“teacher roles defined as covenants should be at the centre”

Sergiovanni in this book gave me one of those precious light bulb moments, as a school leader, when he defined roles as “the most sacred obligations and commitments we have towards each other, toward the school and toward its purpose” [p 49].

Prompted by a poor rating on the last annual staff opinion survey we have been discussing staff roles and responsibilities over the past month. A few years ago, again diven be a poor rating on the annual staff opinion survey, we had a focus on gaining role clarity and committed significant leadership resources to compiling a staff roles and responsibilities document that clearly articulated staff roles and responsibilities. The document detailed core teaching and administrative roles, listed committee membership and outlined key processes used throughout the school.

This work initially got a very positive rating. So what when wrong!

I began to suspect that people saw these as an accountability document linked to their performance plan which was supervised entirely by myself and the assistant principal.

I recently used a few pages of Sergiovanni’s book as a shared reading at a recent staff meeting on roles as collective and public commitments or promises that obligate people to each other and to their work. During the discussion we talked through how roles are assigned and whether people had the required dispositions, knowledge and skills to successfully complete the responsibility every time. Teachers raised problems around timelines and this being done in the year prior so that transitions can occur.

We also got to talked about leadership as a practice often in and across teams where people at different times have greater levels of insights and lead. Therefore leadership was not always about positional authority and this raised the question how does one acknowledge leadership as a practice.

I raised a further question around is it possible for the principal to in a large school to know about and acknowledge the leadership practices of everyone – is this a fair and reasonable expectation? 

I posed a question around whether people public role commitments and leadership practices should be acknowledged in teams at the half way cycle of performance reviews? Should we share our reflections with a colleage or a team who knows our work and ask for their feedback – leaving end of cycle reviews for the principal?  

Near the end of the conversation as people expressed some emotions around these issues I quoted Brenda Beatty’s work about “collaborative emotional meaning making” and tried to validate the process.

This is a work in progress as we have another conversation next week about improvements in the public commitments we make to each other, the acknowledgements we can expect and the processes we will use for 2010. As always I’d be interested on others thoughts on this. I know my colleagues at Monash University have read this material and I wonder about similar conversations at their schools.  

Can I end with I this post with a quote from an article on building communities of hope by Sergiovanni

“educators can be hopeful and realistic as long as the possibilities for change remain open”