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The “agile mentality” in education: knowing how to adapt and respond to change

What is the secret of a good leader in a school environment? Part of the answer, according to Australian speaker and researcher Simon Breakspear, is his attitude to change.

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What is the secret of a good leader in a school environment? Part of the answer, according to Australian speaker and researcher Simon Breakspear, is his attitude to change.

Simon breakspear was one of the headliners during the uLead17 summit. This year, he presented Agile Leadership, which emphasizes the importance of adapting to change to maximize the impact of leadership in the school environment.

Beyond responding to change, there is the importance of adapting to it first. For him, it is important to develop an “agile mentality”, mainly based around three essential foundations:

  1. Focus on the good things - the things that really matter.

Do less, do it better. It is therefore a question of reviewing priorities and managing them better. School principals often complain about running out of time and being too busy, according to the Australian speaker. However, for him, it is not a lack of time, but a lack of energy given all the files which are being carried out simultaneously. Hence the importance of doing less, but doing it better!

  1. Adopt a learner posture, as in all leadership models.

This reminds us of the importance of being continually ready and willing to learn. It is a practice that is central to the success of school leaders. Breakspear also believes in the importance of humility, the one that forces us to realize that we can always learn more about the profession we practice and the people we work with.

  1. Consider that everything you do can be improved.

The “perpetual beta” or iterative mode is where we consider that everything we do can be improved. It is not a question of striving for perfection, but simply to be satisfied with having improved something compared to its last version. In this sense, Breakspear takes somewhat of the broad lines of the growth mindset by Carol Dweck (2006).


A narwhal among the beluga whales

Also during uLead17, a speech by Karyne Gamelin was a bit of a follow-up to what Simon Breakspear was advocating. In a vibrant testimony on the experience of a deputy director at the end of his first year in office, the latter did a reflective exercise in front of about fifty delegates.

The one who sees herself as a narwhal among beluga whales spoke about her integration into her school team in a context where she feels different at the same time, but part of a team. It was a testimony imbued with humility and authenticity, showing how she was able to integrate into her team to become a leader working to transform the culture of her school, known for its multiethnicity and its disadvantaged clientele.

For example, she says, recognizing and taking responsibility for one's own mistakes prompts teachers and other school members to do the same. Calculated risk-taking also becomes, through honest communication, an element that not only builds trust among team members, but allows the school to grow and embrace change and transformation in accumulating small daily success stories in each class.

About the Author

Marc-André Girard
Marc-André Girard
Marc-André Girard holds a bachelor's degree in social studies education (1999), a master's degree in history education (2003), a master's degree in education management (2013) and a doctorate in education (2022). He specializes in school-based change management and educational leadership. He is also interested in the 21st century competencies to be developed in education. He is a principal in a public high school and gives conferences on educational leadership, pedagogical approaches, change in schools and the professionalization of teaching. He has participated in educational expeditions in France, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Morocco. In September 2014, he published the book "Le changement en milieu scolaire québécois" with Éditions Reynald Goulet and, in 2019, he published a trilogy on the 21st century school with the same publisher. He is a frequent contributor to L'École branchée on educational issues. He is very involved in everything that surrounds the professional development of teachers and principals as well as the integration of ICT in education. In March 2016, he received a CHAPO award from AQUOPS for his overall involvement. He is a recipient of the Régent-Fortin 2022 scholarship awarded by ADERAE for the significant contribution of his doctoral studies to the development of practice and knowledge in educational administration.

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