Part 2 of GSE’s “What We Believe” Series:

Who are the curriculum experts in schools? Who are the experts in teaching and learning?

Deming‘s famous application of systems thinking made Japanese car manufacturing more productive and efficient by handing control back to workers. By recognising that workers in the assembly line were best placed to make improvements he devolved authority and this led to improved quality.

Teachers are the experts in our schools
Teachers are the experts in our schools

I have always believed that Heads of School and Principals should be the education and curriculum experts in their schools. Those leaders that truly are education and curriculum experts know that “getting out of the road” of teachers makes a difference. When we prioritise making teachers lives simpler and more supported, our teachers do a better job. Protect them from chaos. Provide them with the tools they need. Remove any obstacles that are in their road so they can do the jobs they are best at. What is best for students? Teachers know. What is best for curriculum delivery? Teachers know.

Heads of Schools and Principals must focus on implementing and managing systems. Their role is to be the education leadership experts in schools. They must lead with a vision that puts teaching and learning outcomes at the forefront of all that we do. A systems approach does not mean hands on control. It means knowing what matters and guiding directions towards that, and away from things that don’t matter so much.

Please don’t misunderstand me. If you are a Head of School reading this, I too believe you might be the strongest curriculum, teaching and learning expert in your school, however it is not your explicit role now to drive this in the classroom. At one time you were. Your time has passed on that now. Your role now is to remember how important it was for you as a great teacher to be trusted, inspired, valued, appreciated and empowered to make a difference where it matters.

Teachers obviously get sensitive about evaluation of their teaching performance. We need to supervise teachers but ultimately we need to use performance strategies that achieve the outcomes we are aiming to achieve. Empowerment is different to micromanagement or top-down leadership. Leadership by intimidation is ineffective. How you manage accountabilities is important. Fear within the workforce is poisonous, especially as it relates to teachers focus on test outcomes. It leads to insecurity, general disquiet and time spent on non-productive activities. We need to listen to staff, gather ideas and basically form collective partnerships towards common goals. Finding that balance is important and if the school culture is set right you can create alignment in natural and authentic ways.

As an educational leader I have always believed that I have a right to set the standards but I am silly to believe that “at the coal face” I am the very best person to always know “how” that must be done. We need to hold teachers accountable to achievement but only after we have given them the scope and support that allows them freedom to do this. Ultimately they are the experts in schools, in terms of pedagogy and curriculum development.

Should we evaluate performance? Well yes, and no. You already do. Teachers already do. Very competent and confident teachers do it all the time. We see their competence in their personal reflections, motivation to improve, openness to feedback and the authentic connection that exists between themselves and students. Less competent teachers are defensive about judgement, guarded and resistant to open reflection. It is quite possible they have been shaped by negative past experiences but in most cases administrators don’t need countless lesson observations to determine this.

Countless hours of lesson observations? No Random walk throughs and administrators with their “fingers on the pulse” know what is happening in their classrooms.

I believe in service leadership. We accelerate performance when we ensure our key people’s needs are met and limitations and obstacles are removed. We need to serve a purpose and that purpose is to maximise learning through the most powerful people in your school.

Please also check out our other blog in this series: Personality Type and Profile Conventions in School Leadership

CEO and Education Expert Greg Parry

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Internationally renowned for his expertise in education leadership, Greg Parry’s vast experience includes leadership of projects for edu-cation institutions throughout Australia, the Middle East, the United States, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and China. Recognised for his numerous contributions in the education arena, Greg has received the Ministers Award for Excellence in School Leadership based on improvements in school performance and a range of successful principal training and leadership development programs, as well as the School of Excellence Award for Industry/School Partnerships and the School of Excellence Award for Technology Innovation. His company GSE (Global Services in Education) has been recognised as having the Best Global Brand in International Education in 2015 and 2016.

Considered one of the premier experts in his profession, Greg has trained teachers and principals throughout the world in areas such as critical thinking, language development and leadership. His expertise in school start up projects, leadership and curriculum development, has made him a sought after authority in these disciplines.

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Global Services in Education set up and operate schools in all parts of the world. Governed by a philosophy of global citizenship, every member of the GSE team shares a passion to help shape international education and student achievement through inspiration and collaboration.
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