4 EdLeadership Shifts in 2021

Here are 4 big shifts that the best and brightest EdLeaders were discussing in 2021. In the Better Leaders, Better Schools Mastermind groups I participate, these ideas came up explicitly and in patterns throughout 2021.

A Horizon for Healing

In Fall, 2021, we came back to school with a rush for normalcy. We wanted pre-pandemic schools, routines, and health. Then, we were exhausted by trying to heal 20 months of uncertainty, change, and trauma in 12 weeks. As a result, our sector heaved under the weight.

We discovered we need a horizon for healing.

Indeed, it’s social-emotional learning wrapped in patience. Leaders require a new kind of mindfulness. Additionally, we need to reach towards one another and find strength in our connections. And, it’s going to take time, adaptability, and kindness to recover from the pandemic, the ‘learning loss’ narrative, and the colossal disruption in schools.

Certainly, we can only bear up under this weight, together. As an example, our Mastermind community is an essential support for growing and vibrant school leaders.

Human-Centered Advocacy

Also, in 2021, we learned there is no return to ‘normalcy.’ Now, the way forward is truly human-centered.

As leaders, we need to advocate for human-centeredness. While advocacy may be a new posture, it is necessary because we are still learning about the impacts of the pandemic, systemic racial inequality, climate crisis, and threats to democracy.

Now, our advocacy role includes being storytellers of what is emerging and important. Basically, our stories must be centered on our hopes for our school communities.

Undoubtedly, what matters most: our people. Teachers, support staff, and team members at every level. Our frontline educators and service workers make a difference each day for students.

So, within this advocacy role, these are the people we need to care for intentionally.

For example, one Superintendent added two days of holidays to the annual district calendar, so everyone got a full week off at Thanksgiving. Consequently, his responsive and generous act created goodwill in an entire educational system. We need more of these systemic efforts. Indeed, school leaders need to advocate for them effectively.

Ultimately, we now play an essential role in shaping policies, systems, and our school community with a human-centered perspective.

Transformative v. Performative EDI

We must reclaim our role as justice-holders and equity-seekers. Being human-centered is foundational for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion efforts, but merely philosophical. Additionally, acknowledging our identities is only a simple start. Indeed, we need to engage in transformative anti-racism and reconciliation work.

Transformative EDI work is a culture-building effort. Further, we will need EDI policies to direct us. Finally, we must courageously step forward despite the landmines.

Helpfully, Dr. Tina Fraser, Indigenous Scholar, builds on the important framework of Kirkness and Barnhardt, she suggests 9 Rs as for interwoven perspectives:

  • respect
  • relationships
  • responsibilities
  • reciprocity
  • relevance
  • reverence
  • reclamation
  • reconciliation
  • reflexivity

The 9 Rs are inherently human-centered and offer a frame for our transformative work. In 2021, I also benefitted from reading How to be an Anti-Racist (Kendi), How to Be the Person You Mean to Be (Chugh), and Life-Writing and Literary Métissage as an Ethos for Our Times (Hasebe-Ludt).

How will you re-focus in 2022 on this powerful cause?

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

EdLeadership Requirements are Shifting

Added to our advocacy role for human-centeredness, there seems to be a demanding urgency on Principals, Vice Principals (APs), and District Leaders to serve as:

  • EdLeader from the Balcony – taking the upper view, seeing the big picture and long perspective, then setting a clear and compelling vision. Moreover, this leadership is proactive, offering solutions and opportunities.
  • EdLeader as Coach – committing to developing your team members, upskilling, and growing them powerfully.
  • EdLeader as Chief Community Builder – understanding and acting on the truth that connection and belonging are keys to attracting and retaining high calibre team members. It will also unravel what ails us.

In conclusion, our roles are emphasizing new requirements. So, of course, we must find the wherewithal to execute in new ways.

Most importantly, what did you notice about how school leadership shifted in 2021? What would you add to the list?

Be a dynamic leader in 2022, invest in the EdLeadership Peak Training, best-in-class BLBS Mastermind, or Mastermind for Women. There’s a program, tier, and subscription for everyone. Your school, team, colleagues, and supervisors will thank you.

Here’s to dynamic EdLeadership 2022,

Karine Veldhoen