Sunday, July 18, 2010

Educational Leader - Friend or Foe?

Reflection on the Dual Role of a Leader: Supervisor & Team Builder
The apparent contradiction in the role of a principal as both a supervisor and team builder is in fact, not a contradiction at all. Just as a teacher teaches, supervises and fosters co-operative learning in a classroom, a principal does the same in a school context, but on a larger scale. In my current role as department head, I do supervise programs and ‘informally’ supervise the members of my department. As a principal of a school, those supervisory responsibilities are definitely intensified. The Ontario Leadership Framework succinctly addresses this dual role under the categories of: Building Relationships and Developing People &; Developing the Organization.

It is important that a principal ‘develop, empower and sustain individuals and teams’ (p.10, OLF). A principal can do so by implementing a process that shifts responsibility and accountability onto the shoulders of staff members. For instance, including staff or department heads in developing the School Plan for Continuous Improvement, implicates their own efforts to collectively pursue these objectives. The process of Differentiated Leadership involves knowing the strengths and personality styles of your members and allowing them to take a lead in areas which suit their interests and talents best. In doing so, you can form a team of teachers who take initiative and make it work.

A principal is one who ‘supervises staff effectively’ (page 11, OLF). Supervising staff means knowing and “befriending” respective collective agreements. A principal should be familiar with teacher, support staff & OT collective agreements. A principal is also responsible for the Teacher Evaluation Process (TPA). If staff professional development has been a collaborative and shared responsibility, it will inform the practice of teachers thereby leading to more successful TPAs. A good relationship with the union representative can also improve teamwork and collaboration amongst staff. It is important to consult with the union representative and your superintendant when in doubt on matters pertaining to grievances, arbitration, discipline or collective agreements.

In all, many of the pitfalls of the supervisory role of leadership can be successful avoided through effective collaboration and team building amongst staff. It is important to be knowledgeable of all the policies and procedures of your board and governing bodies. By organizing and encouraging staff to come together, many sensitive issues can be avoided. A principal doesn’t have to be a friend or a foe. He/She can lead by empowering others to be leaders of their own right.

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