For the purpose of this assignment I have had to carefully evaluate my personal beliefs and how I do things on a daily basis. I grew up in Zimbabwe and went to traditional type schools. Thinking about them now, they were largely teacher-centred environments whereby you learnt what was prescribed by the curriculum and there was no deviation or originality. Learning was somewhat regurgitating facts. There was not much room for curiosity or inquiry. I later studied, by distance learning, for my BEd. Whilst doing that, I was a student teacher at the very school that I attended as a child. And so, through observation, I learnt the teacher-centred approach. After graduating, I taught at a few different schools in my home town, but they were all of similar structure and followed the same educational style. I then relocated to Zambia, where I have been teaching for three years. Although, when I started teaching in Zambia the school was also of a similar mindset as the schools I was familiar with in Zimbabwe; however, one year in, there was a change in management and a shift in mindset. I have been challenged to do things differently and to step out of my comfort zone and to encourage curiosity and inquiry. I have never worked at or attended an IB World School, and so this study helped me to look at the IB Standards, unpack them, identify where I fit in and where I fall short, and develop strategies to professionally develop myself so that I can be closer to what would be expected at an IB World School. In this assignment I will be looking at leadership and professionalism, reflection and some of the IB Standards that I have identified as a developmental need in my own professional practice.
The direction that a school takes and it’s success often comes down to the leadership styles of the leaders and their foresight to prepare children for a world and job opportunities that do not exist today but will play a major part in our lives in the future. Walker (2007) states that leadership is fundamentally concerned with change and leading an organization from where it is now to where it needs to be in the future. I believe that this is only possible if the leader is reflective. The leader should be able to critically reflect in order to be able to identify what changes need to be made and how to go about making the said changes to ensure that the school is relevant and meeting the needs of the children which will have them in good stead in the future.
Clear communication should be utilized to gain support for the change. Through collaboration, plans can be put into place which will hopefully result in the desired change. Within the IB Standards and Practices document, and in the Leadership and Governance section (0201) it implies there is a shared pedagogical leadership or distributed leadership. Hargreaves and Fink (2009) draw a parallel between communities and webs stating that the webs are not without structure but “hierarchal control gives way to shared collaboration”. (Hargreaves and Fink, 2009, p. 184) Henry Mintzberg (2004) explains
“Management has to be everywhere. It has to flow with the activity, which itself cannot be predicted or formalized….. Management also has to be potentially everyone. In a network, responsibility for making decisions and developing strategic initiatives has to be distributed, so that responsibility can flow to whoever is best able to deal with the issue at hand” (p. 141).
Organisations need leaders to contribute and ensure that all contributors are working toward the same common goal. Mintzberg (2004) expresses the importance of leaders energizing people to make better decisions and to do better in their practices. “Effective leadership inspires more than empowers; it connects more than it controls; it demonstrates more than decides. (Mintzberg, p. 143). Transformational Leadership, as defined by Northouse, “is a process that changes and transforms people.” (Northouse, 2016, p. 161). This leadership style resonates with me. The key is to be able to get people to want to change and improve in order to reach the goals set to achieve the IB standard. Walton and Huey (1996) describe four factors to transformational leadership as idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation and individual consideration. In both distributed and transformational leadership styles, there is a need for reflection in order to be able to move in the desired direction. Within the IB, it is implied that through shared pedagogical leadership everyone has a responsibility to carry out their practices in accordance with the IB Standards.
Harris defines distributive leadership as a “mobilising leadership expertise at all levels in the school in order to generate more opportunities for change and to build the capacity for improvement.” Thorpe (2011) points out that distributed leadership has attracted attention in academic literature. However, the term has faced some resistance as it is seen as part of a scheme that is imposed by organizations to avoid consulting their staff (Gosling et al. 2009). Harris and Muijs (2003) suggest that although an autocratic leadership style with a single head was prevalent while a school faced special measures, leadership needed to be shared in order to continue to progress. Through collaborative working all teachers can take the lead in something they are passionate about, therefore, advancing the schools ability to change and develop.
According to the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary and Thesaurus, ‘Professionalism’ (2020) is defined as the combination of all the qualities that are connected with trained and skilled people. The IB World school includes on its pedagogical leadership team an IB-trained programme coordinator who is empowered to facilitate successful programme implementation (IB Practice 0201-02). The IB school supports and facilitates curriculum and programme development (IB Practice 0201-02-0100). In comparison to the school that I work at, whereby some barriers make curriculum development and professional development difficult to achieve. Time is the major constraint as curriculum development falls on one person who is expected to continue with their everyday responsibilities and find the time, which is often personal time, to develop the curriculum. In the IB, “It is a requirement of the programme that time is allocated for teachers to plan collaboratively. Although the IB does not recommend the ratio of teaching time versus coordination time that a school should put in place for the PYP coordinator. However, the pivotal role of the PYP coordinator, as a pedagogical leader, requires that the school recognizes the scope of this responsibility. A workable arrangement should be made to support, as fully as possible, the effectiveness of the coordination of the programme.” (Making the PYP Happen) This can be a cause of stress in the family and affect mental health as you are never able to “check out” of work. In the IB, the professional demonstrates pedagogical knowledge and understanding and a commitment to continued professional development as a way of ensuring sustained best practice.
The professional educator possesses the skills and abilities essential to the profession. The IB World School is committed to ensuring that the programme coordinator completes required professional development that is up to date with the most current version of the progamme(s) under their responsibility (IB Practice 0201-02-0200). In the school that I teach in, there is no professional development on offer, however, if I find my own professional development course and motivate why I believe it is beneficial to attend the course then provisions are made. I believe that part of the reasoning behind this is that if you are not invested in a course and want to learn something specific, you may not get much out of it. However, if it is something I want to do, it will be worth it. Finances and accessibility are also barriers to this Practice being achieved. The school I work at is quite isolated and will require travelling to receive professional development. This makes professional development costly and so out of reach for the staff members. It is possible to overcome these barriers through collaboration. A few responsibilities could be taken away from the person developing the curriculum which will give them additional time without eating into their personal time.
One member of staff could attend a professional development course, and then train and collaborate with other staff members so that everyone receives the benefit of the training. To be a professional is to strive to sharpen your skills so that you can raise the standard of the product you are delivering (i.e education). It is up to each individual to look for ways to improve their skills, whether this is seeking out professional development, collaborating with other staff members or critically reflecting on your own personal practice and making the necessary changes to better yourself.