WORKING TOGETHER: Collaborative School Leadership Fosters a Climate of Success

By McKenzie, Ginger Kelley | Montessori Life, Fall 2005 | Go to article overview

WORKING TOGETHER: Collaborative School Leadership Fosters a Climate of Success


McKenzie, Ginger Kelley, Montessori Life


The challenges we face in our schools are dynamically complex; that is, they are multifaceted and ever changing. These challenges are influenced by how well our teachers work together, how much they have to say about their professional development, how well a school's strategic plan is implemented, and how well principals support teachers with classroom challenges. Collaborative school leadership is necessary for these activities to be initiated and fruitful for all.

In Montessori schools, the best way to strengthen the climate of success by the administrators is called transformational leadership. Leadership theorist James McGregor Burns identifies transformational leadership as a mutual belief and value system, and a commitment between a principal and teachers to focus on what works best for their school. In addition to the principal and teachers, the whole community (parents, students, staff, and neighborhood locals) is united in pursuit of higher-level goals that are common to all (Sergiovanni, 1990).

Kenneth Leithwood (1992) stated that transformational school leaders are in pursuit of four goals:

1. To help staff members develop and maintain a collaborative professional school culture where staff members talk often, observe, critique, and plan together;

2. To foster teacher development, but at the same time to let the teachers adopt a set of goals and plans for their own professional growth;

3. To establish a school mission and strategic plan that everyone is committed to, and to have goals that can be accomplished within a set timetable and that are carefully monitored and changed as needed; and

4. To improve group problem solving by encouraging open discussions.

End Traditional Staff Meetings

It is important that traditional staff meetings become collaborative community and team member meetings. Striving for equity among all members of an organization increases the motivation shown by its members (Smith & Andrews, 1989).

Once a month all members of the faculty should plan and take part in a community meeting to help strengthen the equity between faculty and administrator. To ensure productive future meetings, the facilitator (who can open the meeting with a reading) and the scribe will be determined beforehand. An agenda is also set before the meeting, with topics solicited from all parties. One of the first agenda topics should be about staff development options.

These community meetings should not be used for unimportant announcements, but rather for:

-Acknowledgments

-Respectful listening

-Agenda planning

-Staff successes and other success stories

-Development planning

-School in-service activity planning

In addition to the community meetings, collaborative team meetings (3-6, 6-9, 9-12 teachers) should be held once a week for at least an hour. Successful schools provide teachers with time to work on their classroom procedures and instruction (Chrisman, 2005). One way for teachers to use this time is to engage in informal action research (Chrisman, 2005). Teachers compare different instructional strategies to see which of those strategies resulted in students' learning and/or experiencing new skills. In the 3-6 team meetings, an example of informal action research is developing new practical life activities each month to share. During the team meetings the school should make the materials used in these practical life activities available to everyone, so the teachers in each 3-6 classroom can make these new activities for their classrooms.

Collaborative team meetings for 6-9 teachers might include opportunities for different teachers to share their successes during the year. For example, a teacher might introduce a program in her classroom to improve writing skills with her 6-9 students. She implements this new program, picks several ideas that have worked extremely well with the students, and shares these during a 6-9-team member meeting. …

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