Balancing institutional competence and social trust
 CIS staff photo of Jane Larsson

 


By Jane Larsson, CIS Executive Director 

 

Educational leadership in 2022

This month my reading included Independent School, a magazine published by NAIS (the National Association of Independent Schools in the USA), where their new research got my attention.

Findings of the 2021 NAIS State of Independent School Leadership* show areas where 'fewer than half of heads and their protégés feel very prepared:

  • managing the school’s financial health (48%)
  • HR issues (41%)
  • legal issues (35%)
  • addressing/managing community polarization (23%)

Other educational associations also continue to explore and report on concerns about the mental health and well-being of school leaders, faculty, and staff.

  • NASUWT (teachers union in the UK); February 2022: 91% report that their job has adversely affected their mental health in the last 12 months** 
     
  • NASSP (National Association of Secondary School Principals in the US); December 2021: Principals report that their three biggest challenges during the coronavirus outbreak include implementing blended and distance learning (60%), providing mental health support to students (59%), and providing guidance and mental health support to teachers and staff (58%).***

As I read these findings, I wonder how leaders in international education are thinking and feeling about these challenges as they begin a new term, including how and when they take place.

More broadly, how are leaders thinking and feeling about the social aspects of school leadership?

Visual illustrating the balance of social trust vs institutional competence

If managing challenges relating to social trust is challenging in a homogeneous school community, it can be even more so in a culturally diverse school community, especially when addressing social polarization.

The work of a school leader becomes even more difficult when differences of opinion are played out in person and online. Social media can be means for learning, a space where many find emotional release, a place to influence others, and a way to portray leadership or vulnerability.

Educational leadership today requires us to be aware of (and address) diverse social voices that surface in multiple ways throughout a school community.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting a group of school leaders as they traveled through the Netherlands.

As we sat together, I asked them how they were doing. One responded, 'I feel like my job is now head of school and chief morality monitor.'

  • How are you mentally preparing yourself and your leadership team for a new year of community conversations in person and online?
     
  • How are you engaging with others to nurture and sustain diverse intrapersonal relationships that shape your school’s learning culture?
     
  • How are you preparing your team to navigate social media and share messages more effectively?

Those who thrive in times of change possess a sense of responsibility to face what comes … no matter what.

But we also need to realize there are times when a situation cannot be solved by trying to find a higher gear of leadership.

The strongest leaders know when to ask for help and when they need to seek specialist intervention.

As you consider the needs of your community and turn your attention to building a budget for 2023, consider the actions you can take to sustain your school community’s most important investment—your people.

How would your faculty and staff report on their own well-being if you asked them?

What is the impact of a leader or teacher who is struggling with their own mental health?

What types of specialist support do you need to help you build a trusting, inclusive community?

This is a time for us to not only reassess our own strengths but to reassess how we staff our schools.

As you consider what type of expertise your community really needs, does this mean finding a consultant, or even creating a new role, perhaps not a ‘chief morality monitor’, but a community wellness coach and mentor?

Let’s find the right balance by fueling our drive for institutional competence and the high-quality educational outcomes families expect with an investment in specialist expertise to help us build social trust.

 


 

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References:

*   NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools); 2021 NAIS State of Independent School Leadership; September 2021

**  https://www.nasuwt.org.uk/news/campaigns/teacher-wellbeing-survey.html; February 2022

*** https://www.nassp.org/news/nassp-survey-signals-a-looming-mass-exodus-of-principals-from-schools/; December 2021