What is a Pedagogical Leader?
Kagan and Bowman (1997) describe a PEDAGOGICAL LEADER as someone who:
- Recognizes that the core of early learning is to ensure quality of the day-to-day lives of the participating children and to support and enhance their growth, development and learning
- Keeps abreast of current trends and issues in early learning and disseminates this information to staff
When this definition was written in 1997, little did we know that the Internet would bring “new ways to connect, collaborate, and share, transforming the way we live and work” and has led to the emergence of a heightened “participatory culture” (Barron, et al, 2011, p. 9). Now a pedagogical leader can disseminate information through social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Kagan and Bowman (1997) also suggest that pedagogical leadership is linked to:
- How you believe children learn best
- Your program philosophy, goals and everyday practices
Being a pedagogical leader is value laden. How you lead reflects your underlying philosophy. If you believe as we do that children learn best in a social construct that is collaborative, reciprocal and respectful then you too will recognize teachers learn best that way as well!
The grade 6 students at Richland Academy have a wonderful construct of community and leadership.
I have always been fascinated by the big idea of leadership in early learning. Teaching a leadership course last year in the Bachelor of Child Development program was actually the provocation for this research project. I would not have known about the capacity of social media for professional learning if it were not for the 2012 graduating class of the Bachelor of Child Development (BCD) degree program as they inspired and supported me to question my old ways of doing things with a new social media challenge. I went from using no social media tools to having multiple!
Through social media my world has expanded. Working with Marlina Oliveira from Richland Academy. Together with Marlina I had the opportunity to collaborate with early learning professionals who are explored the potential of social media as they pursued their own professional learning and research goals.
It is with the support of Marlina that this was made possible. It was through her pedagogical leadership. I have seen evidence of this leadership in her willingness to share the process of documentation with the teachers and children in the junior kindergarten class. I am inspired by Marlina’s words and it reminds us to think deeply, reflect, and to share big ideas!
Initially, I thought the “big idea” of today’s lesson was the construction of ice sculptures. But much to my surprise, it was much more than that. I was overcome with joy and awe by the natural socialization transpiring among my small group of JK children. They demonstrated to me, that intuitively they could collaborate and share with one another – sharing and negotiating ice pieces from group to group, that best fit their designs. Communication was abundant, as they correctly and effectively used new found words to explain their designs, and to share ideas with their classmates to assist them in their creations. Agility and adaptability surfaced several times when their designs did not work as they had envisioned, or when pieces required for their designs were no longer available to them. They adapted the situation to work in favour of their designs. When we speak of creative critical thinking, curiosity and imagination, plenty of this was present, as they critically planned their sculpture designs.
I asked Marlina five questions based on this recent article in the Globe and Mail newspaper, posted on my Pinterest Leadership Board http://pinterest.com/dianekashin/
- What is your vision for Richland Academy?
- How would you describe your leadership style?
- How do you foster creativity and innovation at Richland Academy?
- What inspires you?
- How do you visualize the future at Richland Academy?
I also asked Marlina one more question based on our musings about the big idea of social media as a source for professional learning and a pedagogical leadership tool: What do you see as the relationship between social media and pedagogical leadership in a Reggio inspired environment?
These are Marlina’s thoughtful answers:
On her vision for Richland Academy – “As a community, we collaboratively look beyond our enriched and stimulating curriculum to strengthen the developing skills of tomorrow’s successful leaders. We nurture and empower our students to strive for excellence, demonstrate depth in character and confidence, and take initiative and responsibility to for their choices. We foster capable life-long learners, who are driven by purpose and passion, and serve with humility and grace. We believe in a balanced, child-centered and holistic education. We believe in an integrated and interdependent curriculum. We believe in the enduring ability to learn from our surroundings, from each other, and from ourselves. We believe in limitless possibilities”. The above excerpt is taken from our mission, vision and school promise statements. When I reflected on the answer I was going to provide you, I found it challenging to come up with something different than the above words. Our guiding statements were crafted in the beginning days of Richland, back in 2002. They have stood strong since then, and they continue to guide and lead us into the future. What I can tell you is that the vision was written with the image of the child in mind … what we desired for a child today and for tomorrow. Oh how we have come full circle due to the magic of being Reggio inspired.
