When the actions of school leaders contradict the work we expect to see in the classroom (Notice)

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Lately, I have been constantly engaged in three bodies of work. These are pedagogical leadership, pedagogical leadership and coaching, and the development of collective effectiveness within pedagogical leadership teams.

The job often involves how people who learn in each of these areas will help others, such as a school leader engaging in instructional leadership that positively impacts the teachers, staff and students they serve. . What is really at the heart of every body of work, however, is how those who engage in it become better in their own positions and practices, not just how they help others.

Educational leadership is certainly a difficult area for anyone trying to engage in practice. Too often instructional leadership has been viewed as the role of a construction leader, but the reality is that teacher leaders, PLC managers, department directors, and instructional coaches must all learn to be leaders. more impactful teaching, or they will not have the necessary skills. credibility to help others.

The same goes for educational and leadership coaches. If people in a coaching position cannot define and develop their own practices, they will lack the credibility to help others have more impact. This is one of the reasons I developed a one-year on-demand framework through Thinkific, where not only do participants have access to downloadable content focused on a survey cycle, but they also participate in masters sessions with me every three weeks so we can talk about challenges and learn from each other.

Finally, the work around the collective effectiveness of the leader focuses on how a team comes together and grows to build a shared belief, not only as a team, but also to develop the capacity to have an impact on learning within their schools. The problem with these three areas of focus is that the work is hard to do because we often pay for the sins of the past.

While exploring Applied Behavior Analysis, I found an interesting quote from Farmer et al., Which says, “Applied Behavior Analysis is the application of laws that govern the interaction between an individual and his environment. These laws emphasize that behaviors are shaped by their consequences and can be evoked by events that precede them. This functional context lens emphasizes the functional relationship between (a) historical and immediate context and (b) future behavior.

Unfortunately, the actions of a neighborhood can sometimes contradict the very job they want to do.

Model what you want principals to do
All of this means that at the district level we can talk about the importance of instructional leadership, coaching and developing the effectiveness of collective leaders, but people won’t believe us if their experience with us tells us otherwise.

For example, districts spend money to help their leaders become more impactful educational leaders, but too often they contradict the work by not modeling in their own district meetings what they want their principals to do. . In addition, they contradict the job by imposing more and more managerial activities on principals who want to be instructional leaders, or the district holds program meetings which are supposed to focus on the program but concentrate. ultimately on compliance or other issues. This creates chaos because the principals or teachers who are supposed to guide the work in their buildings never have the opportunity to understand how this work is supposed to go, because they do not discuss it in the program meetings.

The same goes for developing the collective effectiveness of leaders within a school management team. People will not engage in the work of their leadership team if their experience tells them that their leaders will never truly support them during the process by listening to their ideas or committing to the actions they are taking. agree at these meetings.

It certainly happens to coaches as well. It is difficult for instructional coaches or leadership coaches to engage in coaching when they are removed from work with teachers due to “other duties assigned to them”.

In fact, recently I had a guy tweet me using a promotion I sent about my coaching framework. He said if districts are serious about helping with instructional leadership or coaching, they should provide the resources to do so, as his district says they want to coach others, but they cut support halfway, and most people who try to train don’t have the experience to support it in the first place. I realized that my promotion of the course was the catalyst for his tweet but not for his anger.

If schools want to engage in any work, and not just the body of work that I represent, then they need to consider whether their actions support the work or contradict it.

Where do we start?

One area that I have started to explore and focus on more and more is de-implementation, as I believe it will help overcome these contradictions and alleviate some of the workload for teachers and leaders. . This, of course, could also allow teachers and leaders to engage in work that will help them really have more impact.

De-implementation is the process of “abandoning existing low-value practices (Van Bodegom)”. Farmer suggests that de-implementation can only begin by looking at practices:

  • whose effectiveness and efficiency have not been demonstrated,
  • that are less effective or efficient than another available practice,
  • that cause damage, or
  • that are no longer needed.

Wang suggests that the de-implementation boils down to four areas. These areas are:

  • Partial reduction
  • Full reversal
  • Replacement with related replacement
  • Substitution with unrelated replacement of existing practice.

De-implementation is a process that can occur at the same time as the implementation of a practice, because it means that when we have conversations about work, we need to have conversations about the obstacles that are preventing us. to do the job at the same time. time.

At the end

If we want teachers and leaders to engage in the process of instructional leadership, develop a shared conviction as a team, or engage in impactful instructional and leadership coaching, we need to make sure their districts lead the way in this. work and not put up barriers when the work is in progress.

There is an opportunity cost to everything we do. If we spend time engaging in harmful practices or wasting time, then we are losing the opportunity to engage in practices that could really work. What makes all of this difficult is that we all have to look at our own practices to make sure that we are not contradicting the ones we are trying to do.

* Need help with work stress? On Thursday, October 21, A Seat at the Table for Education Week will focus on burnout and stress management. Click here to join to watch or receive the on-demand version of the episode.

The references

Farmer RL, Zaheer I, Duhon GJ, Ghazal S. Reducing low-value practices as a functional and contextual consideration to aid de-implementation efforts. Canadian Journal of School Psychology. 2021; 36 (2): 153-165.

Wang V, Maciejewski ML, Helfrich CD, Weiner BJ. Work smarter, not harder: combine implementation with de-implementation. 2018 Jun; 6 (2): 104-107. doi: 10.1016 / j.hjdsi.2017.12.004. Online publication of December 24, 2017.

van Bodegom-Vos L, Davidoff F, Marang-van de Mheen PJ. Implementation and de-implementation: two sides of the same coin? BMJ Qual Saf. 2017 Jun; 26 (6): 495-501.


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