My first principal would often mention how leading her staff was like teaching a class. Now, I understand what she was saying.
To lead is much different from managing. Just as teaching should be different from managing. As a teacher, I believe it is incredibly important to help students develop the need to learn something before actually teaching it to them. It significantly increases the students’ understanding of why they are learning a topic and often requires them to connect it to a prior understanding of a concept. As a leader, I am hoping that I can do the same with my faculties. I am now leading the Maths and Science teams at Wirreanda Secondary School. Both teams are extremely different in many ways – from how they work as a team and their confidence, to the range of teaching styles they use in the classroom and their views on education. Yet, I hope to eventually bring the two together.
In my opinion, Maths and Science education across most schools needs a bit of a rethink. As a maths teacher, I can’t claim to have an informed idea about what the typical Science lesson looks like, I admit. For maths, however, I know that you can walk into most classes around the State, probably even the country, and expect to see all students working from a textbook that has their Year level written on the front and a large picture of an Australian animal or building. Or at least being instructed to do so. This, in my opinion, is managing.
Teachers like to see their students learn. I have no doubts about it, nor do I believe that there is anything wrong with it. We are, however, known for jumping in to rescue our students. At the same time (every time), we are lowering our expectations of the student – without realising that we’ve done so. Expectations are incredibly important, as they are the standard that we set for ourselves as educators and the potential that the learner believes they can amount to. We want our students to succeed because it makes us feel that we are succeeding too.
It is, therefore, what we define success as, which ultimately determines the expectations that we have of the learners and the potential of our students.
As a leader, I feel that my role is to help my teams define what success is and encourage them to set the standard high. If success is each student working from their textbook, following the script of, “read this example, do these questions, then read this other example, and do these other questions”, then that’s the expectation that you’re setting for your students and the potential that they believe they have in mathematics. Sadly, this level of success can, and often is, misread as procedural fluency. On the surface, students appear to be ‘doing maths’. The student who has been able to decode the method of the worked example and replicate it for the rest of the question set is deemed as ‘good at maths’ and the rest of them just aren’t concentrating enough. On a side note, how you can expect each topic of maths to be learnt the same way is beyond me.
My starting point as a leader is not to tell my faculties what to change or how to do it, but to help them understand why we need to do so. It is only then, once they feel the need to change, that we will try and succeed.