Philosophy of leadership 4

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Philosophy of leadership 4

  1. 1. Philosophy of Leadership 4 <br />Educational leadership can be split into two broad categories. First, and more importantly, educational leaders possess a set of internal principles that direct their path, personally and professionally. Secondly, educational leaders hold external principles that govern how decisions are made and how schools are managed. Obviously, internal principles effect the creation and implementation of external principles. However, external principles have no influence on internal principles. Internal principles determine the long-term success of a leader. Maxwell compared a leader to a boxer, as he states that, “Champions do not become champions in the ring, they’re merely recognized there” (Maxwell, 1998, p.20). Maxewell is referring to the disciplines that leader lives by early in his/her career. Although internal principles do hold a greater value than external principles, external principles must be set and implemented to acquire any level of success. These principles for administrative leaders can be outline using the ISSLC standards. These standards focus on six main ideas; a vision, management, meeting diverse needs, knowledge of ethics, values and laws, and professional growth. Consistently living-out these internal and external principles will set administrative leaders on a path of continual success. <br />To be an effective school leader one must have a predetermined set of principles. The most important word in the previous statement is predetermined. Principles are standards that precede the test of time or circumstances. Therefore, effective school leaders have a set of principles that are upheld throughout his/her career. Stephen Covey (1989) upholds this view of principles as he states, “Principles are guidelines for human conduct that are proven to have enduring, permanent value” (p. 35). The value previously mentioned is not contingent upon circumstances or amount of gain or loss, but is fundamentally constant. Principles can be categorized into two parts; values and ethics. Values are personal principles that I choose to uphold. Blankstein (2004) says values “represent commitments we make regarding how we will behave on a daily basis in order to become the school we want to be” (p. 85). Daily choices are made based upon the values I set for myself and my school. These values “endure. They do not fluctuate with staffing changes, funding shifts, or trends in instructional methodology. They are never compromised for a short-term gain or a quick solution to a problem” (p. 85). School leaders do not become effective in the circumstantial decisions they make, but they become effective when principles are set and values are upheld. The second category is ethics. Ethical principles are much like values in that they endure and they do not fluctuate, but “ethical decision making requires considerations of how people should be treated and always involve the terms right, fair, or just” (Stader, 2007, p. 9). Thus, ethical principles are principles that directly affect others, whereas values directly reflect one’s own character. Both values and ethical principles are standards that school leaders are required to uphold if effectiveness is to be accomplished. <br />The first principle that I believe is essential in becoming an effective school leader is the will to be proactive. At first glance it seems to be a value that is not deep or fundamentally appropriate for a principle. However, the will to be proactive is weighted in its requirements. Covey (1989), in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, states proactivity “means more than merely taking initiative. It means that as human beings we are responsible for our own lives” (p. 71). As a school leader I am held responsible for all activity in my school. Not all circumstances will be a direct result of a decision I made, however, as the leader I hold myself responsible for the conditions of the school. With the same opinion, Todd Whitaker (2004) states, “Accepting responsibility is an essential difference between more effective and less effective employees, teachers, principals – even parents” (p. 40). Furthermore, “proactive people focus their efforts … on the things they can do something about” (p. 83). Covey (1989) provides an opposite view of proactivity as he states, “Reactive people, on the other hand, focus their efforts on the weakness of other people, the problems in the environment, and circumstances over which they have no control” (p. 83). As educators we have a tendency to blame poor results on parents, funding and/or the students themselves. In the book What Great Teachers Do Differently, Todd Whitaker (2004) paints an extreme picture of this principle. He tells a story of an auto mechanic. “Sorry, sir, I wasn’t able to fix your car – due to budget cuts, all the auto shops have a really high car-to-mechanic ratio this year” (p. 59). Before telling this story, he stated “Good teachers consistently strive to improve, and they focus on something they can control” (p. 38). In the same way as teachers, effective school leaders focus on what they can control, their own performance. Proactive people, one, take responsibility, and two, focus on what and how he/she can improve to get better results. <br />The second principle I believe an effective school