One of the many panels displayed in the halls of Richland Academy honouring a Reggio inspired image of the child.
On her leadership style – My initial response to this question was to say that I primarily espouse a democratic/participative leadership style, one that is most reflective of the Reggio philosophy. I am a believer in team work, collaboration, the sharing of ideas and the modeling of the skills and dispositions of a 21st century learner for a common goal. Upon reflection of the various leadership styles, I realized being a transformational leader requires developing an approach that embraces a myriad of qualities from the different styles. In order to be true to your vision and recognizing that each person is at a different stage of their development and learning. I came to the realization that despite being a democratic and transformational leader, I may at times personify a different style dependent on the situation. What is vital during any change or transformation is to inspire your team by infusing passion, energy and enthusiasm into everything you do to fulfill the school’s vision. More importantly, is to build relationships with each member of your team based on trust, respect, honesty, integrity, and care. Ideally to foster any change, I believe a leader needs to stay focused on the vision, continuously moving their team forward, whilst never sacrificing the positive foundation on which the relationships have been built. In fact, a deep rooted desire of transformational leaders is to not only to transform the environment and the learning model, but to help transform people too.
The Grade 5 students reflect the strong sense of personal identity within a collaborative community at Richland Academy.
On fostering creativity and innovation – I have come to realize while on my journey to being Reggio inspired that the methods and strategies we employ with our children, we do as well with our colleagues, so that we may foster excellence, creativity and innovation. It is important to create an environment that will stimulate, nurture and challenge new ideas. This can be achieved by providing resources, materials, opportunity for collaboration and professional learning within and outside of the school environment. It is important to value the time required to listen and to observe what people are interested in, to take note of where their strengths and interests lie, and then connect them to projects, people and opportunities that they may lead forward. The diversity of ideas, skills and talents that we bring to the table as a collective, is what enriches the learning experiences for our children. Recently in my research, I came upon the 3 R’s of learning – Risk, Reflection, and Relationships. In combination, these 3 elements are essential for the on-going creation of new ideas, theories and processes which ultimately improve the learning for children.
Kindergarten children at Richland Academy create a visual representation of the importance of collaboration and community.
On what inspires – I am inspired by lifelong learning. The emotions I experience when I learn something new and which deepen my leaning) which occurs several times daily) is exhilarating. Being Reggio inspired not only touched me professionally but personally as well. I see life through a different lens, and every new learning opportunity is magical. I have developed an insatiable appetite for new knowledge and skills. Additionally, this quest has intensified since my introduction to social media. The power this medium offers us in acquiring knowledge … is extraordinary! I am also most inspired when I am able to share this new found learning with others who are like minded and like spirited.
An inspirational invitation to explore light in the Senior Kindergarten Room at Richland Academy.
On the future – Ah … what a most interesting question! I have so many ideas and dreams for Richland, but the one that supersedes all, is that Richland is recognized as a respectful and credible educational institute that will become a hub for creative and innovative learning for students, parents and educators alike.
On the relationship between social media and leadership – I have been exploring this idea as an action research project. Based on my initial findings, I believe that there is an essential and strong relationship between being a pedagogical leader and social media in a Reggio inspired environment. Social media is the new medium for sharing information. Articles, research, images, notifications of events, and much more can be distributed and reviewed instantly with your team. Material can be collected and shared daily; by the hour, the minute, the second. In a Reggio inspired learning environment, the teacher is seen as a co-learner and researcher. Having current, relevant, authentic and useable information available and accessible for teaching and learning is a huge benefit to their work, to their classroom, to the children and the learning community. As a pedagogical leader, I see my role as supporting and encouraging on-going learning and professional development of my team to keep them current, engaged and inspired. While personally engaging with social media, I ultimately have the opportunity to connect to others and to extend those relationships to form a professional learning network. I am only at the beginning of this fascinating inquiry and I look forward to what I will discover.
Some of the many ways you can connect with Richland Academy and Marlina:
I thank Marlina for her answers and know that what we all will discover by engaging with social media is that it is a platform for leaders but that anyone can be a leader because social media represents a democratic and participatory culture by its very nature. I hope to see more and more Reggio inspired educators taking the leap into this fascinating pool of possibilities!