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'Real learning gets to the heart of what it means to be human. Through learning we become able to do something we never were able to do. Through learning we re-perceive the world and our relationship to it. Through learning we extend our capacity to create, to be part of the generative process of life.' (Senge, 1990, p.14)
'Learning' is the bread of our minds. From infancy to adulthood we gain and seek for knowledge in one way or another in order to grow and excel in life. However, if learning is limited and kept to one's interests without transmitting it, no progress, no innovations, no relationships, and no community are being developed. In that, Pierre Bourdieu presented the idea that education leads to social reproduction and a stratified society by honoring the cultural capital of elite classes. We learn best in social contexts, through mind, and emotions; our intelligence is based on our learning community. For that, I believe that schools as opened social systems are influenced by the complex interaction between its internal and external worlds, and also between individual's feelings about their work and working relationships. Accordingly, schools' effectiveness rise from the core of the school culture and its competitive advantage gain from both individual and collective continuing learning. Because, becoming a "learning organization" without creating learning atmosphere is an exercise in vanity. Learning climate is only favorable when employers take specific, carefully planned steps to ensure that their employees learn. So, the key functions for schools as Learning Organizations are somehow as Peter Senge in 'Fifth Discipline' (1990) proposed: to develop a culture where people feel free to expose their mental maps ; know where they stand and have the ability to change (self-awareness), learn to be open with others (openness & trust), understand how their organization really works (systems thinking), form a plan everyone can agree on (shared vision), and then work together to achieve that vision (team building for better learning). As Figure1 shows:
Effective School Culture:
An effective school culture should advocate, nurture, communicate values and sustain instructional program that are beneficial to students' learning and staff professional growth. Therefore a climate of trust and openness are essential in order to transmit school's values and to support the importance of shared knowledge. Each school member should communicate and foster a professional dialogue within and outside the school community to facilitate reflection about practice, help teachers become more thoughtful and decision makers, in order to achieve school's goals. When the school culture spread a spirit of sharing knowledge among teachers, administrators, students and parents, it emphasizes not only openness but also it flags a respectful behavior where each and every one is valued for his/her disseminating knowledge. Finally, 'The organization that will truly excel in the future will be the organizations that discover how to tap people's commitment and capacity to learn at all levels in an organization' (Senge, 1990, p.4) In other words, my school culture will be built on a main axes which is 'Learning Community'.
Why learning community?
Figure 2 presents my beliefs for why I might want to create a learning organization.
When one's 'starts with turning the mirror inward; learning to unearth [his/her] internal pictures of the world, to bring them to the surface and hold them rigorously to scrutiny.' (Senge, 1990, p.9) She/he will be able to balance between reality and personal vision with perceptions and to integrate both into a rational awareness. Consequently, school culture will expose less irrational actions that lead to insignificant models of attitude; less escaping or by passing of difficult situations.
Openness and Trust
A climate of trust and openness among teachers, parents, and school leaders enhances significantly the routine work of schools and is a key resource for individual growth and learning. Through communication and openness, both self-reflection and group reflection allow individuals to become proficient at analyzing things as a day-to-day job. It fosters people to tackle new challenges in order to fulfill their needs. As Confucius said 'Learning without reflection is a waste, reflection without learning is dangerous'. Finally, a common appreciation and cooperation requires treating administrators, supervisors, teachers, students, parents, and employees equally and always with respect to one's capability to positively add to the organization, despite of what is the social background and where he/she is positioned in the organizational hierarchy.
'Each has an influence on the rest, an influence that is usually hidden from view.' (Senge, 1990, p.7) That's why it is very important to focus on interrelationships between divisions of an organization. Because 'Learning' is a cycle where each individual should reflect before, during and after each activity in order to break the system isolation and get to solve real obstacles. We 'can only understand the system of a rainstorm by contemplating the whole, not any individual part of the pattern' (Senge, 1990, p.7). Furthermore, system thinking emphasizes:
* Entire rather than pieces, and underlines the role of system interconnections
* Circular feedback Rather than linear cause and effect
Linear Cause and Effect
Presenting and describing as a school leader what school he/she seeks to become, is the key of an effective school. As Yogi Berra says, "If you don't know where you are going, you probably aren't going to get there." Schools are complex places, and teaching is not an easy job. If schools do not have a clear and shared vision where student's learning is in its core, programs become disintegrated, teachers lose motivation, and professional growth fails. In addition, my schools' community will be building on a shared vision that is based on a set of fundamental beliefs to which my school community can commit. 'The practice of shared vision involves the skills of unearthing shared 'pictures of the future' that foster genuine commitment and enrollment rather than compliance.' (Senge, 1990, p.9)
Team Building for Better Learning
Learning is occurred when one's collectively reflects on his/her experience and builds on each other's ideas; and where one's expands his/her thinking value. That's why a professional dialogue is a must in order to develop the shared vision. Team building for better learning should present direct and ongoing support to schools which are looking to improve teaching, learning, and achievement. 'The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as we continue to live.' Mortimer Adler. Finally, creating teams in schools is essential because teachers can on a weekly basis meet during the school time to prepare cooperatively lessons plans, and to share responsibilities for all the students, which are all teachers' kids and not just someone's kids.
