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A leader is considered to be a person who knows about the people being led and managed, communicating values and priorities and modelling good practice. Effective leaders adopt a strategic approach and lead by example. Most importantly they know that people are their key resources and without them, there would be no organization to lead and managed (Kydd, 2003).
An effective headteacher should have some basic characteristics that distinguish him from the other staff of the school. As Smith (1993) implies, “an effective headteacher has a vision and a mission for the school. He inspires commitment to the school’s mission and so gives direction and purpose to its work. He coordinates the work of the school by allocating roles and delegating responsibilities, encouraging staff involvement in professional development programmes and makes use of the skills teachers acquire in these programmes”. He recognizes the work that is done by others (especially teachers) and gives feedback and reinforcement whenever he considers necessary. He can therefore foster an understanding of the school vision and establish the school climate.
Ubben and Hughes (1992) stated that principals could create a school climate that improves the productivity of both staff and students and that the leadership style of the principal can foster or restrict teacher effectiveness. Definitely, a positive school climate can enhance staff performance, promote higher morale, and improve student achievement (Freiberg, 1998). It may be considered as the one of the most important components of the school reform. A positive school climate promotes higher academic achievement, helps students realize and reach their maximum potentials and generally contribute to the improvement and effectiveness of the school.
If principals are highly skilled, they can develop feelings of trust, open communications, collegiality, and promote effective feedback. In the complex environment of schools, all headteachers need to understand teachers’ perceptions of their behaviors. They must know and understand how to provide the foundation for creating an atmosphere conducive to change. They must also be able to become conscious of the needs of their teachers, empower them to share the vision, and enable them to create an effective school climate.
A skilled headteacher is the one that has sensitivity towards personal problems of the others. He is able to understand peoples’ needs, according to their background and their emotional issues (Smith, 1993). He is not only a typical, professional headteacher, but also a human with feelings and principles. Besides, by showing interest towards teachers’ and pupils’ problems, he can reduce the employees’ negative attitudes in their school working environment and make both teachers and pupils feel valuable.
In a school’s environment, good communication and collaboration between the teachers, is of great importance.
Collegiality is strongly related with the interdependence of the teachers in the school. The good relationships among them are essential and vital, because, as Barth (1990) argues “relationships between them are the sine qua non that allow, energize, and sustain all other attempts at school improvement”.
Andrew Hargreaves (Bennett et al., 1992, p.81) argues that:
“Collegiality forms a significant plank of policies to restructure schools from without and to reform them from withinâ€¦ School improvement, curriculum reform, teacher development, and leadership development are all seen as being dependent, to some extent, on the building of positive collegial relationships for their success”.
Considering the impacts of a positive climate in a collaborative school environment, we can not dissent with the above statement. It is true that when the interpersonal and professional relations of the school staff, and specifically teachers’ relations are good, then the communication within the school flourishes. In cases where teachers develop friendly relations, discussing not only school’s matters, then the communication between them is improved, given that they interact not only as colleagues but as friends too.
From my little experience in schools, I have to say that in school environments, where teachers were actually communicating, their performance was much better comparing with those whose relations were not as collegial as they should have been. After all as Willi Unsoeld, (Johnson and Johnson, 1994, p.8:7) a famous mountaineer, once said to a group of mountain climbers, “Pull togetherâ€¦ in the mountains you must depend on each other for survival”. Teaching is strongly related with mountain climbing. Like mountaineers, teachers should have confidence to the abilities of their colleagues, support the efforts that are made by the others, recognize their contribution and finally believe that their competences are being utilized and valued by the other teachers.
It is undoubtedly acceptable and understood that the headteacher’s role in the process of improving communication in school is substantial. He is considered to be the key figure in enabling the development of human relations, especially between teachers, training to work within the school as a whole.
Colin Riches (Bush and West- Burnham, 1994, p.261) points out that “Effective management has to start from a full understanding of the details of how the communication process impacts on every management activity”. Because of the headteacher’s influence, it is important that he or she communicate effectively with the others. However, in order for good communication to be achieved, communication channels should be open both ways. By this I mean that the principal should be accessible to everyone in the school. Coursen and Thomas (Smith and Piele, 1991, p.) write that “it is important for people to feel you are available and welcome personal contact with them”.
Roger Major (Smith and Piele, 1991, p.) argues that “principals can use sincere praise whenever possible to create a more constructive atmosphere in schools”. Indeed, recognizing the work that teachers do in the school, can improve the relationships between them, since the teachers will feel valued and appreciated. Even the negative feedback will not influence school’s positive climate, if it is done in the right way, like in a personal discussion and not in public.
In reviewing the literature, we find that negotiation skills are also indispensable for an effective headteacher who wants to cultivate good communication and improve the conditions in the school. Riches (Bush and West- Burnham, 1994, p.260) defines negotiation as ” a way of reconciling interests and reducing conflict in situations where people have to interact with one another but where no side is powerful enough to impose its will”. The headteacher should be able to extinguish all the conflicts that may occur between the staff, and restore the cooperative climate in school; thus, it is so important for the principal to avoid favouritism, be fair, objective and diplomatic.
From all written above, the role of the headteacher in the development of a positive, communicative and collaborative climate in schools is incontestable and unquestioned. All these skills are gathered in the definition of the headteachers’ role, given by Southworth( Bush and Middlewood, 1997, p.40) who writes that:
“The heads take an active interest in the teachers’ work and lives; they attend to teachers’ individual and collective needs and interests; they establish ways in which staff can share and talk about their work in the classrooms (e.g. showing assemblies, staff meetings, informal visits by the head to teachers in their classrooms after school)”.
Acting in this way, most of the headteachers seek to establish and maintain an organizational culture that facilitate openness, sharing and communication in their schools.
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