«Research shows that schools improve their results when they have an excellent school leader,» states Beverly Freedman, from the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto. In this sense, it makes a substantial difference when the headmaster exercises educational leadership rather than administrative. «This means that the director understands how teaching and learning is produced in his own school, and gives out feedback to the teachers about effective practices,» she explains.
Dr. Freedman is backed by a long experience. In addition to her academic work, she has served as Advisor to the Ministry of Education of Ontario, as Superintendent of the School District Programs in Durham –in charge of 125 schools- and as a Consultant on issues such as school improvement and school teams support.
To illustrate more clearly the new role of the Headmaster, Dr. Freedman uses the following analogy; «The Headmaster is like a soccer coach, he cannot do the work from his office.» For headmasters to assume this new approach, it is important that they observe what is happening inside their school. «A soccer coach does not tell the players to do better. He gives them a very specific feedback,» she clarifies.
At the San Alberto Hurtado school, located in Pudahuel, the Canadian specialist taught class observation methodology to a group of students of the Leadership for Learning Certification Program, imparted by Fundación Chile in collaboration with Fundación Luksic. The principals must visit each classroom for five to ten minutes, on multiple occasions. The goal is not to observe a specific teacher, but all teachers, to look for common patterns and focus the work on improving the school as a whole.
How to get the teacher to see a coach, not a policeman in his classroom? According to Freedman, what matters, is that the headmaster succeeds in establishing a relationship based on trust with his teachers, so that observing their class can become a contribution to the school’s improvement and not a source of internal conflict. «He has to sit down with his teachers, and explain what he will be doing, what he is looking for,» she explains. Likewise, the Canadian specialist suggests that when he/she is to begin the observations, the headmaster coordinates with each teacher the start of the process, and does not show up unexpectedly in the classroom.
On the other hand, the feedback that the headmaster delivers to the faculty must begin by highlighting the positive aspects and strengths of the teaching practice and avoid focusing on a specific teacher. «Once you have established this relationship of trust, the director can move more freely around the classroom and into more problematic issues,» assures the Canadian expert.
According to Beverly Freedman, all of this process is essential for the director to be completely embedded of what is happening in his school and can be considered as an educational leader by his teachers. «If he does not experience in the field what happens in his school, he will not be able to tell teachers how they can best do their work,» she concludes.