The personal learning network for educators
A relatively short read, Fullan was tasked with creating a book for principals by the Ontario Teacher's Union. The purpose of the book was to give advice to principals. In the Second Edition he has completely upgraded the book to keep it current with the demands placed on principals. He writes on the topics of the Vise Principal, Leading Legacies, Leading Knowledgeably, Leading Learning Communities, Leading Systems, and Leading WWFFP into Action.
In the Vise Principal Fullan explains that the job of a principal continues to become more difficult. The pressures to perform as a principal are increasing. To be successful a principal needs to know what to fight for. The following chapters give advice in what to fight for. Fullan is correct, currently in Indiana the state is trying to increase the power the principal has, but at the same time they are increasing the accountability for the principal. As we move forward the role of the principal as a leader for school success will continue to grow in importance and complexity.
Leading Legacies is about leaving a legacy after the leader leaves and while the leader is there. A good principal not only improves themselves, but improves the system. To improve the system the principal must focus on improving the teachers. A leader should inspire. "The heart of what's worth fighting for within the school is creating deep cultures that work daily on purposeful, continuous learning." Fullan says. I agree with this idea from a teacher's perspective, too often change or professional development is a one day meeting with little follow up. A principal has to create the opportunity and culture that allows teachers to follow through with their learning. Teachers need an opportunity to practice. If a principal is successful in creating this culture, after they leave the culture will remain. Change must not be a building only or school only practice. Principals must work, share, and push other schools in the district to ensure their legacy.
Leading Knowledgeably is the "core" role for the principal according to Fullan. It is the job of the principal to help "improve the black box" or instruction in the classroom. A good principal frees teachers so they can focus on improving instruction for all students. "Leading Knowledgeably means bringing all teachers to a high level of pedagogical effectiveness; but more than that, it means fostering interactions that keep teachers at that level through continuous application and refinement." A principal needs to help the teacher to improve day to day, however improving instruction also needs to do more than educate the teacher, if it is going to be effective in the classroom. A teacher needs to be aware of how and why they teach they way they do. They need a principal to help in the that process through observations and freeing other teachers to observe the teacher as well. The principal also needs to set high expectations to create the incentive to improve. Increased performance should result in increases in student outcomes, meaning that improvement should be led by data. Data needs to be compared to the school from year to year, to other similar schools, and to an outside source like state scores, 100 percent, or national scores. Without comparison the data is worthless. "Learning is work" for learning to take place it must be part of the day-to-day events, it can not wait for professional development days or conferences. If it is not part of the day-to-day life it will have no chance of becoming part of the culture. Just as learning needs to take place day-to-day improvement does as well. We can not wait for the testing data to come back and show we have improved, we need to search for ways to improve daily and act on them daily. Principals need to ensure that teachers are putting into practice effective- practices, or practices that we know get outcomes. They need to insist that teachers are using them, but also allow a culture of experimentation and creativity so new and better practices can be discovered. Fighting for Knowledge is important because it is so hard to do, and Fullan say "takes a fighter" to do it.
Leading Learning Communities require principals who simultaneously elevate instruction, delegate managerial tasks to other, and go about their work by growing tomorrow's leaders today. Principals need to free themselves to focus on instruction.They need to figure out how to run a school without focusing on the managerial and operational work. Fullan suggests having business managers or other administrative team members handle these areas and allow the principal to focus on leading the teachers in instruction. Principals needs to use staff members and develop them into leaders, or grow future leaders. Allow teachers to lead project in improving instruction that they are passionate about.
Leading systems, the principal needs to work with the system not against. Fullan indicated three ways to work with the system: through links with other schools, building relationships with district leaders, and connecting to the goals of the system as a whole. Relationships are key to success in all three areas. Principals need to foster purposefully peer relations and share information. The school will not only benefit from sharing ideas, but the system its self will benefit as well. Principals should work with the district as well. If their district has peer learning communities, they should be involved, if not then they should push for these communities to exist within the district. Principals need to look at the larger system in a positive light, looking for connections. The Government is not the enemy. Fullan states, "the school and the system are better off if they can identify key common priorities and jointly pursue them." Just as the government is getting more involved in education we should not be fighting, but working with them to improve education. Through these interactions principals can help focus the system and their schools.
Leading WWFFP into Action Fullan gives six guidelines for principals: de-privatize teaching, model instructional leadership, build capacity first, grow other leaders, divert the distractors, and be a system leader. Principals need to create a culture were teachers are observed and observe teaching. This process is about transparency. Teachers need to be continuously improving, and helping identify ways to improve in each other.Principals to need to be involved in and make instructional improvement a priority. A principal must lead by example, but not symbolic model it specifically. A principal needs to help teachers improve, not judge them on if they are effective. Most teachers do not improve because they do not know how to. A principal as an instructional leader should help them discover the how. A principal needs to make this process a part of the day-to-day culture of improving. A principal helps create new leaders. It may be easier to do it themselves, but if they want success to continue on after them, they must begin to train other leaders. To do this a principal must create an atmosphere that promotes others to lead. A principal must rely on others to help take care of the daily distractors. A principal should assign tasks for other administrators and leaders to handle so they can focus on instruction. Only the most important issues should take a principal away from his or her instructional role. Principals must work with others. Schools cannot be isolated and neither can success, otherwise it will leave when the principal leaves.
I found Fullan's book to be a great read. I could consider his guide a great read for those who plan to become a principal or who work in education at all. His point is dead on, as a principal I will have make sure that the daily events do not over fill my plate, after-all the main purpose of education is to educate the children. If I spend all my time working on the daily events I will never get to improving instruction. This guide will definitely help shape my future role as a leader and what I will fight for.