What is a school leader?

This post is a part of a series being written for my EDUC6352 online masters students.

This fortnight we are looking the intersection of school leadership and policy. I argue that a part of the role of the school leader is being a mediator of policy. In the complex governance situation that is education in Australia, school leaders must negotiate policy that is developed at the Federal, National (nope, this isn’t a tautology – National policy is policy agreed on by the Federal and state governments, i.e. The Melbourne Declaration), State, local and school level. A part of the role is mediating these multiple levels of policy, determining what the school will focus on, and how seriously will take particular accountability measures.

 

Business people walking together in the city

Of course this is only one of multiple ways in which school leadership can be conceived. Deborah Netolicky (a school leader in WA) has written about leadership. This was the topic of her PhD, and so I point you to her post ‘Reflecting on the school leader‘:

My PhD study found that school leaders are constantly navigating internal, relational, and organisational identities. These complex and sometimes competing identities affect leaders’ experiences and decision making. The leaders in my study were moving, often deliberately and relentlessly, between leadership modes that were directive and empowering, hero and servant, visible and invisible.

Leading is a constant state of becoming and of identity work. Peter Gronn, in his 2003 book The new work of educational leaders: Changing leadership practice in an era of school reform, reminds us that leaders’ senses of who they are, and who they aspire to be, play a pivotal role in their engagement with their work. Having multiple leadership roles in my current school has meant that it is not only me who has had to shift my self-perceptions or identity enactments, but also my colleagues who have had to see me in new ways across my time at the school. Additionally, I have multiple, competing identities that exist simultaneously with my school identity; as parent, spouse, sibling, daughter, researcher. Boundary spanner and pracademic. Identities like plates precariously spinning atop spidery poles.

Anyway it’s worth reading the whole thing as you reflect on your identity, the type of school leader that you’d like to be, and how you can negotiate the layers of policy that can serve to constraint you.

research

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