Sunday, 14 May 2017

Looking for Leadership?

Where do you gain or develop your skills and knowledge as a leader? Recently asked what are the requirements for being a leader, I spent the week thinking…
  • Is it being accredited as Highly Accomplished or Lead teacher?
  • Is it because you have a Masters in Leadership or Education?
  • Is it based on your ‘acting’ experiences?
  • Are you expected to have a certain number of years of teaching experience?

At Harvard, I learnt that there is an accreditation process to become a principal in the US. I wondered about this accreditation process and the principals I knew in Australia. Does an accreditation process prepare you for leadership? In 2015, I became accredited as Experienced Teacher (AIS) through the standards-based pathway. I viewed my evidence (programs, assessment, data, etc), aligned them to the standards, indicating that I met the benchmark. I can honestly say that there was not much ‘learning’ taking place through this process. While I became more familiar with the Australian Teaching Standards, I was proving that my work met particular standards. I didn’t create or research anything new but simply aligned my evidence to the standards.

Recently I spent a day learning how to use action research as a pathway to Experienced Teacher (ISTAA). After working on my PhD last year, I think I have a solid understanding of the process of action research. I did learn how to use the digital portfolio and upload the evidence. This was helpful but what resonated with me throughout the day was the learning and growth that action research could provide. The learning happens throughout the entire process. I worry that the standards-based accreditation is a tick-the-box-process. The process is not focused on professional growth but about proving that you are ‘proficient, experienced, accomplished, or a lead’ teacher.  But the action research was more about improving yourself through learning. It centred around learning to improve students' learning experiences. We listened to someone who went through the process last year and he talked about it being messy, overwhelming and at times, stressful. He also mentioned that he believes he learnt more going through this path than aligning the standards with his evidence. I learnt that if your action research is approved it will be credited towards a Masters in Education. Yet the accreditation process does not recognise any previous postgraduate study.

Postgraduate Study
I have a Masters in Education but did not conduct a research project. I wrote a 10, 000 word literature review, which was an enlightening professional experience. In hindsight, I wish I had completed a research project. I think it is unfortunate that a teacher’s salary is solely based on accreditation and not professional and personal growth. When you undertake postgraduate study or research, your focus in on learning and improving. Accreditation is focused on proving yourself. But I see the action research path differs. Do you think having a Masters in Education/Leadership is more valued than a certain level of accreditation? 

Years of Experience
Does experience hold value in schools? If one is ‘acting’ in the leadership role, does that reflect the school’s view of being appropriately qualified or an appropriate substitute? Is there a set pathway to leadership? Is context a huge variable? I’ve heard a second year teacher share how he wanted to be a principal. Only later to hear others say that he needs to be in the classroom for at least 10 years first. I asked someone (not in education), what he thought was a pre-requisite for being an educational leader. He responded with, ‘wouldn’t someone with 20 years experience in the classroom be a good indicator?’ Does an effective teacher make an effective leader? I don’t believe these are synonymous. I once worked in an industry where you worked your way up the ladder. Your years of experience reflected your power in the workplace. When people became manager, they believed they had the right to have the best car space, make all the decisions, and their requests were always the priority. I remember my parents saying that it was character building and said it taught me to respect those with more experience. I do respect those with more experience but in my opinion, leadership is not about power but empowering. I sought others' opinions about leadership on Twitter.

Twitter Poll

If you surround yourself with leaders, both inspiring and those not so inspiring, you create your beliefs about leadership. Over the past ten years, my view of leadership has really been shaped by role models, reading literature, experiences and discussions. For me, a leader does not expect people to blindly follow. An effective leader is a builder. They build -
  • the culture, the climate and the capacity of their team
  • relationships and the self-efficacy of their team
  • and establish trust
To me, a leader is delighted when someone in his or her team has been successful. A leaders sends someone from their team (instead of themselves) to a conference or course to build their capacity. These are only examples, as I know leadership encompasses much more, including high levels of emotional intelligence. 

Courses, study, accreditation, and experience can all contribute to being an effective leader.
However, the one thing I’ve learnt and truly believe is leadership is not about proving yourself but improving yourself and your team. The leaders I aspire to be are those who care more about the big picture, the team and their community. Do we look for leadership potential in others? Do we build the capacity of others for leadership? Do we value personal and professional growth? 