leader must possess to be effective is ethical in nature. It states: I will respect each diverse individual, creating equality within every decision. This principle is split into two parts, respect and equality. Respecting individuals as people rather than another employee, student, or parent is an ethical issue needed in every day of a school leader’s career. Each individual has a life story that is much bigger than the hours spent within the school walls. As a school leader I should attempt to understand each person’s life in such a way that I can help them to be successful in school. By doing this, respect will become mutual, and as a leader, I will become more effective. The second part to this ethical principle is equality. Each student has diverse needs but should be treated with this same respect. The text points out that, “Equality is defined in the U.S. Constitution (“All men are created equal”) and in the 14th Amendment (“No State shall…deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”)” (Stader, 2007, p. 147). Although this is true, I believe equality is much more than “not denying”, but rather I believe equality is providing. As a leader, I strive to provide each individual, regardless of gender, race, or ethnicity, with the tools necessary to be successful and while providing these tools, I will respect the diverse needs of each individual’s life. <br />Another ethical principle that I hold as essential to the effectiveness of a school leader is the will to do the “right thing.” The ethical principle states: I will choose to make decisions as a school leader based on the “right thing” regardless of circumstances or personal cost. Covey (1989) quotes both Peter Drucker and Warren Bennis stating, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things” (p. 101). Effective school leaders are much more than managers. Managers follow the rules regardless of situational differences. Leaders apply the rules based on the individual circumstance. As a future leader I strive to have character in all situations and apply the “right thing” to situations as opposed to merely “doing things right” (p. 101). <br />Lastly, values are principles that are mint to be lived, not merely said or displayed. Consequently, my last principle states: I will choose to live-out the principles I set for my life and my career. Blankstein (2004) relates to this concept as he states, “It can be difficult to convey the full significance of values to staff members and get them to truly grapple with their beliefs and their perceived roles in the teaching/learning process. We must all “live into” our values by evaluating our behaviors over time” (p. 87). As Blankstein states, this principle requires a consistent evaluation of my behaviors as a leader. It takes a daily dedication to fully accomplish this value principle. <br />In conclusion, value and ethical principles are fundamental characteristics in an effective leader’s life that must be lived. From proactivity to respect, leaders must have predetermined principles to become an effective leader. He/she must choose to do the “right thing” and live-out the principles that outline the direction of their life. Proactivity, respect, equality, character, and performance are principles that school leaders need to become effective. <br />Externally, providing the school with a vision is a major part of an administrative leader. Although a committee should help administrators develop a vision, the principal has the sole responsibility in making sure the vision is developed, articulated and implemented. It is stated in The Principal that, “Bennis found that the key ingredient among executives of highly successful organizations was a compelling vision” (Hughes et al., 2007, p.14). The success of a school depends upon the ability of the organizational leader to see that the vision is carried on to success. Leroy Eims was quoted in The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership saying, “A leader is one who sees more than others see, who sees farther than others see, and who sees before others do” (Maxwell, 1998, p.37). Eims describes a vision for an organization, but he also alludes to the fact that a leader/principal must recognize obstacles before they arise. This is part of a leader’s responsibility in creating a positive learning climate for the students as well as the staff. “Good schools are characterized by high standards, high expectations, and a caring environment” (Hughes et al., 2007, p.90). Within the vision, high standards and high expectations are set, however, the creation and sustainability of a caring environment is stated as another imperative component of an administrative leader. To complete a positive learning environment for students and staff evidence has demonstrated through, “Analyses of leadership styles reveal that principals in good schools...are mobile and highly visible in the halls, classrooms, and cafeteria. They spend much time monitoring behavior, trouble shooting, and conferring with teachers and students” (Hughes et at., 2007, p.90). A clear-cut, well communicated vision and a positive learning environment are essential components in the success for each student, thus the success of the school leader.