Permission is the first step

From Scott McLeod’s latest post:

As school leaders, we must provide much greater support to our teachers as we ask them to initiate new instructional practices and ’transform school.’ I hear repeatedly from principals and superintendents that they supposedly have given their educators permission to be risk-takers. But it is not enough for school leaders to just give encouragement or permission. Our teachers deserve specific, concrete instructional (re)design strategies and techniques; short-cycle feedback loops; ongoing conversation with teaching peers about successes and failures; and long-term, follow-up activities that ensure implementation success. We also have to create organizational systems that foster ongoing innovation cultures rather than momentary risk-taking, including educator resilience and learning from failure. And we have to continually and critically interrogate our own internal culture, climate, messaging, reward systems, and other leadership practices that reinforce the status quo and mitigate our alleged ‘permission to take risks.’

This reminds me of Michael Fullan’s idea of pressure and support to move change forward in institutions – the pressure must be there to improve and enhance student learning, but support is also required to help teachers make the changes necessary.

And that support requires that school leaders stay current with best practice.  It requires that true professional learning communities are set up so teachers can get the conversation and feedback they need from peers from successes and from failures.  It also requires us to put aside our own egos to take a good, long look at our systems and culture from a 10,000 foot view in order to see what needs to be changed, what needs to be amplified, and what else needs to be tweaked.

Really, it comes down to this:

If we as leaders are not helping everyone become smarter and better, we’re not doing our job. (From Fullan’s book The New Meaning of Educational Change)

Permission is only the first step.  Leaders must create the pressure to innovate and provide the support teachers need to do just that.

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