Sunday, 15 May 2016

Reflections on teacher leadership inspired by Carol Campbell (@CarolCampbell4)

At the excellent SCEL inaugural Teacher Leadership conference the keynote in the afternoon was given by Carol Campbell who hails all the way from Argyll and Bute via Canada. As Gillian Hamilton (@CEOScel) said in her introduction, it is good to break free from the well-kent faces and bring in new ones. Carol was fantastic and inspiring, her presentation really resonated with me, the messages being very similar to the messages from the PU evaluation, thoughts on practitioner enquiry from the PL network, from the ‘Kelly report’ and through talking with teachers across Scotland.
Although the focus of the conference was on teacher leadership, I thought that Carol widened the scope to teacher professionalism, how this is situated in policy and practice and what this means to teachers across the country in terms of their leadership and professionalism. The following discussion is based on the tweets I tweeted out during the keynote.
How do we keep people at the centre of our education system?
Carol argued that humanity should be at the heart of any education system, the reason for our existence is to support, develop, and educate young people to improve their life changes. Carole asked “What are you passionate about in and for education?” My own view resonates with hers, in that I believe education is a people industry and as such is built on relationships, how we interact with each other. Our purpose is to support teacher to be the best they can be, so kids get best chances. Within this, it is critical that we create the conditions for all to be learning, I love the tweet from @robfmac who tweeted that “Teachers working conditions are children’s learning conditions”. I know I am probably altering the original intention of the tweet but changing the word working to learning and then I think it becomes even more powerful, as we explicitly link professional learning to pupil learning.
Teacher leadership - go public with your teaching and learning
Although formal leaders are key to supporting and promoting teacher leadership, leadership can be defined as the exercise of influence. Influence is not a matter of formal position or status. Informal leader are those who can have influence without position, as it is more about professional learning and knowledge. Teacher leadership influences through professional learning; having a vision for your learning journey, reflecting on where you have been and what you have learned, sharing your experiences and knowledge, challenging and being challenged to improve you professional practice.
Teacher Leadership needs to be evidence enriched and supported by professional judgement
The next message that resonated with me was the positive response from teachers who engage in enquiry. Carol discussed how this model of professional learning, due to its impact, becomes a sustained model for teacher learning and can help building capability in teachers. Teacher focused on their own learning and students learning leads to “awesome teachers”. This raises the question as to what supports are in place to help experienced teacher to undertake self-directed professional learning, like enquiry. GTCS has lots of resources on the GTCS website and are supporting local authorities to engage all teachers, not just probationer teachers. Teacher leadership through enquiry can support professional capital and decision making. Professional judgement has been highlighted in the OECD report (2015) where it was discussed as Effective professional judgment……..results from deliberate processes and structures of preparation, continuous learning, and collegial interaction in communities of learning. Professional judgement is established and improved through investing in teachers’ professional capital.” The report goes on to describe professional capital being composed of human capital, decisional capital and social capital (Hargreaves and Fullan, 2012).
Knowledge exchange - how can we share better, more often, make it meaningful?
Teacher agency is about using past experiences, envisaging future possibilities and is enacted through professional actions, professional learning and teacher leadership. Teacher agency matters if we are to re-conceptualise what it means to be a teacher in Scotland and move to a more research enriched, enquiry based profession. Carol discussed how this works best through professional networks and collaborative communities of learning, where teachers are supported to become both creator and consumer of research. Through collaboration practical things can be shared which improves teacher practice and has a positive impact on pupil outcomes.
There will always be the challenges of time/workload and other priorities, these things don’t go away but have to be managed to support teachers to develop leadership as part of their professional identify, it won’t be easy but is do-able or as Carol finished off by saying
“Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can”

Wise words indeed.

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