It is a hectic time of year but pretty much every month in the school year is shrouded in busyness. Getting back to school, meeting reporting deadlines, getting ready of special assemblies, celebrations and project presentations with the overarching goal of meeting the social, emotional and academic needs of our students. In administration, you add yet another layer to the busyness. During our recent career day sponsored by the Spirit Committee, one of the students chose “Vice Principal” as their dream job. Of course, it begged the question. Why? The response was true enough: I smile a lot and laugh at my own jokes. I spend most of the days just talking to kids and teachers and parents and people who fix stuff in the school. I get to play everyday. I have a whistle and lots of keys. I get to do fun things like building the playground and garden boxes. I make rules and get to talk on the PA. What more could you want in a dream job?
I recently became part of the School Administrators Virtual Mentor Program (#SAVMP). George Couros suggested the blog topic: Why Do I Lead? It has pushed me to reflect on the various types of leadership that I have experienced as a student, a teacher, a parent and an administrator. My first memory of leadership was in Grade 7 at David Lloyd George Elementary School in Vancouver, British Columbia. I was running to be team captain. I was nervous beyond belief to be up on the stage giving a speech and facing the possibility of a humiliating defeat. My eyes flickered up from my shaking cue cards to see the front rows of primary students cheering. Those little people believed I could be their leader. Getting elected was thrilling but the biggest takeaway for me as a kid was that big people and little people believed my ideas mattered and wanted to talk about them with me. My takeaway as an adult is that I want everyone in our school communities to have that experience.
Subsequent activities that I have chosen, or been co-oped to lead, have been things I have been heavily invested in, such as social justice, my children, my students and professional development. Leaderships skills were not a precursor to assuming the leadership roles for me but were more of a by-product of the experiences themselves. Every leadership role has been a risk taking venture. The learning has come with the grand successes or the abysmal failures or the things to consider for a later date. Each leadership opportunity has connected me with people who pushed my thinking, made me laugh, tried my patience and allowed me to see things from a different perspective. Each opportunity helped me to grow personally and professionally.
There are many opportunities for leadership when you work in a school. Throughout my career, I assumed a variety of leadership roles in sports, BC teacher Federation PSA, LSA’s, professional associations and committees while teaching at the elementary school, middle school and university level. When I was seconded to Simon Fraser University as a faculty associate, my realm of leadership possibilities broadened. In the Faculty Associate role, I worked in several school districts with student teachers in a Kindergarten to Grade 12 module. It provided the opportunity to engage in conversations with many administrators about their role and experience many school cultures. The multifaceted challenges in the role of the administrator in developing a learning community was intriguing.
I have been fortunate to work with a number of strong school administrators who challenged the status quo and supported teachers with innovative teaching practices. What they all had in common was the willingness to support and trust the initiatives proposed by staff members. We are fortunate in British Columbia to have a strong public school system. We are also in a time of unprecedented change that requires that educators have the confidence and support structures in place to cope with the advances in technology and shifts in parenting, society and curricular expectations. School administrators play an integral role in creating and envisioning an environment that supports the intellectual, human, and social and career development of all students. This requires their personal investment identifying the possibilities open to us as educators. It is inspiring to work in community to develop the background knowledge and skills required to provide the scaffolding for school communities to meet with success in the challenges of change. Richard Gerver (2014) highlights the work of Professor Guy Claxton (2002) and his definition of the 4 R’s of Learning Power as Resilience, Resourcefulness, Reflectiveness and Reciprocity. I lead because I want to be part of a network that supports teachers, support staff, parents and community partners in providing the very best kick at the can for our students to graduate with the background knowledge, skills, creativity, and confidence to fearlessly embrace the possibilities in their future.