Starling Murmation By Kate Taussig taken in Nelson
“There is no such thing as a neutral education process. Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate the integration of generations into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity to it, or it becomes the ‘practice of freedom’, the means by which men and women deal critically with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.” Paulo Freire
Several years ago, I began blogging and in my earlier writing days I wrote a piece about learning and used Mangroves and how they adapt and evolve depending on what is happening within their growing environment to make a comparison about learning Several years later I wrote about Distributive Leadership and used flying geese as an analogy for leadership. Earlier last year I joined a global webinar and spoke about the learning and networking I do as a Global Educator. Then I worked with other Across School Leaders in different Kāhui Ako as I ran a webinar for #INZpirED.
More recently I shared about learning at a local school and spoke about networked leadership and again compared this to Mangroves.
This week I reread the article on “Discussion Leadership for Communities of Learning” and thought about starlings when they murmur or fish when they shoal and believe that this is how Across School Leaders look like as Networked Leaders. When I began in the role two years ago, I felt like the starlings moving as a murmur with little understanding of direction but instinctively knew that this was the future of leadership. If you watch videos of murmurs you will understand what I mean. If you are new or not so new to the role, you will also understand what I mean. The discussion article referenced “Five Think Pieces” and after rereading this second article I thought I would unpack my understanding of what leadership looks like as an Across School Leader.
So below is what I have written and if you have any feedback, ideas or suggestions I would love to open up discussion via twitter and use the hashtag #EdBlogNZ.
Definition of an Across School Leader
An Across School Leader (ASL) is an educational leader and is different from leadership in schools because their focus is to operate as a networked leader within a Kāhui Ako. Therefore an ASL is also part of the wider community of Kāhui Ako so they are a part of Government’s Investing in Educational Success initiative.
They have different facets to their role description. The primary focus of ASL leadership within Kāhui Ako focuses on actions that will shape the culture of learning more powerfully and develop the professional capital of teachers as a group.
An important ASL skill is awareness. Awareness that they are part of a larger networked system and so they seek ways for the collaborative development of their leadership. An ASL identifies conditions required to enable them to work with each other, across sectors and with related agencies regionally, nationally and globally in ways that enable learning and development. They identify responsibilities that they have to the Kāhui Ako beyond their own schools and own school leaders. An ASL helps provides access to people, information, and resources. They develop and use networks in ways that builds relationships and strengthens alliances in service of Kāhui Ako work and goals.
An ASL has confidence in their own knowledge and strengths. They have identified gaps in what they know and have the skills to network with others who can support the work they do. They have an understanding of complex adaptive systems because they know they are system leaders and it is important for them to identify what those systems are in order to strengthen their work. Complex adaptive system opens up new ways to work, with ideas advocated in complexity theory which is the study of complex and chaotic systems and how order, pattern, and structure can arise from them.
An ASL helps establish the systems and structure on how the Kāhui Ako will report and track on student and process outcomes each year. Some of these include transparency of record keeping and communication. ASLs work transparently because the more public they are, the more order develops in their work, the more easier they are found, the more opportunities come up for networked learning. Another part of their work is about being data informed and learning from failure. Knowing and working with data helps the ASL identify patterns in learning and track how successful the Kāhui Ako is towards their goals.
An ASL understands that they are partners in leadership and learning and that they are partners in the Treaty of Waitangi. Therefore as leaders they work in learning partnerships and in collegial team coaching groups with a focus on learning and development. They are project leaders and can network relationships across developments within and across Kāhui Ako. They are coaching leaders and understand about changing their own practice in order to coach others to do the same.
The ASL operates within the networked paradigm, promoting high levels of collaborative inquiry and activity, activated by strong mentoring and coaching relationships.
An ASL needs to be aware of community learning needs in order to target a particular type of learning that is not yet already available. They lead project initiatives within the Kāhui Ako and foster community relationships. Their role is critical for achieving the standards of education leaders in education. Their leadership is inclusive, strategic, and above all collaborative. ASLs are distinguished by not just being leaders for the schools that they work in but also be part of the wider network of community leaders and have a clear obligation to the Kāhui Ako community. Their focus is on the development of a leadership community of practice, and to advocate for the kind of professional learning required by network leaders. At the same time success as an ASL requires individualised commitment to their own Kāhui Ako goal.
Overall Across School Leaders must operate as Networked Leaders. They look for ways to maximise interaction between themselves, the In School Leaders that they work with and the senior leadership teams of the schools they work with and their community. In addition they go beyond themselves and cross sectors and identify related agencies regionally, nationally and globally in ways that enable learning and development.
ASL must develop their own leadership in order to be effective in terms of developing professional leadership and any form of leadership development programme should operate within the network. They must develop their knowledge of social media in order to tap into Kāhui Ako regionally and nationally and to connect with other learning communities globally to learn with and from them. They seek opportunities to share learning and regularly reflect in a transparent way. Some of these ways these can be via social media, through blogging and presenting. They hear all voices in their community and actively seek ways to create dialogue. They keep transforming and know that they are evolving and changing with the needs of the communities that they work with. The work they do is based on changing their own practice and to develop networked system leaders for New Zealand schools.
To finish with I believe that to be a successful ASL I must move from making connections, to collaborating, to coconstructing, to copresenting, to coreflecting.
Education Council (Ed.). (2015, November 17). Leadership for Communities of Learning. Retrieved September 8, 2018, from https://educationcouncil.org.nz/sites/default/files/Discussion paper_leadership_web.pdf
Bendikson, L., Robertson, J., Dr, Wenmoth, D., Durie, M., & Gilbert, J. (2015, November 17). Five Think pieces. Retrieved September 8, 2018, from https://educationcouncil.org.nz/sites/default/files/Five Think pieces.pdf