5 Enacting your Learning Plan – the school leader as enabler

The single most important factor that impacts on changing teaching and learning in a school is you as a school leader – that is, your qualities and your competences. Unless you enable teachers to experiment and depart from their traditional teaching methods, there will be no change in student learning.

You enable your teachers by being a lifelong learner yourself – by applying your learning to innovate and solve issues at your school. Teachers need your encouragement to change. You can provide opportunities for and guidance to teachers by:

  • trying out new ideas or practices
  • giving feedback to teachers
  • sharing and reflecting on the positives in their classrooms
  • discussing what could be done differently to improve things.

The next case study highlights the importance of listening to your teachers and developing a collegial approach to leadership – enabling means working with and alongside your teachers, so that there is dialogue and to ensure that you learn from them.

Being an enabler is therefore about creating the conditions for active, participatory learning to take place for everyone in your school.

Case Study 3: Seeing the school in a new light

This is a record of an interview with a school leader who had recently attended a course at the local District Institute for Education and Training (DIET) for elementary school leaders. His school was doing well, and attendance had greatly improved since he had become the school leader. He was keen talk to the district education officer about the improved attendance, but started to realise that there were other important matters to attend to at his school.

On the course we were introduced to the TESS-India OERs on school self-review and development planning [Perspective on leadership: leading the school’s self-review and Perspective on leadership: school development plan]. I was looking forward to the breaks so that I could share my good news about our improved attendance with colleagues.

As we worked through the unit on self-review, I felt pleased – many things in my school are going well. But then the trainer asked us some questions about the teachers in our school, and what they thought about the school. I have three teachers but I realised that I don’t know what they think about any of the changes I have made; they have done what I have asked them to do without challenging me.

I desperately need another teacher for the youngest students, as we have to double up classes. At lunchtime, the district education officer explained that he had not managed to find anyone yet. He said that two people he had asked had requested not to be moved, because they thought that being in my school would be very hard work. In fact, he also revealed that one of teachers had approached him and asked if they could be moved to a different school. I was very surprised and disappointed.

As we moved on to development planning, I began to realise that I have been behaving a bit like a dictator. I have made many decisions about how to improve the school and implemented many changes, but I have not involved my teachers in any discussions, sought their ideas or showed that I value their experience. No wonder some of them are feeling under stress!

I realised that although the students like coming to school, I need to look after the teachers better. I went back to school and resolved to be more collegial and more supportive of the teachers. At the next staff meeting, instead of doing all the usual administrative tasks I asked them to tell me what we do well as a school. I was surprised that they mentioned such things as female students speaking up in class or that the older students are kind to the younger ones, rather than citing results and attendance. I had not really thought about these social dimensions.

Then we discussed things that could be improved, but I sensed that people were wary of being critical. I decided to ask the teachers to work together to come up with a list and said that I would not be cross if they criticised what I had done. I then made an appointment to talk to each teacher individually so that I could hear about the aspects of their work that were important to them and learn more about them as individuals. After a while the conversations between us became more open and honest, and I learned a great deal about what we could do together to change the school for the better in small steps.

Pause for thought

Reflect on this case study. Do you think your teachers like working in your school? Do they feel valued, supported and reflected?

4 Creating a Learning Plan

6 Focusing on your teachers