Posts Tagged ‘principals’

21st century school leadership

May 25th, 2009

Firstly to introduce myself to this forum… I am Juliette Hayes, Deputy Principal at Waikato Diocesan School for Girls. I have been researching the work of futures-focused secondary principals for a Masters thesis, and I think this is a great opportunity to share my findings and have the perspectives of leadership for the 21st century aired and shared.

In defining futures-focused leadership I explore the extent to which principals believe  that the future is a place they can influence – not necessarily predict – and that they have a responsibility to do so. On analysing interviews with principals I identified commonalities in the characteristics, challenges and strategies of futures-focused leaders.

The first characteristic, I have found, of futures-focused leaders is that they each have a clear futures-focus in their work. This means they work from a place of vision, and encourage dialogue about the future with all of their stakeholders. Examples of this include focus groups of students who learn to use futures literacy in exploring their preferred futures, reflections in assemblies and prizegivings about the trends for society in the future, inter-curricular professional learning communities of teachers where resources such as Secondary Futures trend cards are used, and constantly introducing readings and reflections on the future  into the school community.

I found that this drive to be futures-focused comes from a motivation to challenge the status quo and question assumptions about what schooling must look like. This often stems from their own disappointing experiences at school, and a determination to make learning better for the young people in their care. It also comes from a sense of moral purpose, as the principals in my study feel that their sphere of influence extends beyond the school gates, and beyond the immediate cohort of students in their school: they feel a responsibility to lead towards a better future for all children in their communities, regardless of the school they attend.

The most significant driving force for the futures-focused leaders in my study was the potential for the NZ Curriculum to change the face of education, and to provide a paradigm leap into an education for the future. Each of them is excited by its potential, and frustrated by the perceived reluctance of some educators, communities and even students to accept that it is a shift, and that change must occur.

In fact, leadership of change was identified as the biggest challenge faced by futures-focused principals. Some had endured quite vicious personal and professional attacks in the face of leading changes, yet remained remarkably resilient and determined to carry on. As reflective practitioners they all agreed that there were things they might have done differently, and it was interesting to explore with them the improved strategies that they could share, having learnt from ‘mistakes’!

As an outcome of my research I have been able to compile what I hope could be a valuable collection of strategies, tools and theories that futures-focused leaders find helpful in their work. They are determined to keep creativity and innovation at the forefront of their work, and have some exciting initiatives underway at their respective schools.

I welcome any feedback on this, the essence of my findings.

Teachers' work , , ,