donderdag 30 juni 2011

MSU2011: Educational Leadership and Tensions

Day 9 of the master program.. Two of the readings today are posts from Larry Cuban's weblog, one on "What It Takes To Lead a Fortune 500 Company, A Start-Up, and, Yes, Schools" and the other one on "The Dilemma of Leadership: Wanting Approval from Those Who You Must Judge". Larry Cuban's blog is one of my favorites. The posts are to the point, smart, and based on either recent developments or foundational educational issues.

The post on what it takes to lead a school lists five qualities that a leader should have: passionate curiosity, battle-hardened confidence, team smarts, a simple mind-set, and fearlessness. The good news is (according to the blogpost) that all of these behaviors can be learned. The bad news is that all of these qualities are personal traits, leading to the stereotype idea that "individual leaders can do it all", while we know that a leader can be succesful in one place and unsuccesful in another. Here too it all depends on the context in which you have to work. Or, as Cuban conlcudes, "the right personal traits might make a difference if they adapt to and work with the new setting rather than repeat behaviors that seemingly worked elsewhere".

The post on the dilemma of leadership is about the tension that principals feel: wanting approval (affection and respect) of the teachers you supervise, and at the same time having the responsibility of judging their performance. And this dilemma is true for teachers too: you want approval and trust from your students, but you also have to assess them. Cuban concludes this post with "Knowing one’s self well enough to sort out personal needs for approval and friendship from professional responsibilities as a teacher, principal, and superintendent is an essential lesson that novices have to learn but goes unmentioned and untaught. Yet leadership in classrooms, schools, and districts depend upon learning that lesson well."

Personally I think that leadership is needed to get more ict integration in teaching and learning. And I think that both educational managers and teachers need to have some kind of leadership. Teachers should have ideas, skills and knowledge on how to effectively teach with technology, they have to be able to help colleagues that don't have this and they have to be role models for their students (especially if these students are trained to be teachers themselves!). Educational managers have to show leadership in various ways. Not only by writing policy papers and allocating money to technology in education, but also by stimulating their teachers to use technology. How? Give them time, ask about their ideas, go look into their classrooms and stimulate other teachers to do so too... But I am aware of the fact that leadership and tensions are closely related, so what would happen if your principal or dean is walking into your classroom?? Would that be encouraging or threatening?? Or does that depend on your own leadership qualities?

some of the tensions mentioned by MAET students

Maybe educational leadership is all about tensions.. Tensions between individuals with conflicting interests/needs, seeking approval and passing judgment and maybe more? This morning the students here in Michigan list all kinds of tensions that you can encounter in education. They will be visually representing these tensions this afternoon individually (but with the help of the group): they will take photographs that represent the tensions we’ve discussed this morning. I am looking forward to this!

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