1. While I agree that there should be many learners, and leaders of various content and subject areas, within a school community, I must disagree with some of your points here. The way I see the term “Lead Learner”, and the way Michael Fullan develops the term in his book The Principal, I believe that a principal must serve as a model in order to develop a learning community where “everyone elevates themselves to the status of learner,” as Sarah Wessling says. A principal can show others the way to live as a true lifelong learner, modeling the fact that no matter the position, one must never cease learning.

    • George

      Thanks for pushing that thought Amy. I totally agree (and updated this post to reflect that) leaders need to constantly learn and grow.

  2. While I agree that there should never be one “lead learner”, it is important that principals stay at the forefront of new learning. We can’t expect our teachers to try something new if we aren’t willing to take the risk along side them. To me, being a lead learner doesn’t mean that you are going to always be the expert, it means that you are going to participate fully in each and every learning opportunity and support the learning that occurs in others. Principals must foster leadership development in their schools by working and promoting others to share their ideas, skills and talents. If teachers see principals taking risks with new learning, they are more likely to try it as well.

    • George

      I totally agree Cynthia and have updated my blog to reflect that notion because it was poorly communicated. Here is something though…Is learning enough, or should it be modelled openly? If a principal or superintendent is constantly learning but no one knows about it, that matters a lot in the growth of the organization.

      • Cynthia Gordon

        Good question George. The sharing of learning is most definitely the key. For those times when PD is brought to admin first, if they hold the information to themselves, then the learning is almost pointless. My favourite comment of the week that I received from a teacher, “Your enthusiasm to try something new is infectious!” Left me smiling because I enjoying sharing and taking risks with the entire staff :) That to me, is “lead learner”.

  3. I have heard from a number of progressive teachers about the frustration of this term. I get why people use it – as the term “principal” often has an image that comes with it. However, I struggle with the title of “lead ____” being given to ourselves. If a staff member says “he/she does a great job to lead learning at our school”, that is much different than giving myself a title of lead learner.
    Many of the people whom I see giving themselves the title of “lead learner” are sharing many progressive things in their schools and I appreciate what the end goal is – to encourage and model growth. My personal view is to simply try be a principal (a formal title given to me) that models growth and learning… And let others make the titles. If we continue to redefine the role of a principal to leading alongside staff then hopefully some day the term “principal” will not be something people want to move away from.

    • I hate the term lead learner — particularly when principals grab it for themselves.

      The truth is that it reinforces the notion that the principal is more important than everyone else in the building — and that’s a difficult notion to stomach for teachers who keep pushing against the notion that you have to leave the classroom in order to advance in the profession.

      In all sincerity, I think we should check our titles at the door. Why does there need to be a “lead learner” or an “instructional leader” in a school? We all fill different roles — but to suggest that any of those roles, or the individuals that fill them, more important than others?

      I don’t think so.

      Here’s what I wrote about instructional leaders and lead learners:


      Rock right on,

  4. if we were really interested in calling a spade a spade we would have fleeting titles, such as “Lead Learners on asynchronous learning,” “Lead Learner on MOOCs,” “Lead Learner on Student-led Conferences.” Because I have been all those things, but over time I bring people to the ideas, or vise versa, and then we all have equal access to those ideas/experiences.
    I say it should be a situational, or fleeting title if used honestly.

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