Update July 22, 2018
This philosophy was written as a response to the learning in Ontario Principal's Council Principal Qualification Program Part One.
Hence the mention of transitioning into formal leadership roles.
Regardless of what happens on my leadership journey, I fully believe that education is about upholding diversity in voices, collaborating towards solutions, and bringing engaging, authentic experiences that allow humans to deal with the demands of our current world. Just like a memorable play, the collective works together towards a common goal that has transferable benefits.
Arts education techniques benefit all school communities.
My educational leadership philosophy stems from my experience as a theatre director.
In directing, one cannot begin to dissect the text without knowing the “why” behind telling the story. I often will ask myself these three why questions before starting a project:
Why does this story need to be told?
Why will audiences resonate with the fundamental truths in the story?
Why should a company engage in this story for their own artistic growth?
Once I get through all of those questions, I then start breaking up the script according to two categories: facts and questions. This system, developed by British director Katie Mitchell, allows the director to get to the foundation of the story, creating an interpretation grounded in artistic truth.
I see educational leadership as an extension of arts based leadership. I believe that through arts education will we learn to deal with our world, challenge our responses to situations, and build strong, authentic relationships rooted in trust and authenticity. In an arts environment we use this foundation to take risks, to learn from each others’ strengths, and to build collaboratively towards a common goal. By contributing to a respectful community where diversity is upheld, communicated and celebrated, we build collectively an environment where all voices are heard, valued and supported. And then we monitor this environment with a consistent line of descriptive, feed-forward feedback and data collection methods.
We don’t aim for perfection, but progress. We build learning experiences based on the urgent needs of the collective and the stories we are trying to tell.
I truly believe that the transferable skills acquired through arts education gives students a foundation for success in life. I am conscious to model, to be a co-learner, to build a shared vision that upholds the needs of our full community.
My educational philosophy continues to be rooted in these authentic and relevant learning opportunities for the 21st Century learner. As I now shift into exploring more formal leadership roles, these authentic and relevant learning opportunities need to be focused on the immediate needs of my colleagues in a way that will uphold their voices, their experiences, and what they need in order to push their classroom experiences further.
Ontario’s Ministry of Education PPM 119, Developing and Implementing Equity and Inclusive Education Policies in Ontario, states that “Schools must provide students and staff with authentic and relevant opportunities to learn [where] students should be able to see themselves represented in the curriculum.” This work is has a foundation in building school goals that uses various forms data responsibility. That builds on the collective voice of the community to identify the urgent student need and build strategies to address that need. I am interested in measuring impact, not intention. I am interested in authentic initiatives that don’t present as the flavour of the month. I am interested in the purpose behind intentional strategies to increase the community’s achievement and wellbeing.
I believe that effective school leadership is rooted in transparency, clarity and collaboration. It is the practice of serving an ultimate goal that will encourage cross-department engagement. This leadership model empowers all stakeholders to take risks, engage in activities that will showcase their strengths, learn from others, and potentially even challenge their own thinking. Effective school leadership is dynamic and demonstrated in modelling growth mindsets, visibly working with teams to build shared understandings, and articulating why practices are beneficial for a greater purpose. Effective school leadership supports a culture of innovation and action, where team members use reflection as a tool for growth.
As I continue to embark on a formal leadership journey, I echo back to my directing roots with the following three "why" questions:
Why do we need to focus on this practice/technique/school improvement goal?
Why will the community resonate with data obtained by monitoring this practice/technique/school improvement goal?
Why should the community engage with this practice/technique/school improvement goal for their own growth?
Leadership is a journey that includes multiple voices that are truly valued within the community. A memorable play is not the solo result of a director but a representation of a combined effort of a company. An effective school community is the same. For it isn’t the solo performance of the principal that makes a successful school community, but the team’s collective efforts to create an authentic, collaborative, responsive and respectful culture.