Creative schools depend on creative leadership. The trouble these days is that the pressures on principals to: be seen by parents as doing what is expected, from analysing endless tests ( all too often in a narrow range of capabilities); coping with the imposition of National Standards; and most of all pressure to comply with Ministry and the Education Review Office requirements, being creative is the last thing on principals minds. And of course creativity was never something one thought of when thinking about school principals!
But creativity from the top is required to develop the conditions necessary to ensure both teachers' and students' creativity is recognised and developed.
Louise Stoll and Julie Temperley in their paper, Creative Leadership: A Challenge of our Times, quote George Lucas (of Star Wars fame). Lucas has said creative organisations require, ‘people who question the assumptions they are given. They see the world differently, are happy to experiment, to take risks and to make mistakes.’ The authors contrast this creativity with the ‘dependency thinking’ of current imposed school reform strategies. ‘The status quo’, they write, ‘is a very compelling state’ and add that ‘school leaders should unlock the creativity of their staff.….to get the best out of their staff and students’. ‘This, ‘ they write, ‘requires leaders being more outward looking and more adventurous, and thinking outside the box’. Leaders need confidence to give license, or permission for others to be creative. This form of leadership is ‘leading a team in such a way that it is not dictating and yet still scaffolding and supporting’. It is a model that replicates the relationships expected of class teachers with their students.
‘Many teachers’, Stoll and Temperley write in their report, ‘get stuck in a kind of routine monotony and don’t feel they are encouraged to break out’. Teachers require, ‘the freedom to explore, to take risks to make mistakes and learn from them’. To feel free, to be creative, teachers should demand an ‘ethos where it is acceptable to take risks’ as long as a period of refection follows.
Explicit school core values, negotiated and agreed to, are required to provide a point of reference for those involved. Any creative act imposes its own disciplined restraints.
To create the necessary mind shifts only ‘permissions from the top’ can create a culture where it is ‘acceptable to do unusual exciting things. Such schools will be able to reflect what they collectively now know about learning, develop new understandings, and then be in a position to develop educational learning plans (IEPs) that honour the passions and talents of all their students. Such IEPs will help students think deeply about questions that matter most to them.
Nine conditions for creative leadership from Stoll and Temperley
1 Model creativity and risk taking – lead by example
2 Stimulate a sense of urgency – if necessary, generate a crisis
3 Expose colleagues to new thinking and experiences
4 Self consciously relinquish control – avoid a surveillance culture.
5 Provide time and space and facilitate the practicalities.
6 Promote individual and creative thinking and design
7 Set high expectations and the degree of creativity.
8 Use failure as a learning opportunity
9 Keep referring back to core values
School self-renewal embraces the democratic power of individuals to act collectively to create a learning culture that recognizes the reality of students’ lives. It is a process that provides all their students with the attributes to thrive in a changing environment – something well beyond the capabilities of traditional schools. Individual and communal creativity and imagination are at the centre of school self renewal.
The ideas being expressed are radical innovations. They are not, as with many current reforms are, mere ‘tinkering’ but are transformative. If implemented they would result in fundamental new ways of doing things.
Implementing such changes through democratic dialogue and by challenging present practices is leadership’s greatest challenge. If we want to develop ‘tomorrow’s schools’ – personalized schools where the curiosity, creativity and passion of both teachers and students to innovate are to be realized - these changes are vital.
Just imagine a transformed education system premised on developing the passions, talents and gifts of all students. Such a system would have the potential to contribute to ensuring
is a truly innovative and creative country. New Zealand
If we really want ‘tomorrow’s schools’ we need to heed Mahatma Gandhi’s advice, ‘we must be the change we wish to see in the world.’