For those of you who have been following our blog posts and the various articles printed in the Sackville Tribune Post, you will be aware that one of the central elements of the Sackville Schools 2020 movement is to redefine the learning landscape in our community. Not much seems to have changed in New Brunswick since the new 10-year education plan was released by the government back in September, which brings us to the subject of this post: is real change through leadership from the top, the middle, or the local level?
Education in Canada is fascinating, as we have no national voice on education. Our constitution leaves education entirely in the hands of the province, and New Brunswick further divides this responsibility between a number of school districts, based on language and geographic location. So one might ask, how does a provincial strategy for education and student learning outcomes work? How do these plans for a child’s individual wants and needs actually happen while they sit in a classroom in a school here in Sackville? We have to believe that real learning will be at this individual, classroom and school level, yet it takes leadership through-out the education system to allow for that authentic learning to take place. That is why leadership must occur at the top, through the Minister and the Department of Education, in the middle at the school district and school principal levels, and at the local level, where we must respect and work with the judgement and experience of our teachers.
Leadership must occur at the top, through the Minister and the Department of Education, in the middle at the school district and school principal levels, and at the local level, where we must respect and work with the judgement and experience of our teachers
The Sackville Schools 2020 movement has been extremely fortunate to work with some amazing educational leaders right here in our province, our school district and our local schools. We also have a high level of interest from parents, local government and business leaders and many individual students. In particular, New Brunswick is home to C21 – Canadians for 21st Century Learning and Innovation, a national, not-for-profit organization that advocates for new leadership and methods for student learning. One of the C21 CEO Academy members is actually the Superintendent of our own school district, Mr. Gregg Ingersoll. We are also home to a great university, with a wide array of subject area experts and research and teaching scholars. The potential for Sackville is enormous. So, shouldn’t we lead the change we need in our own local educational landscape?
We seem to have some strong leadership at all three levels, but often feel helpless in making real change in our schools. That is why we are excited by C21’s new work on changing the traditional, top-down leadership model to one of a spiral form of leadership. Their new publication, The Spiral Playbook, states that educational leaders create the conditions for transformation by encouraging leadership at all levels, including the very attributes they are encouraging in young people – creativity, inquiry, collaboration, calculated risk taking, reasoned problem solving, and the capacity to learn from experience. Sackville Schools 2020 sees this type of spiral leadership as a much needed fit for our community of schools, as part of the larger school district, yet a high degree of autonomy and local character – facilitated through leadership from the middle. It is for this reason that we continue to work with the District Education Council, the school district administration, our Sackville school principals and our teachers in this effort to implement the new provincial education plan in a meaningful way. The Spiral Playbook points the way forward, describing a “new approach to professional inquiry that aims to transform how educators learn and lead – within teams and across networks”.
The Spiral Playbook (2017) by Joanne Wise and Kathy Kaulbach is published by C21 Canada and can be downloaded online along with several related resources.
If you're interested in related reading, check out Michael Fullan's article "Leadership from the Middle: A system strategy". This connects well with the spiral leadership concept, and is of interest locally since Marshview Middle School will be piloting this kind of deep learning project.