Saturday, October 29, 2005

Together principals can do it

Shared ideas provide a protective cloak Posted by Picasa

What are the ideas that are worth fighting for?

The other day I happened to run into a group of local principals who were meeting to discuss whatever they discuss. I was curious about what they might be discussing as I was a member of the same group a few years ago. I think it was all about giving each other mutual support as principal stress has become an issue.

The true challenge I believe is for groups of principals to find their common voice – what it is that all believe is important and would focus and engage the energy of them all. If my past experience tells me anything individual principals are loath to show their ‘real cards’ and share important educational issues. Our system had bred into them a competitive ethic and, as well, it is not good form to admit weaknesses to others.

Principals have been too passive the past decades busying themselves with complying with demands placed on them from those on high. In this process they have become stressed out, not sure what is expected, and this is exacerbated by the Ministry continually adding new requirements.

It is time they added their collective voices to the debate and this is easiest done by groups of courageous principals, defining what is important, and sharing it with others. And what they decide ought to focus on the needs of their students and communities and not the whims of politicians. Principals are in an ideal position to see the pressures that parents and the wider community have to face up to. They know well that, ‘it takes a whole village to raise a child’.

Principals need to think about what would be the ideal future roles of schools. They could together develop a list of principles that they are all prepared to stand behind. Such things as

All children can and will learn – nothing must get in the way of this.
Education must focus on personalizing learning for all students.
Education is a partnership between the school, the home and the students.
Learning is a life long activity– keeping the passion to learn alive is vital.
Developing caring and responsible students is equally important.
Developing student’s talents and creativity is the key to learning power.
Important learning attitudes cannot be measures by outside tests.
Schools must be inviting places for students, teachers and parents.
Anything that gets in the way of these principles must be stopped.

It is time for radical action; our communities are falling apart; students are failing schools; the status quo is no longer an option.

Principals could well begin the conversation to develop a society worth living in.

Unfortunately all too often it is easier to discuss the small issues and to protect ones own egos; people will argues endlessly about issues of no import. It seems we are all afraid of the big issues and prefer the safe arguments that fill in the time allotted. We are frightened of confronting ourselves, or each other, with the real problems because, if we identified these, we couldn’t go back to pretending all is well. It would be like opening Pandora’s Box.

But if we did face up to the important issues and decided to actually do something the current worries about the issues of stress would disappear in the excitement. Principals are more powerful than they like to admit – but, like too many of us, it is easier for them to leave the big issues to others, or just hope they will go away

But imagine if groups, such as principals, really asked the difficult questions, dug into issues of consequences, no matter how messy they are, shared their views, and started doing something.

Better than being stressed waiting for the next idea to be dropped on them from on high!

Perhaps this is what those principals were talking about. I might have witnessed the beginning of a revolution!


Anonymous said...

I am not sure I share your faith in principals being able to plan anything so exciting!

Bruce Hammonds said...

I live in hope!

Anonymous said...

I reckon you will be hoping for a long time!

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid you need to be more realistic. First most Principals got to be Principlas by towing the company, or in this case the departmental, line. Very, very few will have had a hidden agenda of resistance to get were they are. This is essentially why the hierarchical organisational syste is used. It ensure individuals compete for the top jobs and that applicantes can be effectively sceened for the appropriate 'attitude'. Then you have to add to that the fact that by the time many Principals actually make it to Principal, they looking at retirement in 10 to 15 years, so why rock the boat.

Demand for change is very unlikely to come from Principals, the odds are staked against it. Not until schools are democratised, where every teacher, and for that matter student and parent, is given a genuine and officially recognized voice will the demand for change ring true. But that would take the entire dismantling of the hierarchal structures of schools and the powers that be will always resist that. Fancy a community deciding its own educational direction!!!!

Bruce Hammonds said...

I think I said it would be a challenge. Beyond principals for all the reasons you mention.