The Most Important Part of Change

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There is a storm coming. That’s the caption for the picture above, and in my province, its assumed that, for us in education, a storm is coming this spring in the form of budget cuts. We are going to be forced to do more with less in our buildings and this definitely puts a strain on administrators as they plan for the coming school year. Sacrifices will have to be made, and the effects will be felt by all. It’s not a pleasant time for anyone. Conversations may venture into the areas of what programs should be cut or projects scrapped.

That is where this post is aimed. It has been common practice in the past to look at what we can’t do when the money is not there. The budget is cut, the money is stretched as far as it will go, and buildings go into survival mode. What often suffers is the projects a building, a division, or even a province is undertaking. There was talk about significant curriculum change for our province and now there are rumours that those changes will be shelved for now due to the budget constraints. I understand why these decisions are made, but I can’t say I agree.

We are not at a time in education where waiting for money is an option. Now is the time for continued and necessary change to our education system. The easy answer has been the shelving of our projects or scrapping of our plans because we can’t afford them. Doing this again will only have us fall further behind in the change process. We all know we owe it to our students to keep on the path and not waiver no matter what the concern. Change is not an option, change is a necessity.

Which brings me to my point. The most important part of change is your attitude towards change. Do you make it a priority even in the face of challenges? Do you adjust rather than scrap your plans when limitations are placed upon you and your school or division? Is change important enough to you and your staff that putting it off is simply not an option, and sacrifices are made in other places to ensure it’s continuity?

I know that in our building, we will continue working towards a better education for our students. Our job will then be to find ways to be creative, flexible and determined in our effort to continue the work with less resources. No doubt the harder way to proceed but the necessary one.

I know budget cuts for us are on the horizon, while many of you have been experiencing them for quite some time. How did you proceed when cuts were made? How did you continue to work towards change when you had less to work with? Did cuts result in difficulties when it came to trying new things and implementing new programs? As we see the storm coming, we know many of you have experience living through such storms and we would love to hear from you as we prepare.



Educational Leadership

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Many times in my life, I have been sure I knew something, only to find out I was dead wrong. I guess that’s part of life; growing up, learning about the real world, having your assumptions challenged and often changed. When I got into education, I thought I knew what made a good educational leader. In fact, I tried to formulate a checklist of what makes a good educational leader as I progressed through my career, as I was certain one day I would fill a leadership role. I made that list, but I find that list continually changing the longer I am in education and with each leader I encounter.

I have always alluded to the principal in my building or the superintendent of my division  as the captain of a ship. I have always said that I need to believe in the direction that the captain is taking us. For the most part, this metaphor rings true for me, as I believe that it is often the leader in a building or division that sets the direction. In the past I have felt the need to be inspired and motivated by the path my leader set for me.

Today, this characteristic of a leader is important to me, but is not nearly the most important one. I am finding more and more that the most important aspect of an educational leader to me is someone who opens doors and clears the path. I want to work for someone who inspires me to take risks, to try new things and to explore ideas I believe can be successful. I look now to work with people who very rarely say no, and only do so when every possible option has been exhausted. To me, the best leader in a changing educational world is someone who has your back when you want to explore and removes any barriers they can. As far as metaphors go, Educational Leader as Captain of the Ship is now being replaced with Educational Leader as Doorman.

As the education system changes, so to will the models for successful leadership within it. I hope that educational leaders of the future recognize risk taking, action research, continual learning and professional growth as necessary components of success in any building or division. Recognizing of course means less control, less top-down management, and more of a support and guiding role for our leaders. Less saying “No” and more finding ways to make “Yes” the default. I hope our leaders do less of steering the ship and more of opening of doors.