Courage and adventure

I’m aiming for 2015 to be a year of courage and adventure in my teaching and in my leadership. There is always something new to learn, to trial and reflect upon. That is what keeps me interested in my profession, and hopefully improving my practice. However, the challenge in leadership is to take others on this journey too, and that’s not easy. Instructional leadership is important; but simply setting directions, championing the theory and research and waxing lyrical about goals from the protected walls of the administration block are not the way to inspire or change a learning community. Why? Because if the vision and goals are not shared by the community and the practices are not actively modeled and refined, then the road is a lonely one, and as a leader of learning and teaching I might find myself looking back and wondering where the followers are.

Leadership is about influencing others and it starts from within. Trust and respect have to be earned in order for people to be inspired and to follow. I wholeheartedly believe that leaders have to stay connected to the classroom. This year I am going out on a limb, prepared to be scrutinised for developing, leading and teaching a very visible experimental (for our school) integrated program for a group of senior students to help them become more confident, independent learners. I am a champion of cutting content, being creative, focusing on learning skills and differentiating to meet individual needs. Teachers are afraid to take risks, or liberties with prescribed curriculum. I’m throwing it out of the window in many ways, using different frameworks to plan and assess so that students are not consigned to feeling that they are failing against Australian Curriculum standards, defined by grades that say nothing about their progress. This is taking courage; I am the one risking judgement if it doesn’t work, and as a leader I should know better shouldn’t I? But that’s why I’m trying it, because I want teachers to take risks as a form of learning. Failure is in not trying anything new, in not challenging my practices and in not having high expectations of students who might be deemed ‘strugglers’. I know that my students will learn and that no harm will come to them in experimenting with the curriculum and the approaches to learning and assessment.

As a leader this year, I’ll be asking teachers to further explore integrating digital technologies into their programming. How can I do that if I am not learning alongside them and trying it myself, reflecting openly on my struggles and successes and inviting them to do the same? I’ll be promoting professional learning, inquiry and classroom observation as ways of building on our performance growth culture. How can I do that if I don’t open my door to others, seek feedback and use a range of ways to identify if I’m making a difference to my students’ learning? As this year of courage and adventure unfolds I have no doubt that I will learn much and take opportunities to lead and support others to do the same.

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