|I am a fan of distributive leadership in schools rather than hierarchical leadership.|
Modern leadership seems to be moving more towards distributive leadership, a type of leadership that fosters greater teamwork rather than a top-down hierarchical approach. I am in favor of this for schools and have written about what this might look like at the elementary school.
In the system where I work there is still evidence of top-down hierarchical leadership mindsets as well as distributive leadership mindsets. I think that there will always be a blend, but I believe we need to move more towards a team approach and teacher leadership to move schools forward.
I have been learning about this for years and discussing this with both colleagues and administrators in my system. There are a lot of thoughts about this, and I am happy that so many are willing to discuss leadership models with an open mind towards positive change. Of course some are unwilling to discuss this, but those are only a few compared to the many who are reading the research and embracing this new way of thinking of schools, a way that my research shows will build collective genius, teacher leadership, and our collective capacity to serve students well.
Fortunately we have many good structures in place to build greater distributive leadership including the following:
We also have ready access to technology and grant funding that also supports the distributive leadership work we are able to do.
This week I experienced a directive that made me feel much like the cartoon on top to the left. I missed the original directive due to the fact that I didn't clearly understand the mandate, and then was reminded of the mandate late into the year. What probably would have made that clear for me would have been more straightforward and regular communication. I experienced a similar disconnect once as a parent in the school system and missed an important event related to my son's education--that's why I am committed to our grade-level's weekly newsletter that invites families into all information and decisions related to the classroom events. Good two-way communication matters when it comes to apt distributive leadership. In the best of circumstances, communication includes the following:
Further, good distributive leadership uses formal and informal data to pinpoint team goals and objectives. Our grade-level team does this in the following way:
All in all our grade-level team approach has been successful.
Now we are looking for ways to grow our teaming with the broader team including special educators, specialists, therapists, counselors, coaches, and others. While there has been good intent here and some great collaborative efforts related to projects such as the Global Changemakers Project, we feel that with better communication and scheduling, more targeted goals, and better process at PLCs and other shared meetings we can do better.
This summer we've committed to doing a deep dive into students' goals, services, and data to prepare for a conversation about how we might schedule and work better to reach the students' learning needs that we prioritize. We will learn a lot about the upcoming students before the start of school in order to foster this good collaboration.
I am also thinking with administrators and teachers about how we might elevate process at PLCs. PLCs are sometimes directed and led by coaches, specialists, and administrators who have not taken the time to think deeply with us about what we need and what we can do. At times, the focus and process is layered and led by people distanced from the team--people who don't know our students and don't know us well. There's a lot of projection about who we are and what's important with little true understanding or analysis about where we can get better. There's also a lot of conjecture about what we need or might do without any real evidence to back that up. This is not true for all, but it is true for some PLCs.
I think our PLCs can be improved in the following ways.
Distributive leadership holds great potential for working smarter, working better, and serving students and families well. I look forward to the collaborative efforts and process ahead.