It is with great interest that I reflect on the need for educational leadership courses in undergraduate courses at university. This is a notion that, until starting my Masters in Educational Leadership, I hadn’t given much thought to. You see I came from a time where school leaders were rewarded for years of service and recognition by others in the education offices which oversaw our school environments.So the question of whether pre service teachers in undergraduate course have a need for being introduced to leadership language and discussion is fascinating me.
Upon much reflection, from both sides of the argument, I can’t help but ask myself perhaps the understanding of leadership, by some in decision making roles, is still based purely on knowledge and experience of and in education but not necessarily knowledge and understanding of leadership. Do we not need a period of time to, respectfully, wean out those who may have reached these roles of decision making in education purely through “years of experience” in education and graduate studies in areas of education, and who may not see any need for informing new teachers at their initial stages of practice?
I am specifically reflecting on my last school where leadership was “climbing the ladder by years” rather than suitability and knowledge of the social and economic needs of the position. I guess this is evident in many work places but in the education sector, I believe, that this singular way of determining leadership can be extremely damaging as much as it can be beneficial to some in reaching a leadership role.
The focus of an undergraduate study seems logical when we think about the preparation it gives a student entering the profession rather than trying to “find it in the fog” of the everyday in a school environment. Is not a classroom teacher, including a 1st year teacher, a leader of some sort to those students within his / her classroom? Would not the principles of leadership be extremely beneficial to the purpose; the way of and the reporting of teaching?
Then of course, there is the relationship of the teacher with one of the major stakeholders…the parents. Being informed and able to reflect with problem posing language to parents can only demonstrate the understanding that this teacher has of developing the social and the economic aspects of the classroom and the school overall.
In addition, there is the functional relationship between teachers and the communication of educational dialogue. Would not an understanding of educational leadership, by new teacher on staff, support informed, more constructive and reflective practice of collegial and individual teaching? Even just in a few months for me, as an experienced teacher who held a faith leadership role in a school, there is strong evidence to suggest that the processing and understanding of what makes an effective leader is obtained through experience but can be enhanced through collective discussions including discussions between pre service teachers.
Sadly for me, when I graduated from University my course was about teaching psychology and specific Key Learning Areas. I remember sitting up to all hours surrounded by “craft activities” as a university student questioning whether teaching was what I wanted. I knew in my heart it was but the course elements of the time, 1987-1991, were of little benefit to me as a teacher except to get lots of glue on my fingers. I was a Tertiary student glueing and pasting craft activities to pass a unit!
My mind wonders what difference a course in leadership would have had on my ideology of teaching and the education system. What difference would a course in leadership have in my relationships with the students; the staff and the parents. What difference a course in leadership would have had in my vision for the students. My vision would have gone from “ticking and dating outcomes” alone to understanding relationships in a classroom and school; to understand the importance and need of ethical decision making; moral literacy and developing faith leaders in my students and community. Weighing up between glued fingers and leadership understanding seems obvious to me.
Deciding whether or not leadership units should be incorporated in undergraduate studies…well, that took me six months of tertiary studies in educational leadership to get it and not 20 years of teaching experience! Having the 20 years experience didn’t make me understand the content necessarily more but it did confirm my belief that it has an important role in undergraduate studies.