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Co-creative leadership is… tackling complex challenges with teachers
How to strengthen active involvement in society? This question has been on my mind since my days as a scout leader and my training as social pedagogue – 30 years ago now. Later, I guided numerous organisations in strengthening the participation of their employees and their target groups. Today, I support schools, school communities/groups and school leaders who want to encourage their teachers to be more involved in the development of the school. In doing so, I hope that the teachers, in turn, will be inspired to work on the involvement and participation of the pupils. I also want to show schools, school leaders and teachers that we can often achieve more than we sometimes think: that, in practice, everyone can create the school in which he/she works a part.
The design of the school organisation – whether on a campus or in a school group – matters. Among other things, good leadership is crucial and in a school, on a campus or in a school group, it is not the same as what you read in numerous management books about leadership. Effective School Leadership presupposes the propagation of an educational ambition, the strengthening of the collective learning capacity of the school and the safeguarding of a quality organisation. An important point here is that we notice that top-down decision-making no longer works. One aspect of school leadership is that you best tackle the complex challenges facing the school (or school community/group) with the teachers and other stakeholders in your school. That you create space, for example, for teachers to reflect together on the future in which challenges are solved. Such an approach does not only lead to better and more supported solutions. It also increases teacher motivation. Which is not insignificant, given that education is one of the sectors with the highest number of burn-outs. Many teachers and school leaders have the feeling that they are being lived. I want to change that.
I notice that schools are increasingly asking themselves questions about the school organisation and culture, whether or not in the context of scaling-up. Directors and teachers express this in many different ways: ‘When we merged our three schools, we got a bit stuck with the organisational structure’, ‘Our staff meetings are mainly filled with the transfer of information’, ‘to be honest, we are not a well-functioning management team’, ‘the coordination between our schools in the school group is difficult’, ‘Colleagues often don’t keep their agreements’, ‘the decision-making powers are not clear’, ‘there are a lot of hallway conversations’, ‘the senior staff is not open to new initiatives’, ‘the expectations of me as a school leader are too high, as if I have all the answers’.
When I hear such statements, I encourage the people involved to come up with steps together that will help the school (or school community/group) move forward. Other challenges I like to address have to do with vision development. Recently, we received the question of vision development as follows: ‘We have a large influx of young people which we previously did not get in our school. We think that this has implications for the realisation of our educational project’.
Furthermore, I like to work on the development of schools as learning organisations. I like to work on the development of schools that want to systematically invest in the collective learning capacity of the school. Only in this way will schools succeed in dealing more easily with change.
Before co-founding Schoolmakers in 2014, I was a process counsellor at Kwadraet (Stichting Lodewijk de Raet), an organisation for adult education where I was also director for 9 years. Furthermore, I was a lecturer at the Sociale Hogeschool Heverlee for 4 years and at Thomas More for 5 years. After my training as a social pedagogue (KU Leuven), I also obtained a Certificate of the Philosophy Academy (KU Leuven), a Master in Business Administration (Antwerp Management School), a certificate as senior advisor Innovative Work Organisation (Antwerp Management School Faculty) and a certificate of Organisation Coach (International Coach Federation). I take my motto from G.G. Marquez: ‘To do nothing today is to live like yesterday.’