As I draft my third #postaday, my original plan to write about life in a distributed leadership team is blending with some of the research questions we worked through in our Extended Leadership Team [ESLT] today.
Working with Professor Kathryn Riley from the Institute of Education and Tio Molina, we built upon our earlier work on ‘Belonging’ and what makes our school the place it is. Their program called The Art of Possibilities features research on creating place and belonging in schools.
Leaders As Place-Makers
Often when I visit other organisations and meet with different colleagues, the topic of leadership raises it’s head. Sometimes, this is connected to finding out how school responsibilities are organised, sometimes to which stakeholders are part of key decision making processes and funding, or locating change-makers who can lead initiatives.
This always helps me reflect upon the similarities and differences to my experience of working within a distributed leadership environment.
In the seven years since the school opened, as an ESLT we have worked continuously to develop our relationships, individual leadership skills and our identity as a team. Together with staff, we collectively established key language about our school ethos, a Learner Profile, and to quote our former Headteacher, our lines in the sand [the values that we stand by and behind in our community].
These are all areas, which take time to develop. Systems and approaches are trialled, fine-tuned and regularly revisited. They are also areas, which most often, we don’t always get right straight away.
As I mentioned in Learning Strategies – Are We Walking Our Talk? not knowing everything all at once, is OK. In leadership, reflection on what didn’t go as anticipated among colleagues with whom we have trusted relationships facilitates honesty to ask the challenging questions needed to make sense of things.
As with all organisations in an ever-changing world, time never stands still. In our international community our student numbers fluctuate from year to year and natural staff changeovers occur. We are responsible, and invested in ensuring a duty of care for the young people whose educational journey takes place with us.
We need an awareness of the external, local and global factors that influence the people who are a part of our schools. As school leaders we evaluate and navigate these within our schools and look to each other for ways to respond and maintain our core values.
Today’s session with Professor Riley coincided with the start of the second term of a new school year as a newly formed ESLT. This comprises the former Deputy Head who has become our new Headteacher, a new Deputy Headteacher, existing leaders who have changed age phases, and 2 leaders continuing with cross-school roles.
We set aside time to revisit what we want our school leadership to look like. As we transition as a new team, it is timely to dive deeper into our roles as ‘Place-Makers’ who are active participants in the education process and development of our community.
In a distributed leadership team we each have the agency, (i.e. the opportunity, skills and possibilities), for shared responsibility, input, a collective voice and the trusted autonomy to contribute.
- Place, Belonging & School Leadership: Researching to make the difference (K. Riley, Bloomsbury, 2017).
- Place, Belonging & Schools in our Global World https://youtu.be/wjzdwlHSBRA.
- The IOE London Blog https://ioelondonblog.wordpress.com @IOE_London.
- Leaders, Think of Leadership as Placemaking: http://engage.claremontlincoln.edu/ethical-leadership/leaders-think-of-leadership-as-placemaking/ @C_Lincoln_Univ