Shared leadership suggests that the collective staff share that purpose and speak the same language in regards to conceptualising what it is we want for our students’ learning to give them the best outcomes to shape their lives.
At this point, can I just say how encouraging it is to know that these conversations on moral purpose, authenticity and shared leadership are being had in schools. Regardless of what stage a school or individual is at in these arenas, the fact remains that we are challenging ourselves as people and professionals whose impact on the lives of others is exponential. We are challenging our expectations and our reasoning as teachers and this can only be a “good thing”. (Fullan, 2001)
Recently, Professor Charles Burford, Australian Catholic UNiversity, stated that “A child’s education is a sacred space” and, as teachers and staff in a school, caught up in the busyness of the everyday we can sometimes lose sight of this. I can’t imagine many more people centred jobs that are more demanding than teaching i.e. physically, mentally etc. And with the accountability connections to policy the demands just continue to grow.
But as “sculptors of lives” our driving force shouldn’t be primarily directed by policy or regulations but a moral reasoning. And when that moral reasoning is calculated, discussed, evaluated, shaken, smoothed out on a collective mass, the result is gale-like or as Pettit (2012) describes it “potent” like.
Having a shared moral purpose with your staff and hierarchical leadership team, clarifies the important aspects of the school in relation to the best outcomes for our students learning. A staff that is working together on the same values and reasons can only encourage the culture to be one of support, understanding and collective language.
In reality though, this is not always possible or at least, more difficult to achieve in some schools moreso than others. Bezzina (2008) says this ” Simply naming a shared moral purpose or committing to shared leadership does not wipe away the obstacles.” And these obstacle may be human or school landscape based. Human obstacles include fear; entrenched personal values; unsuitable shared culture were some staff refuse to see the benefits and instead resort to the “known”; and even hierarchical leadership with hesitation which effect their overall school decisions.
Geographical obstacles include the size of the school area and creating a shared culture of moral beliefs is difficult when the classrooms are far from each other and “shared conversations” are less “everyday”. This, by no means is impossible, but conversing with the same staff entrenches its own culture and values.
Reflecting on the possibilities of enlivening staff to be “capable of making moral decisions about learning” is prodigious, I personally believe. This will in turn affect how pastoral care is administered; behavioural management is affected and of course, learning. No research can determine all the smallest of changes in a teacher’s way of teaching simply by having these discussions with colleagues on what it is that we share and drives our teaching FOR our students? The research has clearly shown the possibilities of shared moral purpose but the subtle changes are important, too.
I believe one of these subtle and less obvious changes is IN the shared leadership. We all know the varied “types of teacher personalities” and some are more open and confident about their professional development. Others, for whatever reason are more reserved and something like open, honest discussions and frameworks on shared moral purpose, are an opportunity for these staff to realise that they, too, have an important role in the school and therefore, share in the leadership of learning and teaching.
Shared moral purpose is sanctioning teachers to be leaders of their teaching and their students’ learning. Shared moral purpose gives direction and frameworks their understanding of what it is that drives their teaching and for what intention. Collective direction, collective language and collective purpose is compelling when it is colouring and shaping the lives of staff and students.
As I said at the beginning of this post, the fact staff are having these conversations is an initial victory. Having everyone on board may take longer in some schools more than others, which can also be dependant on the Principal, but putting our intentions for teaching and learning under the “collective microscope” sifts out the unnecessary aspects of teaching and learning. And when we can be sure of our reasons and logic and values driven purpose, then our courage and understanding as a shared leader develops to only strengthen and solidify the overall purpose and leadership of all staff.
Bezzina, M. (2008). We do make a difference: Shared moral purpose and shared leadership in the pursuit of learning. Leading and Managing, 14(1), p. 38-59.
Fullan, M. (2001). Understanding change: Leading in a culture of change. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Pettit, p. (2012). Moral potency: the contextual link between the moral purposes and moral action. Paper printed at the 17th Annual Values and Leadership Conference Brisbane, Australia. (October, 2012)