<br />An understanding of diverse families and how each group’s own stressors, coping skills, and family resources impacts their performance in school is an important/necessary tool when leading in the educational profession. The most useful and necessary tool to utilize with diverse cultures is communication. Communicating with the family is the foundation for any growing student. Developing open lines of communication enables me to explore the cultural worldview of a young person. This important process is required if students are going to achieve at their highest level. Thus, the process should be an open avenue in which all parties, the parents, teachers and administrators, are valued in a non-judgmental manner and barriers are minimal or non-existent. When effective communication is developed in this manner, an understanding of families’ beliefs and expectations are acquired. By communicating in this manner, all parties play an active role in developing plans to better the student’s achievement level. From my viewpoint, all parties involved are considered experts in their own way. The child is an expert about themselves, the parents are experts of many things surrounding the best needs and insights into the funds of knowledge, the teacher is an expert in their curriculum and I am a professional in the educational realm. Furthermore, I plan to make it very evident with my words and actions that I care. My positive attitude, desire to listen and my respect for their values will be shown throughout the school year. <br />Lastly, linking the community to the school is an added tool that I plan to utilize when combating diversity needs within the school. I have several ideas and have implemented some of those ideas on how to reward student achievement, and how to implement the action plans for those rewards. The ideas for celebrating and promoting student achievement include achievement months, rallies, assemblies, festivals and city wide achievement day parades. When these events take place, students become aware that the community values and supports what they do in school. (Price, 2008) Consequently, the students will be affirmed of their potential, and credited for their achievement. Additionally, students feel they belong and are safe in their community. Thus, become motivated to achieve and academic success increases. <br />When implementing these action plans I have and will continue to develop meetings with educators and community influences discussing vision, purpose and commitment. Effectively communicating with community members is a key component when developing new relationships. (Price, 2008; Amatea, 2009) This school year I have conducted two health fairs, a winter dance, a spring fling, two awards days and two field days in which community members have supported the schools in a variety of ways. After working with volunteer groups, churches, the media, fellow educators, corporations, parents and students I have found that thinking long-term, cultivating relationships, keeping the focus on the children, developing a core group of participants, being adaptable, recognizing those who serve and acting in a logical manner are valuable principles that have been effective when conducting these events. I plan to continue implementing these principles as well as developing better, more efficient and effective ways to utilize the community within the school. <br />In closing, I have many ideas about how to communicate, develop and interact with culturally diverse students and families, but one thing is certain, I want to show them I care. I care about what they think, feel and need. I care about their values, beliefs and traditions. Once these families and students understand I care, I believe I will have influence on their lives. After developing a strong relationship, I will have the ability to make an impact in their lives educationally in addition to other imperative milestones. Along with community partners, I plan to utilize the resources I have available to meet the diverse needs of each student regardless of the time restraints, and these basic steps I have mentioned will set me on a path that, what I believe, will lead to greater student achievement. <br />In addition to community involvement educational leaders must advocate, nurture, and sustain staff professional growth. Continual improvement, constant growth and persistent development; these characteristics must be embedded into the attitudes of educators at every level. With improvement or growth comes change, and for many people, change is a difficult endeavor to embark upon. Why is change so difficult? Without jumping into the large world of change, one thing is certain, most educators resist change due to the large amount of new programming, and/or continuous curriculum development. Thus, the alteration of foundational beliefs, expectations and habits become an ever-changing process that wears upon many educators and produces a negative disposition toward the idea of change. Through constant “school reform” school systems and administrators have implemented one program after another and within a relatively small time period teachers are dragged through several new “cutting edge” programs. The development of a professional learning community (PLC), has been one of those new innovative changing processes that schools have or are currently attempting to implement. This type of professional growth is a researched based method that educational leaders should implement in their school or school district. So, what makes this new type of school reform different? Why has the idea of PLCs become a