Sunday, February 1, 2015

Principal as an Instructional Leader - NOT QUITE!

I have concluded and I must confess I came to this conclusion early in my career as an administrator and it was solidified when I became a Principal - The Principal is not an Instructional Leader.  No matter how many authors write to this and how many educational politicianatos there are spewing this falsehood, Principals is not, okay according to me, Principals are not Instructional Leaders - They are leaders, but not Instructional Leaders.

Principal as a Leader, I like to call  "Instructional Prophets" Here's my argument - An instructional prophet has a vision of what could be, if leaders take up the cause and believe in the vision for the good of all (it's not a personal gain thing).  Leaders are those who lead for the long haul and do so by modeling and sacrificing and have within them all the by-products of a growth mindset (unbridled imagination, creative effort, persistence, tolerance, failure, determination, work ethic, selflessness, and a belief that all this work is for the greater good of all - and they know that it is hard work, but worth the effort in the long run).
Principals aren't around a school long enough to be the "true instructional leaders" - the teachers though, now they stay around even longer than the dust mites ... They are your instructional leaders! 
As long as I'm a Principal in public education, I will not call myself the instructional leader.  I was an instructional leader when I was a classroom teacher and my students went ahead to make something good of their life - they grew and grew and grew and I was the instructional leader ... I was the instructional leader. 

No matter how much those above tell me or documents tell me, I know in the current state of public education, I am no longer an instructional leader - no leader can lead without a flock to follow. What a Principal can do is set the conditions for the instructional leadership to take hold.  Someday, I may become a true teacher again - and I see areas in education where this can come to fruition and I will need to explore this in the upcoming years (there are flocks out there, but not as a Principal in public
education) - see this is a mixture of growth mindset with a hint of fixed mindset!   To me, the Principal can "ask", "motivate", "guide", "emplore", "support", the teachers to engage in instructional leadership - Does it stick? Do leaders emerge as the "prophet" fades into the background? 
Instructional Prophets are leaders - Principals are leaders - They are either followed (whereby a member of the flock is motivated and decides to lead) or they are gone (i.e., transferred, forced out, asks to be moved, burned at the stake).  Don't get me wrong, the Principal can be a teacher and they can be leaders - but a true instructional leader has an audience and his\her words are put into action by the "grasshoppers" - your flock.  The Principal's grasshoppers march to a different drummer called CBA.  The good part is some members of the flock have strayed and are beginning to lead, and one or two could be enough to engage the flock.  The Instructional Prophet must have all the by-products of a growth mindset just to make any progress (inspire a leader among the flock to step up; someone to see the good in the message; take the message ... be a Moses or a Joshua). 
Without long-haul leadership, the prophet's message leaves when she\he does and there is no sustainability.  This is my biggest fear as a Principal and it will undeniably be my greatest failure ... maybe ... or maybe not - we'll see ... someday it might, but NOT YET!
We are all on a journey along a path with many twists, turns, and diverse people along the way - we criss-cross with other paths and other journeymen (sorry women), and sometimes we appear off course.  But, that's okay.  In the end, I think we'll get there, but I don't know where "there" is anymore as I've seen much more than I anticipated and done more than I thought I could (and sometimes done less than I thought I could) - So, I'm staying open to where I'm going, who I'll meet, and what I'll find.  All that I do know is that we have essentially our inner selves to guide us - our principles, our moral compass, and last but not least, we have the innocence of "wonder" that no amount of education can eliminate or keep down. 
That's makes a Principal a journeyman, an adventurer, a leader, and an instructional prophet!

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