Leadership That Counts (1956)

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Recent discussions among the ASCD Conference Scholars have focused on the topic of school leadership. For example, Jen Morrison asked, “How Can Educators Take Back the Mic?” recalling an experience of attempting to engage in discussion at a top-down district meeting. In December 1956, Bernard J. Lonsdale covered similar ground in the pages of Educational Leadership.

Read the article: Leadership That Counts

Lonsdale takes pains to emphasize that “educational leadership reaches its greatest height in the classroom teacher,” then relates the experience of a first-year teacher named Mary L. at faculty meeting. Her troubling story is told through a letter she writes to her college advisor. She recalls the nervous smiles shot her way as she entered the room after the principal: “Apparently one doesn’t come in after Mr. P., the principal, makes his entrance.” At the meeting, dictates are given and reminders are issued, but little conversation takes place.

Perhaps the high point of the meeting comes during a discussion of the pressing issue of student bicycle traffic. Mary ventures an idea to involve the kids in a project to manage their various bike routes and keep traffic in check that is summarily shot down. Mary later asks her advisor, “What do you think I learned about leadership at that meeting?”

Her advisor gently responds, stressing the need to work hard at getting to know and collaborating with her colleagues when possible. As you read this story from decades ago, can you relate to the situation Mary finds herself in? Is the climate for shared leadership in your school different than in this faculty meeting?