Welcome to the uLead podcast, brought to you by the Council for School Leadership of the Alberta Teachers Association. In this session, we bring you a presentation from a LeadMeet gathering that was held at the Royal Glenora Club in Edmonton in January of 2023. Lead meets are gatherings organized by the CSL, where local leaders share their tips for positively impacting student learning.
In this session, we'll hear Christine Jones discuss distributed leadership at her school.
So, tell me again why being a principal is fun...
Well, I'm not sure I can answer that question, but I do think that I, you know, I, I do think a great deal of my. I try to have fun. I just wanna thank Mark the opportunity and his counsel, and I just wanna say to the ladies that were performing, like, that's phenomenal work. So congratulations on putting your foot in it and stepping that way.
So our task, um, was to share briefly a strategy or mindset that's working for us in our leadership, um, this year. And I would say rather than a strategy, I'm, I'm gonna share a stance and that stance is distributed leader. And it's wonderful to see so many friends here tonight and and new friends, and it's great to get back together.
10 minutes is not that long, so, so let's do this. Okay. Let's just do this. So, In 2008, um, to 2016, I was an ap. Uh, couple different high schools. Not really important anymore cause I kind of forget about it. Um, from 2016 to 2022, um, I was a principal at Ball and School in northeast Edmonton, K to nine school with extreme complexities and, and, um, beautifully, beautifully complex place.
Uh, and got to work with many colleagues in this room that, uh, that were just an exceptional time in my. in the fall, I, I got a call, Christina Hanson . I'm like, how long is that gonna take me to get to work ? Because I live farther than Mark Rose works in Stony Plain. I live west of Stony Plain and at the time my, I.
Assistant superintendent said, well, it's right off the Hinde . And I said, yeah, but what side? ? So it's about 10 minutes longer than the trip to Baldwin. Uh, and not, when you think of that, it's almost 20 kilometers more. That's not too bad, I suppose, but, um, I'm really glad I'm making that drive every day is the point of that little story.
What are these pictures standing for in my work? Well, . My dogs have absolutely nothing to do with that than they like to chase. Birds, big birds, even snow, snow. These are swans. The flew over our acreage. But, um, if those swans had landed in the field, my dogs would've thought they could catch them. They're really not that bright
Um, what does distributed leadership mean? It's kind of like these, these birds, when you watch birds in the sky training for their flights around and back and forth throughout the. You, you quickly see how they start to jostle and work together. So distributed leadership to me means, um, you know, that, that the work is distributed.
There's a lot of research and distributed leadership, uh, and, and a lot of research in transforming school leadership. But rather than bore you with that research, because it, there's a lot out there and I'm just gonna ask you to trust me. Um, I'll illustrate with an example cuz I think that's a, a bit better use of my 10.
It has been my experience that any one time with the right conditions and the right supports, people are willing to take responsibility and risks in order to be mentored and coached through their leadership journey. In the process of building this culture successfully in a school to all other community, we can build outstanding teaching and learning communities and cultures and that celebrate and share our shared vision and journey does not mean all folks are in a.
Rather they are in alignment. I like that word. Just need you to be in alignment, . And if they cannot be in alignment, well there's lots of choices for a better fit elsewhere. also, occasionally performance management happens and that's okay too. EMM Public Schools has a great leadership model. Uh, it's from this model that I've grown up in, uh, to understand my stance of distributed leader.
In the fall when I was a scientist, van Hansen one and Sve Hansen is a bit of an anomaly, uh, in the world, um, because it's far northeast, one of the fastest growing areas in the city of Edmonton. Um, and it is, um, a high growth model school, which in our, in our system means that. I can only accommodate 55% of the kids in our neighborhood.
The other 45% go to two Runoffs. Um, two as we're gonna call them now. Friendly overflow schools,
And I work with those friendly principles, you know, because they're having to now have, you know, all sorts of lovely modulars brought in. It's gonna look lovely. I keep telling 'em how excited I am for them , um, because Finn Hansen is over a hundred percent full and it can only accommodate that 55%. So there are unique challenges, but the leadership stance for me has never changed from leadership stance I've had for years, even as an assistant principal.
So what is that stance? . Well, in a nutshell, this is the model that, that I, that I subscribed to, uh, in my work, uh, and how I walk in the school in August. Um, you may know Christine LeClair, she's an exceptional assistant principal, exceptional administrator, um, and lucky enough to have her at Smith Hansen.
So I invited her over for beer cuz that seemed to be a recent, decent thing to do to a new assistant Princip. I have a bit of a, she doesn't live far from me. I have a little bit of a beer garden at my place. So I invited her over and I tried to gently tell her that she was opening the school in the fall, and I tasked her with that because I put complete trust in her.
I didn't know her, but I put complete trust in her to complete that process. And then what I set to work, was supporting her getting to know the community, the staff, and the school processes. She did an outstanding job, even though she had tons of questions along the way, um, and needed, uh, she just needed to know that I, I was supporting her, her work, but she was then able to, as I watched her work, a able to transform her own leadership even in a short time and utilize the front.
To lean in and on and build capacity, not only in herself, but in the admin assistants who were helping her, who had been there for, for quite a while. So I just basically sat bad and read back and read my emails. Um, no, that's not true. . Uh, she, she then, um, helped me understand that my work with many on that team started to encompass the defining of our roles and responsibilities.
I hadn't even. Uh, the second day p yet we opened school with just the one. Um, since then, we've, we've made a few different hires. The learning of our systems and processes, all of these things that you see in this model needed to be defined. But I couldn't define those things until I had the whole team together because the last thing you wanna do is put something in place and then invite a couple people to be part of your model, and then that's not very distributed.
That's kind of the. Um, we needed to clearly define our roles and responsibilities and align our office support strategically. Then instead about expanding the team for a curriculum coordinator, a library tech, and a success coach. That helped us with priority number three in our division, which is our comprehensive school approach and framework.
So all the way, you know, there was lots of coaching that was going on. Um, so I think it's important. That, if I give an analogy, um, I would say working with a team, the team is F Hansen was, is like running a sport team. Um, in the end, they need to want to play for me. Um, in the end, you know, that that's really what it's about.
They have to, they have to be able to trust you and you have to be able to trust them that you have their backs and that you're going to support them even when they make. , my experience has taught me that the more responsibilities the members of the team are trusted with, the more and more confident and competent their gameplay becomes.
This then supports the entire school and they start to work with other staff, students, and families utilizing the stance they themselves are now modeling. So another really quick example of this is today we had the curriculum coordinator hosted, um, hosted all, all. Um, all the teachers and admins are the education assistant, sorry, in a ELL presentation by our, our divisional consultant in our catchment.
And she came up to me afterwards and she said, I noticed you weren't there. And I said, oh, then why do you think I wasn't there? She said, that's because you trust me. And I said, yes, it's because I trust you and I don't need to be there, cuz I know you're going to do the right work to support our. So in closing, everyone's welcome.
It's Van Hansen. Uh, if you're ever in the area and you wanna visit, please stop by. We'd love to, love to have you. Okay, thank you.