As an education technology coach, I can definitely relate to the article by Devolder, Vanderlinde, van Braak & Tondeur (2010). On any given day, I am switching the hats that I wear in my role many, many times. I’m constantly moving from a coaching role to a consulting role to a coordinator role to an advocate and back again.
I would say the majoring of my time is split between leading professional development by supporting students and teacher and planning for implementation. Planning allows me to collaborate on curriculum development and changes with our teachers (Devolder, A., Vanderlinde, van Braak & Tondeur, 2010, p. 1652). I meet with year groups each week to support them in the planning process. I also spend a lot of time developing new school initiatives or developing policies related to my role. In terms of implementation, this includes me getting into classes to co-teach and support teachers and students. This role also always me to work toward implementation through formalized professional development sessions or one-on-one coaching.
As per Lai & Pratt (2004, as cited in Devolder, A., Vanderlinde, van Braak & Tondeur, 2010), my role does have a budgetary and resource allocation component but it is also shared with the director of education technology. Therefore I am not the one making the budget but suggesting ideas and reviewing others’ proposed purchases. In addition, I have to ensure that the resources we have are working for what we need them for and advocate for more resources when necessary.
In terms of the ‘nuts and bolts’ that Marcovitz (1998, 2000 as cited in Devolder, A., Vanderlinde, van Braak & Tondeur, 2010), I try to minimize my role in the technical and repair component of it. This is the role of our IT manager who is phenomenal at the technical side of our operations. That being said, teachers still come to me regularly to fix their problem. It is important for me to acknowledge when I am capable of supporting them and when I need to refer them to the experts. When possible, I do try my best to problem solve with teachers as it can be frustrating when things aren’t working and it is also part of my emphasis on building relationships whenever possible.
Devolder, A., Vanderlinde, R., van Braak, J. & Tondeur, J. (2010). Identifying multiple roles of ICT coordinators, Computers & Education, Vol.55(4), pp.1651-1655.
Fisher’s (2009) work about leadership was a thought-provoking read that allowed me to be reflective of how I lead as well as how others lead me.
One of the clearest things that came out of the article was the need of a clear vision at all times. A leader needs to be able to effectively identify and communicate this to their followers. In order for engagement, the followers need to ‘buy-in’ to the vision and truly understand all aspects of it before they are effectively able to live and breathe it. This is so important for the success of an organization.
Another point that resonated with me was the need to motivate others. There are so many different ways of motivating people but in my opinion, empowering people to take lead in align with the vision and values of the organisation creates the most effective outcomes. This can be scary for a leader as they have to trust in the their followers and release some sense of control. This bottom-up approach allows those involved to gain a sense of self worth and contribution to the organisation.
The importance of managing alone will never be successful. In conjunction to managing, a leader needs to lead using both these skillsets intertwined to eliminate any disconnect. It was also noted of the consistency between these two needed.
I loved that note about leadership being personal. Recently I heard someone say that in leadership sometimes you just have to do something because it has to get done. For me, this is not personal at all. I think if you can’t justify why this is needing to be done and the true purpose and impact of what you are doing then perhaps this isn’t the best route. A leader needs to stay focused on what they are trying to achieve and have a deeper understanding of why they are doing it as it aligns to the vision.
Fisher, J. (2009). The Thoughtful Leader. Review Ontario Leadership Framework, Ontario Ministry of Education. (Dr. Fisher has kindly provided permission to use this resource). Click here to access
As a female in international education, I look to the hierarchy of my own school and other schools in my area. Time and time again I see a few females in the roles of senior leadership. In my school, we have 1 female out of 5 senior leadership members. It is very unbalanced. If you move a few steps down the hierarchy to middle leadership (year group coordinators, subject coordinators, etc), you will find an even number of males and females in leadership positions if not more females slightly. While this middle management tilt may be due to generally more females in the education field, there seems to be a glass ceiling effect that makes it challenging for females to move beyond to senior leadership.
As an Education Technology Coach, I also very few females represented in these roles. Primarily technology roles are dominated by males. I am the first female ever in the technology role in my school and work with 3 other males.
While I firmly believe the best person for the job should get a position, schools should be cognizant of what messages are perceived by others when looking at leadership teams. What does it say to your students when no females are in technology leadership positions? What does it say to parents and staff when all senior leadership consists of males? How does having different genders on a leadership team impact the perspectives brought to the table of discussions?
A strong leader understands that at the heart of any community or organization lies the relationships it is built upon. Nurturing these positive relationships are essential to moving forward. Without people who feel comfortable and confident in a leader's ability, the battle to move forward likely will be short-lived. Building a community where people want to come together and support each other will help not only the students but teachers grow and learn together. As a leader, one of the challenging tasks is remaining positive and optimistic through every incident that occurs. However, positivity breeds more positivity and creating a community where these feelings thrive is essential.
The reason schools exist is the learning for students. A good educational leader must be enthusiastic and share a love of learning themselves. A leader supports others in creating a welcoming and safe environment for the students to take risks in their learning and inquire. But the learning must not stop with the students. Every member of the community must see the value in up-skilling themselves and trying new things. Students need to see their teachers as role models who continue to learn as well. Further to this, learning needs to radiate farther to every member of the community as building capacity always for knowledge and growth. A good leader understands that by building capacity in all members of the school community whether parents, teachers, teaching assistant or administration, it promotes life-long learners and a community that values each member and their contributions.
In education, often leaders become restricted to an office, tied down with paperwork and 'putting out fires'. It is important for the educational leaders of our schools to stay true to the reasons they got into education and lead by example in the classroom and around the school. I love seeing administration in the classroom with the students leading learning and learning together. This view is so optimistic for the whole school community, especially our students. It shows our students that everyone is still learning and growing, that students and their learning is the number one priority in the school and that inspiring students through education is the responsibility of every member of the community.