Hilty (2011) presents three models of distributive leadership that have emerged in the last twenty years. One model “views leadership as the performance of key tasks or functions rather than as the work of people in formal leadership roles” (Hilty, 2011, p. 272). In many ways, this type of leadership is happening at my school. There are structures in place to distribute leadership tasks, including a Building Leadership Team, Guidance Team, Student Intervention Team, Safety Committee, Social Committee, Technology Lead, and Literacy Lead, to name a few. My principal and associate principal rely on teachers to take on some leadership tasks.
Others view distributive leadership as “an organization-wide resource of power and influence” (Hilty, 2011, p.272), rather than distributing tasks. As a whole, a schoolhouse is a source of power and influence. An effective school impacts the entire community in which it resides. I think some families view the teachers at our school as positive influences on their children.
Hilty (2011) describes a third model of leadership where “leadership is stretched over the practice of two or more leaders in their interactions with followers” (p.274). In this model, leadership takes place in the interactions between individual teachers, parents, and community members. In a sense, performing a certain task or function, in it of itself, is not leadership unless there are those who are being led. An example of when leadership occurs between people is our Natural Leaders program. Our Title 1 facilitator recruits and partners with parents who are bilingual or who do not speak English to be leaders in our school community. Neither the parents nor the Title 1 facilitator could accomplish the mission of Natural Leaders without the other. Through planned training, events, and community building activities, Natural Leaders are able to lead new families in getting acquainted with and contributing to the school culture. This is one way we address the inequity among our students and families.
Another way leaders in my building try to address social justice issues is by providing professional learning that is relevant to our demographic. This year, several teachers were sponsored by the district to attend a Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) training to better serve our English Language Learner students. Our entire staff requested that the teachers who attended the multi-day workshop share their new knowledge with the rest of us throughout the year. Sometimes professional learning delivered in my building by my principal or colleagues is meaningful and relevant, however, many times it is a mandated training that is presented as a “hoop to jump through.” Too often, our professional development and collaboration time is spent completing tasks on the district’s agenda—tasks that we had no part in choosing as areas of focus.
My principal does attempt to bring up issues of social justice in a limited sense. She talks about the achievement gap noticeable in our Hispanic students. We continue to see marginalized groups outperformed by students of the dominant culture. I think, on some level, many teachers don’t fully believe all students can achieve our vision. We are not engaging in uncomfortable conversations. Hirsh and Hord (2010) argue that “if school-wide changes about attitudes and expectations are a desired outcome, than settings that convene the entire staff for hard conversations and facilitated dialogue may be necessary first steps.” From my personal experience, I don’t think that all principals are prepared to engage their staff on topics of social justice and equality. At my school, this may be the case and that is not the problem. The problem is that other people, teachers, parents, community members, who maybe do have the expertise to facilitate these conversations do not have a place or time to speak and lead.
Leadership is complex. Leaders are constantly juggling mandated professional learning and trying to meet the needs of the school to improve.
E.B. Hilty. (2011). Teacher leadership: The “new” foundations of teacher education. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing Inc.
Hirsh & S.M. Hord. (2010). Building hope, giving affirmation. Journal of Staff Development, 31(4), 10-17.