How is leading a classroom, a school, a business, even a household like conducting an orchestra? I posed this question to staff this week at our monthly faculty meeting, focusing on the school angle. They shared numerous connections like:
  • “Students all learn or play differently like the different parts of an orchestra.
  • “A class, like an orchestra, takes on the mood of its conductor, teacher – happy, frustrated.”
  • “If it goes right, we will make beautiful music together.”
These were some of the insightful, interesting comments that got us started. I then showed the following Ted Talk video: Lead Like the Great Conductors. If you have the time, it may be worth the 20 minutes of watching, especially if you like classical music as the speaker, Itay Talgam, goes through the leadership styles of six modern conductors.
Here are the questions I asked staff to consider and discuss after watching the video:
  • How does happiness or joy enter your teaching and/or our school?
  • Who is responsible for children’s learning? How is responsibility shared?
  • What’s the point of the final conductor video?
  • What are the implications for us? you? students? families?
Staff took about 10 minutes to discuss and share answers to these questions and other thoughts and feelings the video provoked. I can tell you the conversations were lively, intriguing and could have easily continued for some time. I have found so much insight comes from staff when I simply give them something to think about and discuss. It is truly one of my joys, as a principal, to allow the diversity of thought to enter our conversations. In fact, I’ve made it a goal of mine to better define and fulfill the ideal of shared leadership with Fiske staff this school year.
My hope in presenting the video and allowing staff to discuss it was to plant a seed of an idea: that we do conduct learning and when we hand over children’s learning back to them, the learning can go to new and unexpected heights under the power of their ownership. The implications for me are the same as I work with staff. If I am mindful of leading with joy, creating the appropriate conditions for learning, leaving space for autonomy, and trusting in the good work of our teaching staff then we all – students, staff, family and school – are rewarded with growth and learning.
Teaching and leading are not easy jobs, but are so worth the time and efforts we put into honing our craft. We create the future by how we teach today. Quite frankly it’s why teachers and principals come to school every day; we know the children, the families and community are relying on us to create the opportunities for a better tomorrow. It’s a humbling task when put in these terms, but this is how I see learning at its most basic and necessary foundation. A foundation we hope creates beautiful music.
Have a great long weekend!
Anthony J. Colannino
Fiske Community News 10/9/14
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