By Jonathan Sclater (Principal, MEd in Imaginative Education, @jonathansclater)
Welcome back to my 4-part series imaginative series on Imaginative Leadership, this is part 4 of 4.
Over the course of this 4-part imaginative series, I will introduce and explain the following attributes I believe necessary to develop one’s Imaginative Mindset: being adaptable, networked, hopeful, and curious. In illustrating these attributes, I ultimately advocate for their power in helping school leaders to rise above uncertainty, address trauma, and bring strength to their communities.
A leader with an imaginative mindset is…
Nourishing imagination to develop deep thinkers – by pursuing questions that respond to change and lay the groundwork for continual improvement.
There have been many attempts to better the educational experience and put learners at the center of curriculum planning. Flipped classrooms, integrated tech, Maker Space, project-based and inquiry-based learning, STEM, etc… What we are experiencing now in this pandemic represents a significant, forced change to the way curriculum is being delivered. Educators need to be flexible in what they expect families to be able to do at home with respect to on-line learning, and place more emphasis on the quality of learning routines and interactions, rather than the overall amount of time invested. Leaders are reconfiguring schedules to be more flexible for families, and expectations are being adjusted for the kind of work that educators and learners are engaging in.
During this pandemic, learning has shifted from a 9-3 experience towards more of an asynchronous timeline as many families share technology and balance work and school priorities. Imaginative leaders need to stay curious about how to solve issues regarding remote learning and remove intellectual, emotional, and financial obstacles, especially for families who do not have access to technology or the internet. These changes need to be systematic in order to be effective. Couros (2015) highlights, “Change is an opportunity to do something amazing… yet within the institution of education, there is often a reluctance to embrace the new opportunities… and even in schools that have the latest technology, teachers and administrators use that advanced equipment to do the same things they did before…” (p. 2).
There will be full revolt and chaos from families if we simply transfer what we have done before to a digitized format now. Much more is required than simply replicating a daily or weekly schedule of the classroom to an online format. School leaders need to consider all available and imagined options, and in doing so they demonstrate curiosity. This curiosity must be genuine in meeting needs and be more reflective and filled with questions about what learners and educators are doing in order to determine what they need next.
Community members look to professionals for advice, help, and reassurance that everything is going to be okay. It is the foundation of our strong, caring relationships which creates a safety net underlying all uncertain thoughts, emotions, questions, and decisions. Questions I’ve been intentionally pursuing with my school community are:
- How can we best communicate with each other?
- What will we be expected to do, and what skills will we need to do this?
- Are the expectations reasonable, considering the context?
- What are the essential needs, and what resources will meet those needs?
School leaders must proceed with caution as every member of the community struggles to deal with a long list of uncertainties, and many are just trying to keep their heads above water. Leaders with an imaginative mindset allow their communities to ask questions and share about what they need, and this is desperately needed right now. By remaining curious, leaders keep learners at the center of their decisions and learning experiences, and when planning, scheduling, and implementing new ideas and tools.
Leading ahead with an imaginative mindset to see a bright future ahead
Leading in an uncertain and rapidly evolving time is challenging. In order to do more than merely just manage, leaders require imagination. There is a collaborative process that will be needed, but before ‘it takes a village,’ it takes a strong leader. Leaders with an imaginative mindset make decisions by relying on a clear set of attributes – adaptable, networked, hopeful, and curious. Considering the impact that traumatic experiences have on families, and how to support the most vulnerable – this becomes our highest priority. Leaders who have an imaginative mindset are properly equipped to balance many factors simultaneously. This imagination moves us past any over-analyzation or inaction to think about what is possible – to move forward and take action and serve our communities effectively.
No one knows exactly what lies ahead into the next school year. This global crisis is a time to redefine and shape what our learning cultures will look like. This will require leaders who are equipped to see beyond our current circumstances with a vision for what is possible. We are in a time where we must consider a shift to helping learners no matter where they are. Growing an imaginative mindset means that we can consider what structures will be best suited for all and inspire and care for the members of our communities. Through this work of developing an imaginative mindset we will see that as Brian Aspinall (2019) writes, “When nothing is sure, everything is possible.”
Whether through this pandemic or any other traumatic situation that can emerge, leaders need to develop their imagination. This helps them understand each story of the members of the communities they serve. It takes leaders who can imagine a future to see what is possible beyond our current circumstances. Having an imaginative mindset means that we can adapt to change and the challenges ahead through our strong networks and remain hopeful and curiously optimistic about the future. This ultimately will help these leaders to shape their communities for the better, and together we will all be stronger on the other side.
Aspinall, B. (2020). Risk Taker: Strengthen Your Courage, Blaze a New Trail and Ignite
Your Students’ Passions. Self published.
Couros, G. (2015). The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity. Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc.
Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Ballantine Books.
Egan, K. (2005). An Imaginative Approach to Teaching. Jossey-Bass
Kaser, L., & Halbert, J. (2009). Leadership Mindsets: Innovation and Learning in the Transformation of Schools. Routledge.
Sinek, S. (2009). Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Penguin.
Interested in Reading More?
To read Parts 1, 2, and 3 of this Imaginative Leadership series, click on the links below…