Many of us are familiar with Mayberry, that fictional television town from the 1950’s where everyone was happy, the streets were quiet, and Sheriff Andy Taylor could solve all of the town’s problems and then retire each night to his tranquil home for an All-American evening with Aunt Bee and Opie. It was Utopia on the TV screen. School leadership would have been predictable in Mayberry schools: the principal’s day revolved around lunch duty and dealing with a grumpy teacher or two, or perhaps the mischievous boy who threw spit wads at the cute girl across the room. Those times were simpler—and they’re gone.
The Age of Disruption
Today if there’s a real Mayberry out there:
- its citizens are adapting to the global economy
- the students are taking lots of standardized tests
- school administrators are questioning how to teach today’s Gen Z students
- Millennial teachers are transforming the workforce
- diversity issues are creating new opportunities for debate and understanding
- its educators are wondering how to design learning spaces around the 4 C’s
Mayberry is now plugged in and being swept along a tide of global change. It’s no longer monochromatic; it’s now alive in vivid color. Like the rest of America, Mayberry has probably grown more diverse and has multiple languages spoken in its schools. Perhaps Mayberry is even debating its restroom policy and who can use them. In other words Sheriff Andy and Aunt Bee, those icons of simplicity and stability, have left the building.
The Local Global Principal
The principal’s role is much more complex than in the past. Disruptions are changing our schools on a daily basis and it is the principal who is the point person leading the way through the storms of change. Practices that were accepted a decade ago, or perhaps a month ago, are now being swept aside. Today’s principal must give voice to a broader and deeper message of change and adaptation. The principal must ascend to the highest peaks of the Information Age to obtain a global perspective—and then land softly in the school courtyard to patiently share the vision with students, parents, and staff. While we still might have neighborhood schools with deep histories and traditions, their mission is now global. Thus, the principal’s voice has been transformed from addressing local concerns to also preparing students to thrive in a global society: we’ve entered the era of the Local Global Principal.
The Local Global Principal’s voice must be a trusted voice of reason, but it must also encourage and inspire stakeholders to see what is possible with fewer resources, more students, and increasing expectations in the Age of Disruption.
To impact change, the Local Global Principal’s voice is used to:
Blog: Reflection is at the heart of our practice. Blogging is a way a principal can take advantage of a free digital platform to challenge conventional wisdom, provide insight into the opportunities for change, highlight best and next instructional practices, and celebrate students and staff.
Engage in Global Conversations: Use social media platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Voxer, Snapchat, and Google Hangout to engage in discussions about national and global educational issues. Providing one’s perspective in a digitally connected learning network creates opportunities for a principal to work collaboratively instead of in a silo and amplifies the principal’s voice beyond the local community.
Transform Staff Meetings: Turn them into professional development opportunities. Use email to share necessary minutiae with staff so that biweekly or monthly meetings can be used to teach staff members about the needs of today’s students or to create opportunities for professional learning in small groups, larger groups, or individually.
A Local Global Principal will tell staff:
- “We need to realize disruptions in schools will not slow down; they will speed up as knowledge grows and our society shifts.”
- “We should embrace change and not always knowing the next step; we must be comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
- “We must plan beyond a nine-month school year; let’s envision what education can be five and ten years into the future.”
- “Today’s schools don’t have to look like the ones from the past. Let’s build learning spaces for today’s students and not the students of the last century.”
Facilitate a Podcast or Webinar: Share an area of expertise. Host a podcast or webinar that features guest speakers and thought leaders. The link can then be shared with stakeholders, giving them the opportunity to further shape the school’s vision and provide evidence that is aligned with the school’s mission.
School leaders are in a new era; the Mayberry principal is now blogging and hosting webinars. Today’s Mayberry might still be a small town, but it’s connected to the world—and the school leader is now a Local Global Principal.