The Education Review Office (ERO ) suggests that successful boards are boards that work cooperatively with school leaders for the benefit of students. While I agree with this I am not convinced it goes far enough and suggest a whole school approach is more beneficial to students.
A whole school approach includes boards, schools & parent community working together in collaboration to lift student achievement. Working collaboratively looks different to working cooperatively. Collaboration involves more cross pollination and gathering of ideas and voices from all stakeholders. Collaboration breaks down walls that keep knowledge in silos and is a breeding ground for leveraging strengths to lift student outcomes.
Collaboration involves having a shared vision and planning together to ensure we are all on the same page heading in the same direction. If you think about a car with all it’s wheels going off in different directions, it’s not going to get very far. But, if the wheels are all going in the same direction then you can reach maximum velocity very quickly. It’s like that with schools, if we are all heading in the same direction we will get where we want to go much faster.
A shared understanding of school work is an essential part of working together to lift student achievement. One tends to reject more readily what they don’t understand than what they do. It is worth taking the time to include the BOT and parents in learning conversations because this builds trust which is in essential ingredient in successful teams and collaborative environments.
Boards are made up from parents from different sectors and different minds rubbing up against each other is good for generating ideas! Eco chambers will keep us in the current factory model of schooling. If we ever want to move on from this we need to utilise the diversity of minds around us. Utilising the diversity of minds on boards and parent community means creating opportunities for conversations between BOT, community and staff. I believe every person’s voice has value and there is not one person that I have ever met that I have not learned something from.
In order to build relatedness between all stakeholder we need to create opportunities to spend time together. In our school, board members are invited and encouraged to attend conferences so we can gain a shared understanding of best practices in schools. Our principal brings learning conversations to our meetings and at parent information afternoons. The use of social media like Twitter, Facebook KnowledgeNet or other interactive forums can be utalised to build relationships and networks.
The respect and admiration I have for teachers has deepened from watching them work as parent help and being inspired by them on twitter. I would encourage teachers to create opportunities to have parents and board members in the class more often. I recently was invited to watch a group of children learning robotics and programming and it really helped me understand ‘why’ this was being introduced into the school.
One could argue that governance is about governing and is hands off – parents and board members should not be getting involved in all that teacher stuff. I’d agree that governance should be hands off, BoT and parents should not be involved in the day-to-day business and running of the school. However, collaboration, inclusion and consulting and being involved with day-to-day school matters are not mutually exclusive. We can exist in our own domains and be connected by collaborative practices that exist in our schools at the same time.