Presented by Toddle, The School Leaders Bootcamp was an online conference aimed at school leaders and aspiring leaders. Grounded in research, it aimed to unpack four domains of transformational leadership: set directions, build relationships, improve instructional practices and develop organisation.
The conference was actually held in early March but I intentionally waited a couple of months to write this post because I knew that I would benefit from reviewing the content later. I was right! As I look back at my notes and rewatch some of the presentations, I’m inspired all over again!
Below are my reflections and takeaways from the presentations that I attended. I have included links to the speakers’ Twitter profiles (where applicable) because I encourage you to connect with them.
Stop stealing dreams: What is school for? – Seth Godin
In this opening keynote, Seth Godin spoke about the traditions of schools and the need to move education forward. This should include creating a space where all children find success and shine in their own ways. Part of the problem is assessment, he explains, because we continue to measure things that are easy to measure instead of skills and attributes that really matter (such as persistence and creativity). Seth also spoke about successful marathon runners and an important lesson that school leaders can learn from them: they figure out where to put the tired!
“The only way to do things better is to do things that might not work.”
Laying the foundation for innovation in education – George Couros
In the second keynote, I finally had the opportunity to listen to George Couros. He is someone who I have followed and admired for years. His name appears repeatedly throughout my blog! George spoke about moving from “pockets” of innovation in our schools to a culture of innovation. He provided practical ideas and reminded the participants of what really matters in our schools. I particularly like how he defines the purpose of school (as seen in the quote below).
Side note: I also won a book from this session! George started with a fun game. He played music and the first participant to name the song and the artist won a prize. I recognised MMMBop by Hanson almost immediately! Since I already own George’s books, I selected Holly Ransom’s book instead (see below).
“The role of school is to help every student find a pathway to success that is meaningful for them.”
Strategic storytelling – Anjali Sharma
Anjali Sharma speaks passionately about the identities of different schools and what they stand for. It’s important that this clear to all stakeholders and informs decision-making. Schools that lack a clear purpose tend to be mediocre at everything, she explains. As a mother, Anjali recalls touring different schools only to learn about their facilities. Choosing a school is a highly emotional decision for parents and they need to know what the school truly values. She went on to explain that school identities do not come from boardrooms. Rather, they are built over time as a result of lots of stories and microstories. As a principal of a brand-new school (who has led countless school tours), this session was particularly meaningful and resonant.
“In the absence of identity, you offer an average school with average results.”
Building Leadership Capacity with STRIDE mentoring | Part 1 and Part 2 – Michael Iannini
Last year, I participated in Michael’s fantastic middle leadership course and learnt a lot from it, so I knew that his Masterclass would be well worth attending! Michael is a strong advocate for middle leaders and feels strongly that innovation in schools comes from middle leaders who are empowered. In this Masterclass, Michael reminded us that the real work of leaders is to develop more leaders. Part 2 delved into the strength-based STRIDE model for mentoring and the clear benefits it has on the mentee, mentor and the school as a whole.
“The measure of a great leader is the leaders they leave behind.”
Trust and inspire: Unleashing greatness in education – Stephen M. R. Covey
I really enjoyed listening to this keynote because Stephen showed a genuine appreciation for us school leaders, the work that we do and our commitment to professional learning. He states that the world needs more of this style of leadership. What leaders did previously (based largely on command & control) is no longer relevant because the world has moved on. Nowadays, people want to be led, trusted, inspired and empowered. The keynote emphasised the critical importance of trust in our work because none of this is possible without high levels of trust in our relationships.
“Command & Control in today’s schools is like playing tennis with a golf club.”
Stephen M. R. Covey
Unlocking your leading edge – Holly Ransom
Holly’s keynote had a huge impact on me, partly because of challenges I was facing at that time and partly because it resonated so much with my philosophy of leadership. Like Stephen, Holly spoke about the fast rate of change that we are currently experiencing and the even faster changes that are coming up. The key message that I learnt from this keynote is that we must be comfortable being uncomfortable. As Holly said, it’s the things we’re most afraid of that we need to do more of. By being vulnerable and taking risks, we can gradually increase our comfort zone and grow as leaders. Holly is an inspirational leader who I have enjoyed following ever since this session. Her book (that I won from George’s session) finally reached me last week and I look forward to diving in!
“How long does it take to learn from someone’s lifetime of experience? Coffee.”
In action! – A’ric Jackson
In this highly personal and sometimes emotional session, A’ric Jackson encouraged us to “destroy our boxes” by overcoming limitations. He outlined different limitations for us to consider such as our own self-talk. A’ric emphasises the importance of being ourselves unapologetically and the essential role of authenticity in leadership. The best leaders, he states, are the ones who own their stories.
“The best leaders own their stories. Especially in a world of social media, people are starving for authenticity.”
I hope you enjoyed reading my reflections. It’s probably clear why this event was so inspiring and energising for me! The good people at Toddle know how to find the best people and throw amazing PD events! The next one to look forward to is the The Inquiry Educator Summit 2023. You can register here.