I don’t have the answers but sometimes it’s worth asking the question- 
What are the best qualifications and skills required for leadership?

Always asking questions...

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Raise Me Up

It’s been one year since I began assisting @BrionyScott to organise the Renaissance Women Leaders' Network (#RWLN) and our past presenters are an amazing group of generous leaders. I place these women high on a pedestal, as I have the utmost respect for them because of their passion, empathy, wisdom, experience, and their willingness to build the capacity of others. They stand above; they stand out; they stand up. Some may argue that putting people up on a pedestal is not ideal, but this is what I have experienced.

Dr Nicole Archard, Jan Owen AM, Dr Briony Scott,
Christine Nixon APM & Lucy Clark.
When you hold people at a higher level, they will either raise you up to meet them or not. When I conversed with our female presenters from our last year- @NicoleArchard @JanOwenAM @chrisnixon1852 @lucykateclark, they all raised me up. They are genuine, down-to-earth, empathetic and generous. When I am in their company, they make me feel I can do more, be more and help others more. While the moment and feeling may dissipate, I know I have the capacity to rise to a higher level.

While they are all leaders in various fields, they have common traits.  

As I mentioned, when you hold people at a higher level, they will either raise you up to meet them at that level ... or not. I have also experienced the not. If it weren’t for another person who witnessed our conversation, I would probably have thought I misheard or misinterpreted. Regardless, that experience showed me that not all leaders are at the point in their career or willing to build the capacity of others. It was good for me to have this experience, as I value those generous leaders more. So when you have the opportunity to connect, learn and be in the presence of the leaders who raise you up, appreciate the moment. Surround yourself with people who have a positive influence and reach out to those who have the qualities you value. It's well worth the time and effort. 

The next #RWLN is 18 May with the amazing @chriscawsey. Please register for this complimentary event here. 

The learning continues...

Monday, 24 April 2017

Supporting Gender Equality

Throughout the years, I’ve typically handled everything associated with our children and my husband handled our finances. This worked for us. However, the other day my husband suggested that I needed to learn more about our finances. While visiting our accountant, the one thing I noticed was how she responded and spoke directly to me most of the time. I mentioned this to my husband who also noticed. This was a new experience and I wondered why. Was it because I said I was there to learn more about our finances? I don’t think that was it. She was never condescending and when I made suggestions regarding our finances, she listened attentively and responded positively. I felt respected. I reflected on other recent meetings, doctors, the vet, and a bank manager, everyone had addressed or spoke to my husband. Had we unconsciously accepted this as the norm?

Am I noticing this more now that I surround myself with people and literature that promotes equity? I thoroughly enjoyed reading 'Lean In' and am currently reading, 'Fight like a girl' by @Clementine_Ford. On 1st August 2015, I created and moderated a chat for Women as Educational Leaders. Through organising this Twitter chat two years ago, I became friends with and supported by Women In Education such as-

Recently asked to support @WomenEdAus, I’m excited that supporting Women in Education is gaining momentum and more global support. @WomenEd has expanded globally (UK, Canada, USA & soon Australia) as it connects existing and aspiring women leaders in global education. #WomenEd are celebrating their second birthday and have gone from strength to strength. Working at Wenona with @BrionyScott and focusing on Renaissance Women Leaders’ Network (#RWLN) have clearly influenced and broadened my thinking. More importantly, it has me questioning more.

It was wonderful that I learnt about ‘A conversation in gender equality’ from a male edu-friend, @Borto74. The Australian Human Rights Commission (March, 2017) provides information to advance equality across various sectors. Along with the link, Jason stated that ‘men also have an important role to play in promoting gender equality’. I agree with Jason for while it's important to educate and support women, it is just as vital to educate men and our youth so that they don’t value one gender over another. As a child, I remember my dad telling my brother to purchase a block of land as soon as he started working. I never got to ask him why he didn’t feel it was necessary for his daughters. I am glad times have changed and equity too...but we have a way to go. What are you doing to support gender equality? 

The learning continues...