We all want the same thing – the very best education for our children and future generations.
Looking beyond primary and secondary education, we all support a vision for lifelong learning. While schools and teachers are expected to achieve this, parents also have to share some of the responsibility. It’s time for us all to become a team, not adversaries.
The idea of working together is not as simple as it sounds. Schools are complex organisations with a wide range of stakeholders with varied goals and interests. While parents are focused on the progress and individual results of their own children, teachers may be driven by the need to meet annual targets and percentages. And, while teachers look for a decent salary and an attractive employment package, school- boards are guided by budgets and resources. The result? Parents can feel neglected and isolated. Teachers can feel demotivated if, despite their best efforts, they are seen as failing to meet the required standards. Also, the school board can be so focused on taking control that they fail to engage with parents and teachers on a personal level.
We are all highly educated professionals with a shared passion for learning and education. So, how can we work together, accept our differences, follow our shared passions, and achieve our mutual goals?
The answer is by sharing.
We need to share goals, share successes, share failures and, most importantly, share leadership. How do we achieve this? Quite simply by aligning goals and processes that help to build a commitment to excellence in education at all levels. From the management board to the larger school community, everyone needs to be working towards a shared vision. We need to see actions not just words from all sides. In short, we all need to walk the talk.
Students are expected to experiment, make mistakes and reflect on them – and so must the teachers and the school board. Teachers are expected to accept the failures and struggles of students – and they must accept the failings of the school board and parents as well. By working in partnership, we can all help to provide the very best education for every student.
It’s important to create an environment where it is recognised that no one is perfect. In my experience as a manager, I start by telling a team about my weakness, rather than what I expect from them. I put my heart where my mouth is and invite them to question or criticise me. If they do, I’ll then listen and explain why I did what I did. The outcome? We all learn something from looking at any situation from various different perspectives.
The school board has a responsibility to introduce an inclusive and supportive work environment where all stakeholders can feel valued and accountable. While it’s still very important to have a hierarchy in place, we need to review teachers’ and parents’ ability to participate in decision-making. We need to encourage discussion and dialogue between stakeholders in all aspects of the education, from management and staff meetings to parent meetings and board reviews. There needs to be a wider forum for discussing disagreements, explaining decisions made, and encouraging change.
So, let’s end the frustration and start to champion change. Accept your role within the education system, focus on what you can actually influence and achieve, and help to lay the foundations for a brighter learning future.
By Hendrik Flier