Professional Learning Opportunity at TIS! I really enjoyed the conversations that I was able to facilitate within our network of schools.

 

Next year I go back down to the Early Years as a teacher, which I look forward to since I get to play and teach units of inquiry that I am familiar with. I think finding a balance between supporting my students and supporting teachers has been one of the biggest challenges in my role as a curriculum coordinator.  Although my time table says 60% teacher and 40% coordinator, the truth is I have spent way more time in both of those roles. Being a Grade 4 teacher (and doing maternity leave for the EY class) has been a fun challenge–doing inquiry based learning at that level and cultivating students into agents of action has enhanced my practice greatly. But since I just don’t open a book and turn to page 43 to teach “today’s lesson”, coming up with creative and interesting ways to develop conceptual understandings and promote wise use of technology in our classroom wasn’t always easy.  I am grateful for the opportunity to gain this perspective and work with this level of students.  I know I can make better decisions and coach more effectively since I can now speak to both spectrums of our program, from the youngest learners to the oldest. As a result, I really understand the need for more differentiated staff meetings so that those groups of teachers can discuss and collaborate more deeply and effectively. Creating those kinds of opportunities are on my “to-do” list for next year.

What went well for you as a curriculum leader? What are your priorities for next year? I’d love to hear  others’s ideas! Please share!

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Climbing the Great Firewall of China! I’ve appreciated all the ideas and willingness to try different ways to develop 21st century learning in our classroom presentations. Next year we hope to utilize OneNote and SeeSaw to create digital “portfolios”.
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Teachers sharing how we can effectively implement models of co-teaching in our classroom for our ESL push-in program.

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Judy Imamudeen

Judy Imamudeen

Developing learners as leaders is my joy! As a highly qualified International Baccaluearate (IB) teacher and educational leader, I am committed and passionate about executing its framework and empowering students in creating a future world that works for everyone.

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