Leadership and Relational Learning

Last month we held our 3rd curriculum day on one of our strategic improvement strategies – the implementation of a relational learning framework in teaching and learning and to engage with the parent and wider community   (school are entitled to hold 4 non pupil free days each year).

The day was facilitated by a leading educator and researcher  Dr George Otero from New Mexico. George works with a number of schools and systems within Victoria and around the world on this framework and we were lucky to establish a friendship where he supports us throughout the year.

I digress a little to tell a little story. The friendship with George was really kicked off last year when I met George in the members bar (MCC) following Carlton (my football team) last year after I had originally heard him speak some 3 years ago at a Principal conference. See its when you least expect it sometimes – anyway a quiet beer and a meeting with my leadership team a little later and that was it.

My intent in this post really is not to speak about relational learning per say but rather to make a comment on who lead and presented on the day.

The first two photos are  of our Assistant Principal’s (Demos) and a teacher leader (Nicola) who within a larger team led the day. They organised a great relational learning activity from the staff perspective (a gallery walk of 5 photos and 2 artifacts from each teacher using an I SEE I WONDER protocol). Its a great way to get to know each other as people outside our teaching roles.

I now have a photo wall in my office so this can start conversations with parents and students so they can get to know me as a person outside the principal role.

My reflection is that it was great to see them and in particular a young teacher leader – Nicola (and the others on the team) lead a much larger staff on getting to understand the power and importance of relational learning. I think we must seek ways to encourage authentic leadership from people outside the immediate “appointed” leadership group.

The third photo is from a neighbouring Principal Rob. Rob has worked on this relational learning work longer than us and in fact co-published a book with George and another principal. Rob honoured me in coming along acknowledging our slightly differing community contexts and presented on his work at his current school.

My reflection again is that for lots of reasons we (as principals and school leaders) are reluctant to use principal colleagues within our own school contexts. Well I know I was some years ago – sometimes we believe our communities, who appointed us, expect us to know it all or most of it – and to have another principal present or work with us might dent that image. It’s a hard ask but the more I lead the more I know I need others, including colleagues, and I’ve only been doing this gig 18 years.

Comments and reflections please.