To what extent are we defined by, and/or perhaps limited by, these "titles"? As I begin my transition from classroom teacher to Vice-Principal, it's a question that has taken on a new significance to me. As our education system continues to adapt and evolve to meet the changing needs of our students, our roles must also evolve to reflect a more collaborative approach to student learning. We all agree that this needs to be a team effort. And there's no debate that students, parents and individuals from our larger school community are integral members of this "team". And so with this shift towards a more collaborative and collective approach to education, how important is the language that we use to define our shifting and evolving "roles"?
Anyone who has had to decipher a particularly challenging Shakespearean play, or an ambiguous text from a teenager is acutely aware that language is constantly evolving, and the language of education is no different. Among the numerous newly coined terms and titles (there are actually online dictionaries of educational jargon) we see a move towards "Lead Learners" instead of principals or superintendents and "Teacher Leaders" instead of department heads, to name but a few. In his recent blog post, "There Should Be More Than One 'Lead Learner'", George Couros shared his reluctance to use the term "Lead Learner" in reference to school and district leaders, suggesting that to acknowledge and value the shared expertise that exists in many school communities, "the term 'lead leader' could and should be applied to many". In the same way, I am somewhat wary of the term "teacher leader". If we label some teachers as "leaders" in a school, then what does that imply about the others?
So how important is this re-naming? Does it actually signify a significant shift in perceptions, roles and responsibilities, or it simply just assigning a new title to the same traditional roles and hierarchies that have always existed within school communities? Kristi Blakeway, principal of Harry Hooge Elementary, recently wrote a post entitled "I'm Not THAT Principal: Re-Imagine the Role", in which she addresses some of the stereotypes that exist about school principals. I appreciate her thinking behind "re-imagining" the principal persona, which even extends to the way that we organize and arrange our office spaces to be more inclusive and welcoming.
I'd like to think that when I assume my new "role" in administration I won't be that Vice-Principal. But how much will this desire to "re-imagine" my role will be constrained by the systems that are already in place? To some extent, my concerns were addressed when I had the opportunity to take on an Acting Vice-Principal role. It was reassuring to confirm that strong and trusting relationships are as integral in an administrative role as they are for the classroom teacher, and that a collaborative, inclusive approach that values student voice and input from families and community members is an essential component of establishing and effectively communicating a clear vision for a school.
So as we continue on this journey to re-define what our education system looks like for our students, how important is it that our language reflects this evolution? In homage to my English teacher roots, would a rose by any other name smell as sweet?