Many of us, as we completed coursework through our principal preparation programs, really didn’t understand fully the concepts of collaboration. I worked to prepare as a school leader at the institution where I now serve as coordinator of that same principal preparation program, and even though we were deeply entrenched in the philosophy of collaborative leadership (and the current students still are), one really can’t fully understand the implications of this until in an administrative position, having to negotiate the nuances of major or “minor” changes that are made from year to year during the summer months.
Whenever I have the opportunity to encourage a principal candidate to complete an internship experience in the summer, I highly encourage this due to what I’m describing above. The work that occurs among the school and district leaders during the summer work is important (vital in fact), grueling, patience-requiring and often a little contentious until the team is able to come to an agreement. Like working in collaboration with students and teachers, the administrators, most of whom have years of experiences and thoughtful ideas about what decisions will have the highest impact on student learning and growth, have to also “play nice in the sandbox” and learn to allow the spaces for each individual to move past the positions but get to the root of why a certain rule should be different or what professional development will be planned for teachers. Furthermore, the issue of student scheduling is very challenging (especially at the high school level) and different administrators come to the situation with differing expertise and beliefs about learning to guide them.
The challenge comes in school leadership when members of the leadership team are operating under multiple sets of values. Finding the compatibility and the integration of ideas is REALLY challenging when one thought process is looking solely toward school improvement (i.e. improving student test scores to make AYP) as opposed to individual student growth. It reminds me of the different camps in the research field, some only finding that qualitative has value and some finding that only quantitative is valuable. Like integrating the different values of members of a leadership team, one also has to find a balance in the type of research utilized in districts and schools in the decision making process.