A Network Connecting School Leaders From Around The Globe
This summer will be my 17th year working in the education field. As I reflect on my experience, many things come to mind. There have been a series of truths that I have come to realize and have experienced as a result of my time as an educator and a school leader. Other than the fact that I am 17 years older and growing gray hair, I feel as if I started teaching yesterday. The freshness of evolution has kept me alive and motivated me to continue searching for that elusive formula to create the best possible environment for all students.
In education I have always been fascinated by the ideal of serving all students. It is very rare, though for anyone to pause and think about such an ideal. Creating an environment in which all students learn is not about the dream of establishing such an environment, nor the desire of such dream, but the determination to make it happen. This is a physical experience rather than an emotional one. As I reflect on this particular lofty goal of many educators I cannot help but feel hopeless, not because I do not have the fortitude to think about it, but because I do not have the confidence that this is achievable under the current structures of education.
The structure of our students’ lives and communities is affected by a diverse set of problems and social ills. As educators and dreamers of creating a system where all students learn, how can we fight our way through this very crowded and scary patch? What can we do to stay fresh and continue to gather energy for the journey? Who do we have around us to assure that our freshness does not spoil? All these questions are essential to the formation of a highly effective teacher. My understanding tells me that the best weapon to fight against the fatigue of chasing our dream of creating an environment in which all students learn is to keep our efficacy strong.
Teachers’ efficacy is yet another elusive condition in education and often holds the secrets to better schools and better teachers. Teachers with high levels of efficacy are able to see themselves educating anyone that walks through the door. High efficacy teachers believe that that nothing can stop them from teaching their students to love learning. Teachers with high levels of self-efficacy always reflect about their practice and find ways of transforming what they know and how they teach in order to match their students’ needs. Schools and communities that have the privilege of having teachers with high levels of efficacy see students flourish in that environment.
On the contrary, teachers with low levels of self-efficacy are often hesitant to be creative in the classroom. Those teachers are often unwilling to adjust their practice. Students in this environment are often subjected to one system of teaching and learning-the one most comfortable to the teacher, but usually least effective to stimulate students’ learning. Teachers with low levels of self-efficacy tend to become isolated from the rest of the school community and want to stay within the confines of their classroom. They are often unwilling to participate in workshops directed at teaching and learning. I am in no way saying that the teachers described as having low levels of self-efficacy are lazy or not willing to learn; they are simply victims of their lack of beliefs about their levels of self-efficacy in their profession.
The idea of high levels of efficacy is one that has intrigued me for a while; therefore, I decided to start the journey of discovering the source of efficacy. Teachers’ level of efficacy is directly affected by the environment in which they work. The working environment can make or break teachers’ ability to reflect and work on their level of efficacy in their practice. Here is where the idea of school leaders becoming climate controllers comes to life. I have come to believe that the current idea of school leaders is completely obsolete, as it no longer fulfills the obligations of the 21st century. Terms such as school administrator and/or building principal do not reflect a person who is responsible for all aspects of a school. Schools are made up of diverse entities that need to be uniquely addressed and cared for in order to create that elusive environment in which all students learn.
The art of combining students, parents, community and teachers into a winning formula needs more than a school administrator or building principal; this task must completed by a person whose leadership is capable of creating the correct environment in which all groups function at their highest levels of efficacy. Leadership based on a global view of the challenges as well as a flexible problem solving system will be able to create the most effective environment to allow each of these groups to contribute to achieving the goal of educating every child. Therefore, school leaders must act as climate controllers more than administrators. The idea behind administering something is based on a reactive mode of operating, rather than a predictive mode of operating. Climate controllers are experts at understanding their school climates and knowing how to manage and adjust them.
My 17 years in the field of education both as a teacher and school leader have driven me to this current position. My hope is that I will be able to contribute to the development of this new type of school leadership in the years to come. As a whole our education system needs to reflect on what we currently do and how we are able to allow evolution to take its course. School leaders are the heartbeat of school even if they do not see themselves as such. I estimate that in the long run school’s effectiveness will suffer as a result of leadership that does not recognize the power of influence the general climate has on the daily functions of the school. Leaders that have the desire and courage to learn about the climate in their schools and manage it effectively. The idea of school leaders as climate controllers resides in my brain in an infant stage and I hope to continue developing it as time goes.