My colleague, Lynn Fuini-Hetten, and I recently chatted with Dr. Kevin Brown and Dr. Frank Alfaro, Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent, respectively, of the Alamo Heights Independent School District in Texas. We were discussing learner-centered leadership in AHISD for an episode of the upcoming podcast, Shift Your Paradigm: from school-centered to learner-centered. During our conversation, Kevin reflected on one of the primary responsibilities of a learner-centered leader:
As a superintendent, there really isn’t a lot of power that you have. One of the things you do have is the ability to determine what you’re going to talk about. What we’ve decided to talk about is learning and experiences for children. We are constantly talking about learning – how do we make this better? We ask each other questions and challenge thinking.
I agree the superintendent has the ability to set the overall conversation and focus it on learning. I would expand the idea of leader to also include teachers in the classroom, principals in the school, and leaders at the district level. If we are all learners and leaders in our own unique space, we all have the ability (and responsibility) to focus the conversations we have on learning.
Think about the leaders you encounter daily. How are they shaping the conversation within their space? Through a compelling vision for learning – in the classroom, school and district – we must be explicit about the focus of our conversations – LEARNING. Will we choose to embrace the deficit and accountability conversation of our policymakers, politicians and bureaucrats? Or will we elevate that conversation to talk about learning and our beliefs about learning through the learner lens?
How much autonomy do we provide the learners in our care to shape the conversations we focus on?
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