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  • Writer's pictureKaren Caswell

Authentic Leadership

Updated: Sep 25, 2019

As I prepare to officially begin in my new position of Teaching and Learning Co-ordinator on Monday, I’ve been considering what my goals are within this new role. It’s taken plenty of failing forward and reflecting to arrive here, and I want ensure I have clarity around my ‘why’ in this new context. The foundation is still the same as my ‘why’ as a teacher, our students, and my Big Rocks of Reading, Relationships and Student Agency are also still relevant, but I know that my approach as a leader will need to be different to that as a teacher.

As a teacher, I was able to focus on my own class and take risks, innovate and implement learning experiences without having to worry too much about communicating or collaborating with others. At the end of the day, I was mainly only responsible for the progress of my students. However, I’ve always found that way to be isolating, and sought interaction with others. I need to connect with my colleagues and love being part of a team, so I found myself sharing ideas, initiating collaboration and encouraging innovation together. I believe I was a teacher-leader, even without the title, and think this will now be one of my strengths as a leader with a title – understanding of my need for connection will guide my interactions with my colleagues, and underpin the relationships I aim to build.

Building relationships leads me to my ‘why’, and I think that it will still all revolve around my #OneWord2019 – Authentic (you can read my January blog post here). My choice of this word resulted from years of personal growth, which also led to professional growth. My goal of authenticity has three focus areas: Authentic Self, Authentic Learning and Authentic Relationships. Most of what I aimed to achieve as an authentic teacher, will still be relevant as an authentic leader, but I will need to adjust my lens slightly to adapt to the differences my new role will require. In order to continue to be authentic, I have reframed and clarified how I will put authenticity into action. Also, since choosing my #OneWord2019 I’ve been reading a lot of Brene Brown, and so much of it resonates, so be prepared to see a few of her quotes included.

Authentic Self

This one probably changes the least with the change in role. I still need to be my authentic self, and truly believe that only by being so was I able to experience the personal growth necessary for the professional growth required to achieve my leadership aspirations. The value of embracing one’s authentic self can’t be overstated, so I know I need to meet those I serve where they are, accept them for who they are and join them on their journey of discovering their authentic self.

Authentic Learning

Just as learning needs to be of interest and relevant to our students, this same need exists for adults learners too. While some of the professional learning we engage in as educators is driven by the needs of our school, the most valuable learning is driven by our own self-identified needs, interests and passions. I truly believe I am a lifelong learner, and one of my strengths is how I model the value of constantly seeking information, ideas and inspiration to engage and immerse students in learning experiences. My aim is to empower those I serve to pursue their interests and passions and support them to engage in authentic learning, which will result in agentic learning experiences for our students.

Authentic Relationships

We all know this is a ‘big ticket’ item as an educator. It underpins everything we hope to achieve with our students. There are many sayings which emphasise the importance of relationships, including ‘Maslow before Bloom’s’ and ‘Connection before Curriculum’, and they aren’t just cute cliché’s. The power of a meaningful relationship between a student and a teacher has been proven time and again. As Rita Pierson said, “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like,” and the same applies to leaders. Poor leadership can lead to dysfunctional relationships and damage the culture of a school. As a leader, it is just as important to put in the ‘heart work’ with those we serve, as it is with our students. I believe the foundations for building authentic relationships are listening, trust, and respect, so they will be where I focus my efforts. All humans need to feel they are seen, heard and valued.

I’m excited about what the rest of the year will bring, and I’m looking forward to being an AUTHENTIC leader in every way I can!


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