Now that I understand that leadership is far more than a collection of personality traits, I feel that I am able to offer leadership that both suits my personality and my gender within our school division and in the wider educational arena. Aspects of complexity theory, transformational, emergent and distributed leadership allow for leadership that is open to contributions from all participants and for leaders who position themselves to create opportunities for others to add their particular talents to communal efforts.
At the moment, I am working with Alberta Community Spirit – part of the Community Development branch of the Alberta government, to organize forums to gather information from our school’s stakeholders to inform the school’s rebranding efforts. With the understanding that I do not have to lead the entire effort myself and be solely responsible for its outcome, I feel confident that I can organize this aspect of the rebranding project that will give the school staff information and direction to their efforts to develop a workable mission statement and a clear direction for future efforts to increase enrollement.
I have also begun a series of meetings to introduce and begin developing the idea of a virtual staffroom for the school division. The virtual staffroom is based on the work of Wenger, Lave, de Laat, Siemens and Downes and will use social networking to allow teachers, educational assistants and administrators to communicate with each other and to participate in communities of practice without the constraints of distance and time. With both synchronous and asynchronous communication tools and virtual work spaces, the staffroom will allow staff members to work with others with similar concerns and interests, increasing communication and effectiveness.
This is an initiative that will address two longstanding concerns within the division. The first is a lack of effective communication both vertically and laterally within the organization. The second is a result of the composition of the division – small schools spread across a wide geographical area. This has led to feelings of isolation and frustration because of the lack of opportunity to work with others in a similar situation or with similar interests.
Both of the above projects will require management. The former is short-term project based at the school with a limited scope and will allow other leaders to emerge to use the information to complete the rebranding process. The latter project began to suffer project creep during the initial meeting and will require a close rein to remain a focussed, effective effort.
The virtual staffroom will require working with staff across the divsion. One of the virtual staffroom’s premises is that leaders will emerge in each school who will find value in using the virtual staffroom to form communities of practice to develop their professional skill and student achievement. Early adopters in schools will form networks with other early adopters and will communicate the virtual staffroom’s usefulness prompting organic growth within the division. These emergent leaders may require support in their efforts to help others who want to participate in communities of practice. There will be others who will not choose to participate and may question the validity of the project. In order to provide effective leadership, I will need to be prepared to address objections in a way that supports the positive nature of the school divisions’ efforts at improvement.
The complex nature of working within a K – 12 system with both urban and rural components will mean that the interdependency and auto-coordination that Uhl-Bien. Marion & McKelvey (2007) describe in complex adaptive systems will play a part in the development of the project. The growth of interdependency within the division will be an important factor in increasing communications within the division and developing more effective teaching strategies to lead to improved student learning. As teachers become more comfortable using computer mediated conferencing, they will learn to use computer technology to a greater extent to support student learning. This shift in approach will spread the need to adapt to both students and parents as teaching techniques and assessment strategies align with those of the Knowledge Era.
My personal learning journey now includes a period of intense review during which I will revisit each of the four courses we have completed in the past two years. In addition to solidifying my knowledge of the literature we have discussed, I want to review the courses through the lens of intersecting ideas and common themes. To do this, I will seek the assistance of my fellow students to solidify my understanding and to continue our intellectual conversations. Using the Cohort 2 group site on The Landing will allow all cohort members to participate in this endeavor. I will use a portfolio format to record my review as it allows for various degrees of focus on a variety of topics. This review process will also allow me to sort out the various theories, methods and technologies I will need to develop my proposal in EDDE 805.
I would expect to see a distributed leadership pattern in The Landing site as various members of our cohort participate as other committments allow. Other leadership theories notwithstanding, the cohort model’s capacity to accomodate distributed leadership is one of its strengths and a characteristic that allows individuals the time and space they need to develop as educational leaders.