Critical Reflection on Educational Leadership

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September 29, 2013 by patriciawhite84

Exploring the concepts of leadership as a teacher librarian has been difficult. Having little experience in the library environment, my original assumptions were not as in depth as the topic fully entails. There are elements from my previous reflection that I still see as being relevant, but after going through my own mini journey as a full-time Teacher Librarian for a term, I can see the gaping holes in my hot air balloon analogy. Adair (2010) describes leadership within three functions – being able to build team, achieve a task and to develop an individual (p. 37).  Although tied up in a neat little package, his statement that I used a basis for my previous assignment only highlights a single dimension of education leadership.

The critical element that I negated to include was a shared vision and after completing this assignment, I feel completely foolish for not having included it. My original thought process was that an innovative leader creates a vision, but I had it backwards. For a vision to be created, accepted and shared amongst a school, it does not arise from one sole identity but evolves from mutual beliefs, ideas and the needs of the community (Macbeath & Dempster, 2008). Once a vision has been created does it then require innovative leadership to see it through the change process.

Having a shared vision is vital to a school community. Just like any other organisation or business, a school needs direction and something to aspire to. A vision articulates the major goals and ambitions of the school in a clear concise manner. It does not contain “fluff” but is inspirational so that it empowers people to change (Orridge, 2009). How well a vision is implemented however, depends on the type of leadership exercised (Marzano, Waters & McNulty, 2005). It would be so easy if there was a simple recipe for successful leadership, but there isn’t. The only thing constant within leadership is change (Orridge, 2009). I guess that is the reason why I have found it difficult to formalise my understanding as there are so many variables that a leader contends with.

I found the readings for communication and strategic planning to be very insightful to help me clarify my thoughts. The concept of the Amygdala Hijack was very enlightening for me. It caused me to explore mental processing patterns and their association to student behaviour in greater depth. How we communicate and perceive information has such enormous ramification, particularly within education. So it was interesting reading other students’ communication processes on how to implement a digital literacy program.

Effective communication is a vital component of leadership (Marzano, Waters & McNulty, 2005). It was clear from my experience this term that it can be very easy to be ‘forgotten’ when in the library. Which is why finding a voice and leading from the middle can be a significantly influential role for a teacher librarian in achieving school goals (Cawthorne, 2012).  Although there is no right way to lead, having a comprehensive strategic plan does help to achieve a vision! Establishing goals and objectives, with clearly defined and measurable outcomes as well as outlining responsibilities, helps to effectively navigate through change. I found the balanced scorecard method of strategic planning to be a helpful reminder that you must look at the school in a holistic fashion.

The teacher librarian’s main responsibility when working towards a shared vision is to model lifelong learning, to work collaboratively and to empower others by being innovative leaders (Hay, 2010). I am still working towards my ability to be such a leader, sometimes I feel it’s a case of learning as you go. During my short time as a teacher librarian, I was able to witness a variety of leadership styles and teaching dynamics and found that the teacher librarian is in a unique position of power. They know all the teachers, all the students, all the support staff and all the curriculum areas. With such knowledge we shouldn’t be “forgotten”.  I will hopefully have another opportunity to (permanently)harness these powers to help me become the innovative leader for change that I strive to be.

References

Adair, J. E. (2010). Decision making and problem solving strategies. London: Kogan Page.

Cawthorne, J. E. (2012). Leading from the middle of the organization: An examination of shared leadership in academic libraries. The Journal of Academic Librarianship 36(2), 151-157.

Hay, L. (2010). Shift happens: It’s time to rethink, rebuild and rebrand. Access, 24(4), 5-10.

MacBeath, J. & Dempster, N. (2008). Connecting leadership and learning: Principles for practice. London: Routledge.

Marzano, R. J., Waters, T. & McNulty, B. (2005). School leadership that works. From research to results. Virginia: ASCD

Orridge, M. (2009). Change leadership: Developing a change-adept organization. Surrey: Ashgate.

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