As a blogging principal, I was honoured to be featured in the June 2021 issue of the BCPVPA Principl(ed) journal. It is interesting to read about the many reasons that school leaders choose to blog and the things that they capitalize on. It is also interesting to ponder the responses that come into play in the decision to make our thinking transparent as leaders. Blogging has been important pathway for me to develop my reflective practice and to create my own narrative as a school leader.
The role of the principal, particularly in the days of COVID, is threatened to be taken over by the overwhelming amounts of managerial tasks. Although I agree that school leaders need have well developed management skills, this was not what drove my decision to become a school principal. My strong belief is that educational change requires instructional leaders. Instructional leaders need to be knowledgeable and current. Being current requires strong support for the management work and a strong emphasis on the development of instructional leaders who are clear about moving their school communities forward to support, challenge and keep our students safe.
Instructional leadership is a process, not a finite destination. The OECD principles for educational change have continued to be solid goal posts, but the path we navigate is continually changing. Although social emotional learning has been a part of many school plans for many years, COVID created more immediacy in focusing our attention on what our students require to be able to learn. George Floyd’s death and the discovery on the remains of Indigenous students at a Kamloops residential school provided a powerful catalyst for creating systemic change in our schools and in our communities. Tremendous work has been done by principals and vice principals that are aware of the issues and how to navigate a pathway forward.
This does not happen in a void. We encourage our students and our staff to actively engage in inquiry and take risks in their learning. We encourage bold questions and predictions. We also teach them to take a step back, reflect on their conclusions, and change their mind. In his book, Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant eloquently creates a case for thinking in scientist mode so that we can remain flexible in our thinking. This person is actively open minded and searching for reasons why we might be wrong, not for reasons why we must be right. Revising our views based on what we learn and changing minds are considered to be acts of intellectual integrity. Blogging allows me to step beyond my Things To Do list and assume the stance of a scientist.
I have been cautioned and questioned about the wisdom of stating my ideas publicly. Adam Grant describes the person who adopts the “politician” stance and acquiesces to the group in a bid for popularity at all costs. As school leaders, our decisions cannot always appease the group. Sometimes we are called upon to make difficult decisions that are unpopular. Our role requires we have reflected on the issue and have develop a strong rationale for why the decision serves the greater good in our school community. That takes time, reflection, a professional learning community to help you navigate the terrain and support from upper management.
I feel fortunate in many ways this year. I have colleagues and district staff on speed dial to discuss issues, problem solve and possible pathways forward. Julie Pearce, my Director of Instruction, has the background knowledge and wisdom from years of experience to pose questions to extend my thinking and the will to support her principals. And I have my practice of inquiry and reflection to define and redefine who I am as a school leader and what matters most. Articulating who we are as school leaders and a willingness to rethink our positions in the face of new information are practices that are integral to establishing ourselves as leaders in the educational community. Blogging is one pathway.
Grand, Adam (2021). THINK AGAIN. The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know. New York, Viking.
Principl(ed) Vol.2, Issue 3 – June 2021 – The Journal of the BC Principals’ & Vice-Principals’ Association, “Leaders Who Blog”.