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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Be the Lead Learner

As an elementary school principal, I continually try to improve my level of efficiency. Most of us feel the days and years passing us by more quickly as we age. I remember reading that one's perception of time changes with age due to the slowing of synaptic transmissions and subsequent conduction velocities in the brain. Although I have some formal education in biology and human physiology, I'll stop trying to explain this phenomenon right here. If you know a neurophysiologist, please try to get a more detailed explanation of this for me.

In any event, my intent with this post is to encourage you to make some time to read, think, and write on a regular basis. I encourage our teachers to do this, but I think it is especially important for principals to do this. We all know that the days of principals serving a primarily management role are long gone, but the idea of being an instructional leader, I believe, is often times a "pie in the sky" conception of leadership. But I hear it....a lot! Depending on whose definition of instructional leadership you choose to subscribe to, the behaviors and tasks associated with this leadership style vary considerably. I recall attending a workshop once where a presenter defined instructional leaders as principals who spend at least 51% of every school day in a classroom. Obvious to me, this presenter was never a principal. Nonetheless, there is evidence to support principals embracing specific instructional leadership functions to improve student achievement and school outcomes, and I continually try to improve my ability to engage in such behaviors and emphasize these tasks. Read some of the work by Wayne Hoy, Philip Hallinger, and Kenneth Leithwood for more details.    

Taking time to read, think, and write is critical to my development as a principal, and it demonstrates my professional commitment to doing all that I can to get all students to learn. I feel this allows me to assist our teachers in areas of need, continually improve our data analysis practices, and help our students and school continue to improve. When I take the time to read, think, and write, I truly feel like I am the lead learner in our school. Modeling this behavior has influenced both teachers and students in our school to do the same. Perhaps it's time for the educational leadership researchers to begin investigating this new conception of leadership....principal as lead learner.

Please share your thoughts.

9 comments:

  1. Well said Sam. The greatest gift we can give our students is to teach them "how to learn." You made the connection that the best gift we can give our teachers is to lead them in this learning.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Bill. We ask our teachers to do this for our students, so I believe we should do it for our teachers. I think being the lead learner cultivates a school climate that emphasizes professionalism and academics, which are key factors in student success.

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  2. Sam, I particularly like your take on the "building manager" and how that's a think of the past. I wonder how many administrators are transitioning from that role to a lead learner role. Nice work.

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    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Scott. Although we know we're still managers, the position requires so much more. I think we're two steps beyond "manager" as our primary role now. Modeling continued learning is essential for all of our students to succeed.

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  3. Good points often we confuse manager and leader, doing is a key to learning. We somtimes forget as a life long lerner we are learning a living.

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Chilleytech. I do believe it's critical for educators to model the behaviors they expect, which is the key to leading learning for all. Thanks again.

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  5. Sam - this post resonated with me as I have been reflecting on this exact topic in my new role this year. Principal as learner who is reflecting, connecting, and modeling what we want to see in order to have our teachers continue to strive for excellence in their own craft is essential. Thanks for the thoughts - one of my goals is to build in time to read, think and write!
    Denise (@deniseducator)

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    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Denise. With the demands of the position, it is easy to put these things off. I think it's an essential part of the position, though, and it often requires me to schedule time to read, think, and write. Good luck with achieving this goal. Thanks again.

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