Accordingly, principals are the leaders to improve teaching and learning. 'The leaders, who work most effectively, never say "I." They don't think "I." They think "we"; they think "team." This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done' Peter F. Drucker.
Effective School Leader
Leadership is not a one person job; in schools, each individual can play a leadership role at one point of time and make vital contributions. Strong and effective leaders are Instructional ones; who create positive climates, consider the interconnected school's part as whole, and promote a professional learning community among school's member. In other words 'leaders in learning organization are responsible for building organizations where people are continually expanding their capabilities to shape their future. That is, leaders are responsible for learning' (Senge, 1990, p.235) As Figure 3 shows.
School leadership in a professional learning community should play multiple roles; as administrator, teacher collaborates, supporter; who cares for each other's growth, and reforms individuals' systemic roles as professionals. A school leader should shift from individualistic capacity to organizational interrelationships where no isolation of events and where he/she can maintain social authenticity and provide a positive climate which supports quality learning not only for students but also for teachers and administrators.
Leader as a Manager
A Leader without managerial skills will be ineffective when it comes to assessing time cards, reviewing employees' tasks, and organizing school daily work. For instance, he/she should thinks and plans strategically, align resources with desired outcomes, assign employees' job duties, schedule workshops, hire employees, and he/she should also measure success in terms of efficient and cost effectiveness. 'The technical leadership force is very important because its presence, competently articulated, ensures that the school will be managed properly.' (Sergiovanni, 2001, p.101)
Leader as a Teacher
The complexity of teaching process provides a need to be a coach, a mentor and a supervisor to enhance teachers' professional development. A school leader as a teacher, can build from his/her own teaching experiences valuable challenging insight that teachers might face in the classroom. In addition, he/she should rank him/herself as one of the guides and as one of the patterns for teachers who, in the face of major changes, has to become learners themselves. In addition, As a mentor, the leader should not only share professional knowledge with teachers, but also, should communicates a readiness to be open, tolerant, yet observant; creates a vision and trust that there are no overwhelming obstacles to beliefs, needs, and promises; and advocates for their rights and requests. Mentoring teachers is extremely important because school leaders can see the 'big picture', they are aware of the culture of the school and the problems facing other teachers. Finally, they support and assist teachers by providing the teachers the knowledge and the appropriate practice to improve their skills on their own. They make sure all school's members are effectively communicating among each other through a professional dialogue in order to compel a clear picture of the future. 'Leaders as teachers help people restructure their views of reality to see beyond the superficial conditions and events into the underlying causes of problems, and therefore to see the new possibilities for shaping the future.' (Senge, 1990, p.238)
Leader as a Servant
"The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the leader is a servant." ' Max Dupree. Opposite to traditional leader definition where leaders are considered top-to-bottom relationship, nowadays a new view of leadership emerged where leaders serve others over their self-interest and self-promotion. As a school leader, he/she should seek to enhance the personal professional growth of school's members and improve the outcomes through a combination of listening, caring, motivating, purposing, and empowering, as Figure 4 summarizes:
Public Relation Leader (PRL) main goal is to enhance academic achievement by sustaining school's teachers, parents, students, and community through well-planned contribution, communications, and public relations activities. Public Relation as a traditional profession is known by protecting the 'image' of the organization, preparing press releases, writing speeches, design, and producing video news releases, etc. And as 'images' are nothing more than what people believe, they construct their own judgments--their own images--about organization. 'People often use schemas, cognitive frameworks that systematize our 'knowledge' about other people, situations, objects, and ideas that we generate through experience, to effectively organize information about these phenomena.' (Bowditch & Buono, 2001, p. 39) Therefore, PRL should exercise the following: