Human being evolve, so must education, and educators. The pandemic has had an apocalyptic impact on education. As educators, we were quite literally thrown into the deep end without so much as a warning! Well, we not just learnt to swim, we helped students, parents and various other stakeholders in the system to come along with us. We learnt some graceful strokes techniques and attitudes for smooth sailing. While our students, the digital natives enthusiastically joined this learning experience, often providing support as MKOs (More Knowledgeable Others) of Social constructivism; their parents found it tougher. The more years you spend on this planet, the more difficult it is to accept change, but then change is inevitable and the gateway to a new beginning.
Our education system was designed to cater to the industrial revolution, and has been wrought with what John Taylor Gatto aptly calls, ‘Weapons of mass instruction.’ We should have got rid of those weapons long back, and turned ‘mass’ into ‘personalized’ and ‘instruction’ to evolve into real ‘learning.’
The world today needs empathy, social-emotional intelligence, resilience, creativity and collaboration. Even the foundational literacies have evolved and so have key competencies for sheer survival of human beings on this planet.
In this VUCA world, educational leadership is not easy, as we struggle for resources on one hand and an ever-changing landscape on the other. More than ever before, a leader needs to take on all qualities of water – the flexibility to flow through narrow chinks, the transparency in our interactions with parents, colourless unbiased professionalism, the ability to quench thirst with sensitive solutions and when needed shower from the skies to make learning fresh and keep the school growing.
Professional development and quality assurance are at the center of empowerment and growth for the whole team. The only successful way to make this work in a school setting, is joint practice development. Teaching is very personal, ingrained in building relationships. Impersonal approaches to professional development / random workshops here and there do not have any impact or worse, these may even prove detrimental to growth. What’s needed a seamless integration and impact analysis in a democratic setting. It works only when what’s for the teachers is by the teachers and of the teachers.
This is indeed why Professor David Hargreaves model of ‘Joint Practice Development’ works. It is the only way in which teacher training does not become a vanity project. Each teacher becomes a rider of change, overpowering the elephant of resistance.
As an educator, aspiring to be an educational leader, it is imperative to unlearn and relearn pedagogy. Digital pedagogy is different from the traditional didactic pedagogy, and as we see, a hybrid model of teaching is here to stay. We need to embrace technology and own our learning first so that we can develop the skill of ‘lifelong learning’ in our students. Schools of the future will have blended learning integrated into their operational model. Now is the opportunity, like never before, to break inhibitions, to learn all those futuristic skills and gain a certain edge. Endless free and paid courses, are available online by the best of universities from across the globe.
There is a difference between leadership and educational leadership. This must be clearly understood as an aspiring leader. Each teacher is a leader in her own right. An educational leader is an inspiration, a role-model and radiate an empowering energy. No genuine solutions are possible in a school environment without this. The educational leader is an active practitioner and key collaborator who empowers without making it evident.
An education leader is also a situational leader who stays out of the way and yet effectively ensures that all potential disruptions to the free space for learning are eliminated effectively. An educational leader is a reflective practitioner with a growth mindset. Thus, they continually reflect on data, gaps and further improvement. Above all else, the educational leader is an exceptional educator who lives with the ‘Ethic of Care’… Are you an exceptional educator? Evolve then into an educational leader.
Dr Amrita Vohra
Director Education, GEMS India
GEMS International School