I have been thinking a lot about the changing educational landscape that we are a part of. The world is changing so rapidly and the amount of information that we encounter in a short time, is more than ever. Looking back at my own university career, I can’t remember more than simply regurgitating facts to achieve grades, similar to my time in K-12. Although it prepared me (at the time) for my career, if university education has not transitioned from what it was 12 years ago, I would be extremely worried about the new crop of teachers coming into our schools. I am not saying that university does not prepare student teachers, I am saying that I simply don’t know if it does.
With that being said, I feel that there are many opportunities out there where educators can learn. Through a continuous stream of applicable information to creating successful learning communities, I do not only have the opportunity to take in information, but I have also found several opportunities to absorb and reflect. It is important that we are open to this information, but it is essential that we apply it in a meaningful way to our own education systems.
Statements like the following really push my thinking about my role as a principal:
Gone are the days when you could equip students with slide rules and a core of knowledge and skills and expect them to achieve greatness. Our children already inhabit a world where new game platforms and killer apps appear and are surpassed in dizzying profusion and speed. They are already adapting to the dynamics of the 21st century. But we can help them adapt more methodically and systematically by focusing our attention on improving their capacity to learn throughout their live
As a principal, how has my role changed? When I think back to my former principals, I know that they had learning opportunities, but not in the same way I do now. We have the world at our fingertips and I have learned to leverage this learning to help to meet the needs of my school.
Here is the part that is essential: as an administrator (educator), this should not be optional anymore. If we are to be role models to our staff and students, we need to be learners first. Not only do we need to be learners, but we need to be able to share and give access to our learning to those we serve (as well as others around the globe). I know that through reading, conferences, meetings, etc., we have always had the opportunity to learn, but we need to start leveraging the learning opportunities that are available through social networks. This learning is available 24/7 and can truly impact you and those you serve.
The funny thing is, I have never enjoyed learning (or my job!) so much. Not when I was in school and not when I was in university. I am having the opportunity to continuously create, build, and share my learning in a ways that are engaging to me based on what I love. Greg Gorman, a superintendent in Kansas, who has become a great friend, said something that really resonated with me (paraphrased): “I am sad that I am only realizing these opportunities now when I am nearing the end of my career. I have never been as excited about education as I am today!” The opportunities for learning are not only immense, but they are absolutely invigorating.
I am not saying that administrators need to be experts in every aspects of our school. Schools do better when leadership is distributed and we have several experts leading the way. School administrators do however need to ensure that we are able to connect those we serve with information to ensure that they are successful. I have found this to be a lot easier as I have developed my own Personal Learning Network. Instead of connecting simply to information, I am able to connect to people. My experience as a “Connected Principal” has been transformative in my own learning and practice. Learning should be social and I am enjoying the worldwide connections I have created to develop my own understanding and knowledge.
If administrators are truly to be leaders, we need to continuously learn and connect with others to shape ideas. We are the role models for our staff, students, and community. You should never ask something of your staff that you are not willing to do yourself.