Becoming a Pedagogical Leader 

Our profession is an interesting one.  We are professionals, yet we are often the only adult in the room.  If you so desired, you could show up to work, invite the kids in, close the door, teach however you felt like, send the kids home and close the door behind you on your way out.  If you've made it this far on the website, I assume you do not fit into this category of teacher.  But if you do, I would bet that the 'teach however you feel like' is extraordinary and should be shared with colleagues well beyond the walls of your classroom and school.  Become a pedagogical leader is all about communication.  Leadership in general is about communication.  There are no closed door leaders.  In order to become a pedagogical leader we must understand what leadership is and we must understand the environment in which we will lead.  The final section of this website will help disseminate what good leadership is and will highlight how we can weave this into education to become Pedagogical Leaders in our classrooms, schools, communities and beyond.   

Dr. Wess Roberts wrote 'Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun.'  From his work we see that Attila was a leader we can learn a lot from.  As Dr. Roberts suggests, Attila has been portrayed as barbaric and destructive.  But Attila had quite the task for the Huns were "a nation of loosely bound tribes in perpetual migration."  Getting them to work together in hopes of toppling the Roman Empire took great leadership.  Attila had the benefit of being born into royalty and was the King of the Huns.  But there had been kings before him.  When Attila turned 12 he was sent to live with the Romans as a hostage.  While he was there, he learned everything he could about the Romans, for future reference.  Attila's ability to unify up to "700,000 barbarians" under one single purpose is, to this day, one of the greatest leadership feats ever accomplished.  Unfortunately, the Roman Empire was to strong for his army.  But the leadership traits of Attila are ones we can take with us as well.  Here are just some of the traits demonstrated as suggested by Dr. Roberts:

When we think of great leaders we often think of contradictory characteristics. A president or prime minister may lead with power and authority where as a leader such as Gandhi led with humility and compassion.  There are hundreds of characteristics that could be labeled qualities of a leader and there may be disagreement surrounding many of them.  That is because leadership is situational. A good leader can navigate one or two situations.  A great leader can lead infinitely longer and has the foresight to know when to step back and when to step forward depending on the situation.

Paulo Freire is another leader that we can learn from as well.  He too stood up for what he believed in.  He fought to help the oppressed, to the point that he was put in jail.  Because he gave a voice to others, his voice became louder and now, even though he has died, his work continues to inspire people around the world. Similar sentiments could be said about Nelson Mandela.  He too refused to remain silent.  He would not have been a closed door teacher.  

Alexander Sutherland Neill was another great leader who's legacy continues to fuel the Summerhill School in the United Kingdom.  The Editor's Introduction to 'Summerhill School: A new View of Childhood' begins with "Alexander Sutherland Neill was thirty-seven years old when he started his school Summerhill back in 1921 and he was already well established in England as a radical educational theorist through his early books on education."  Neill made sure his voice was heard.  The following video describes what Summerhill School is all about.  The school is intriguing and the video will no doubt make you think.  I encourage you to watch it through the lens of Pedagogical Leadership. 

We've all played the icebreaker game where we pass a ball of yarn across a circle of people, creating a web.  The imagery of this icebreaker is quite important to me.  I use it to describe how I navigate my life.  

Imagine that each person around the circle is a stakeholder in education.  I envision the child, the educators, the system, the community, the government, the parents, the environment, future employers and researchers, among others. Perhaps you envision others as well.  Now imagine that education is a bowling ball that is supported by the web of yarn.  We have to trust that each stake holder will hold on to their purpose appropriately.  If they hold on too tightly they may pull the yarn out of the hands of others, causing education to fall.  If they don't hold on tightly enough, they may drop the yarn they are holding, causing education to fall.  The more we understand about ourselves and about the rest of the stakeholders holding the web, the sturdier the web becomes.  I imagine a web where there is a direct line of communication between each of the stakeholders, just like The Web of Rights, each stakeholder connects to the others. With communication comes understanding and with understanding comes trust.

Thank you for visiting my site.  I trust the information in this website has left you with at least the following: ​

  • strategies to help you be authentic to yourself in the face of policy that may constrain;

  • a better understanding of who you are as a learner and an educator; and

  • a reinvigorated desire to continue making public education better

If you would like to provide feedback or suggest ways in which you have been caught between pedagogy and policy, please visit the suggestion page here, or email me here

All of the leaders listed above worked through hegenomy.  This is the dominance, influence or authority over another.  What's more is that these leaders wanted to change the system that dominated over them from within the realm the very system was created.  The educational example of Neill shows us that he wanted to change the education system by breaking free of the barriers built by the education system.  Leaders set goals and reach them.  Leaders implement change. With the right vantage point great leaders provide themselves with the gift of foresight and the ability to view progress through the eyes of others.   

A.S. Neill disagreed with the current system so he created a system that worked for the majority of the stakeholders.  Not all stakeholders, as Tony Blair's government didn't like what was going on.  But as we heard in the clip, they felt threatened by children who don't conform.

"It does encourage, to a very great extent, children to question and challenge rather than to conform.  And I think that does constitute to a threat."

  • loyalty

  • courage

  • desire

  • stamina

  • empathy

  • decisiveness

  • aniciaption

  • accountability

  • timing

  • self-confidence

  • responsibility

  • dependability

That's a lot of characteristics isn't it?  He didn't use them all at the same time, but he knew when to use each one appropriately.  

So how do we as classroom educators work with policy makers and most importantly, children, to create a system that honours every stakeholder?

All images not sited taken from Creative Commons

Proudly created by Cameron McCuaig