hot topic among the educational world? Simply stated, because it, PLCs, produce results; student learning. Many misconceptions about PLCs have become common and are the reason it’s still being debated among educational professionals. These ideas include PLCs being meetings, teams and/or mere gatherings of teachers. A PLC is not any of the previously mentioned, it is a type of culture that consists of shared mission, vision and values; it possess collaborative individuals who develop action plans that foster continuous improvement which is result oriented. <br />The importance of PLCs in the improvement of student learning is accepted across the educational community (Dufour, 1998; Dufour 2007; Hipp & Weber, 2008; Hord, 2004, Thomas, Gregg, & Niska, 2004; Nathan, 2008). Dufour, in his book Professional Learning Communities at Work, asks to consider several ideas from organizational leaders about learning communities. These ideas include:<br />The most successful corporation of the future will be a learning organization. <br />(Senge, 1990, p.4, as cited in Dufour, 1998, p.23)<br /> Preferred organizations will be learning organizations… It has been said that people who stop learning stop living. This is also true of organizations. (Handy, 1995, p.55, as cited in Dufour, 1998, p.23)<br />The new problem of change … is what would it take to make the educational system a learning organization? (Fullan, 1993, p.4, as cited in Dufour, 1998, p.23)<br />The Commission recommends that schools be restructured to become genuine learning organizations for both teachers and students. (Darling-Hammond, 1996, p.198, as cited in Dufour, 1998, p.23)<br />We have come to realize over the years that the development of learning community of educators is itself a major cultural change that will spawn others. (Joyce& Showers, 1995, p. 3, as cited in Dufour, 1998, p.23)<br />We argue, however, that when schools attempt significant reform, efforts to form a school wide professional community are critical. (Louis, Kruse, & Raywid, 1996, p.13, as cited in Dufour, 1998, p.23) <br />Furthermore, Louis (2008) states that her resent cumulative research has found that educators have developed a “strong sense of urgency… to shift the focus of school reform away from restructuring and toward reculturing” (p. 1). Additionally, she alludes to the fact that PLCs are considered cultural changes and cannot be implemented as a new reading curriculum, but takes time to produce substantial results. (Louis, 2008) In one article, Dufour (2007) states that “researchers who have studied schools where educators actually engage in PLC practices have consistently cited those practices as our best hope for sustained, substantive school improvement” (p.6). Overwhelmingly, results indicate that a PLC is necessary for schools to consistently grow, develop and improve student achievement. <br />In closing, internal principles hold a greater value than external principles and truly determine the value of a leader. Although internal principles possess the larger portion of influence on success, external principles must be set and implemented to acquire any level of success. As a result of all previously mentioned ideas, living-out these internal and external principles will set administrative leaders on a path of continual success. <br />Resources <br />Amatea, E. S. (2009). Building culturally responsive family-school relationships. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Inc. <br />Blankstein, A. (2004). Failure is Not an Option. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.<br />Covey, S. (1989). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster Building.<br />Dufour, R. (2007). Professional learning communities: A bandwagon, an idea worth considering, or our best hope for high levels of learning? Middle School Journal, 39, 1, 3-8.<br />Dufour, R.,& Eaker, R. (1998). Professional learning communities at work: Best practices for enhancing student achievement. Bloomington, IN: NES.<br />Hipp, K. K., & Weber, P. (2008). Developing professional learning community among urban school principals. Journal of Urban Learning Teaching and Research, 4, 46-57.<br />Hord, S. M. (2004). Learning together, leading together: Changing schools through professional learning communities. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.<br />Hughes, L. W., Norris, C. J., & Ubben, G. C. (2007). The Principal: Creative Leadership for Excellence in Schools 6th ed. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc. <br />Louis, K. S. (2007) Changing the culture of schools: Professional community, organizational learning and trust. Journal of School Leadership, 12, 1, 1-20.<br />Maxwell J. (1998). The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers. <br />Nathan, L. (2008). Teachers talking together: The power of professional community. Horace, 24, 1, 1-6.<br />Price, H. B. (2008). Mobilizing the community to help students succeed. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.<br />Stader, D. (2007). Law and Ethics in Educational Leadership. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.<br />Thomas, S. C., Gregg, L., & Niska, J. (2004). Professional learning communities, leadership, and student learning. RMLE Online, 28, 1, 1-13.<br />Whitaker, T. (2004). What Great Teachers Do Differently. Larchmont, NY: Eye On Education, Inc. <br />

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