“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students: Creating Connected and Invested Learners”
by Pernille Ripp (find her blog here)
Introduction and Chapter 1: “The Empowered Principal as Role Model”
In the opening of “Empowered School, Empowered Students” Ripp begins by discussing the notion of powerlessness in a school setting. She shares a story regarding being called to the principal’s office (as a teacher) for the first time and having no idea what to expect. She then goes on to discuss this feeling terms or our students: fear, hopelessness, lack of trust. However, once her principal smiled at her, she felt at ease and the stress was gone. She could clearly focus on the discussion.
She uses this anecdote to illustrate the fear of the unknown that is dealt with daily by students and teacher. In most schools, there is a designated hierarchy in place; teachers answer to the principal, students answer teachers, etc. Ripp asks us to reassess the current paradigm by placing the power back into the hands of the students and teachers through the context of the “empowered school.”
“Empowered teachers feel they have control over their work environment, that their voice is heard, and that their experience matters. Empowered students know that their opinion matters, that they have control over the learning journey, and that school is worth their time.” (Ripp 4)
In an effort to facilitate the journey to an empowered school, Ripp provides a Leadership Reflection on her website. This reflection functions as a tool for leaders to evaluate their readiness to transition to the “Empowered School”.
Chapter 1 begins with a description of what Ripp calls a “lone ranger” principal. This type of principal feels that he/she is solely responsible for the problem solving and decision making that occurs at every level in the school. For this type of leader “...it isn’t just a matter of job duty, it is a matter of responsibility. If he can’t solve it, no one can...” (Ripp 8)
Ripp argues that this ideology, while rampant in education, is no longer a viable route in today’s educational landscape. “...now with with the advent of social medium spurring on global education conversations, teachers are clamoring to assume part of the responsibility of running a school.” (Ripp 9)
Ripp shares the story of a Principal who discovered how to use Twitter as a method of collaborating with other administrators by sharing ideas that both worked and those that were not successful. This way, he did not feel alone in his decision making.
With all this information the question becomes, what can we as educators take away from this section?
The old paradigm of top-down leadership is no longer valuable. The ability for all teachers and students to have an honest voice, as well as the ability for those people to trust that their voice is heard, is paramount. As we move forward with a new principal on the horizon how do we want things to change? Will the same top-down paradigm remain in place, or do we wish to reorganize the stake that we hold in the future. If so, how do we make this happen?
Ripp points to the use of Twitter as an open forum for staff and administration to share ideas and express concerns. How can we model that?
Please post comments below :)