Are you ready to take a LEAP of faith in 2016?

| November 13, 2015 | 0 Comments

By Sue Lazenby and Warren Marks

Are you a risk-taking educator looking for a different international experience?

In 2009, we (both retired principals) launched Leading Educators Around the Planet (LEAP). Educational leadership has long been a passion for us both. Marks held senior positions with the New South Wales (NSW) Australian Department of Education (NSWDEC) in leadership preparation and development; both Marks (2003) and Lazenby (2005) were recipients of NSWDEC awards to undertake international research into successful leadership preparation and leadership development programmes around the globe. This passion (and these experiences) led Marks to undertake a doctoral study related to late-career principals (completed 2012) and Lazenby to be currently undertaking doctoral research into the professional needs of experienced school principals.

Launching the LEAP programme, which facilitates the sharing of educational leadership best practice through a grounded peer- shadowing model, was a natural extension of our commitment to the internationalisation of educational leadership. LEAP enables principals (and other educational leaders) to experience the excitement, exhilaration, personal development and professional growth that comes from international collaborative learning with colleagues across the globe.

Growth

LEAP commenced in 2009 between 12 NSW and 14 Ontario (Canada) educational leaders. The link between NSW and Ontario was a result of locating likeminded principals, system leaders and international researchers in Ontario when undertaking our international research into leadership preparation and development. The programme has grown dramatically since then as various principal groups around the globe hear about it and want to become involved. LEAP now operates between educational leaders from NSW and Canada (Ontario, Alberta and New Brunswick); England (Essex and South Gloucestershire); Finland; Ireland; Scotland and the USA (Alabama). In addition to the geographical growth, LEAP has now expanded to include other educational leaders, such as deputy principals, senior education officers and educational consultants. This expansion has been activated by the formal evaluations from and informal network conversations between participants in LEAP, who consistently rate the LEAP experience as the best personal and professional learning experience of their career.

The programme

LEAP is a short-term, reciprocal, peer-shadowing programme where participants from NSW are matched with likeminded educators from other countries who are at a similar professional level and who have similar personal interests.

Phase one: The international participants visit Australia during their summer holidays while NSW schools are in
session. The programme itself runs for approximately two weeks (although many participants incorporate it into a longer travelling holiday in Australia). Participants are billeted in the homes of their NSW ‘partners’ and hosted at their partner’s school. They are also engaged in a leadership programme and undertake an action-learning project. Upon arrival at Sydney International Airport, the programme commences with a welcome luncheon. The next two weeks include days spent in the host school with staff, researching the action-learning topic, visiting other local schools of special interest, attending principal meetings, and returning to Sydney to participate in an international conference (with world-renowned speakers) and the farewell dinner, which concludes phase one of the
programme.

Each year, the LEAP programme adopts a theme,
which becomes the focus of our one-day international conference. In 2013, the theme was ‘Instructional Leadership’ and, in 2014, ‘Indigenous Education’. In 2015, the theme was ‘Teacher Professional Learning’ and keynote speakers included Dr Michele Bruniges (secretary, NSWDEC); Helen Timperley (University of Auckland, New Zealand); Stephen Dinham (University of Melbourne, Australia); Judyth Sachs (University of Sydney and Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia) and Norman McCulla (Macquarie University). These LEAP conferences have grown in reputation, status and popularity, with each of the last three conferences being oversubscribed and closed off at 450 delegates.

Phase two: In September/October (NSW school holidays), NSW participants reunite with their international partner to be billeted and hosted for two weeks. The educational programme in the return host’s location will vary according to that educational system, and is the prerogative of the hosting participants. However, the core elements remain consistent: a welcome function, local billeting and hosting, attendance at relevant local professional learning opportunities, attendance at local principal (or deputy principal) meetings, undertaking a personal action-learning project, and a farewell function. Sightseeing and enjoying the local culture is an essential component that the host participants usually delight in organising.

Membership

No membership fees are paid unless the match is accepted and the international educator travels to Australia for phase 1
( July/August). At this time, a fee of AUS$500 is payable to cover full participation in the professional and social programme organised by LEAP in NSW.

Participation in LEAP requires a membership fee for the year when the participant joins. In this sense, there is not an ongoing membership fee. Rather, the year that a person joins, he/she is matched with a NSW principal (or educational leader); travels to Australia in July/August to be hosted/billeted with their Australian partner and to participate in the two-week professional learning programme; and hosts/billets their Australian partner, who pays for the return visit in September. Interestingly, there are principals (and other educational leaders) who are joining more than once, and therefore are experiencing different locations in different years. We currently have many ‘double-leapers’ and even some ‘triple-leapers’.

Participants continually provide feedback about how manageable this programme is within the hectic demands of their role; how they experience a sense of professional rejuvenation and heightened motivation; how they value highly gaining a personal first-hand international perspective; how the experience encourages deep personal reflection; and how involvement has had significant impact on the their leadership, the teachers, the students and the parent community connected to their school.

Programme flexibility

LEAP is designed to meet participants’ individual circumstances. Options include:

• travelling alone or with your partner
• extending your travel beyond the duration of the programme
• spreading the programme over two years (e.g. travel in one year and hosting the next)
• engaging in just one phase of the programme by billeting and hosting only.

The over-riding aim is to connect educational leaders from various parts of the globe in professional dialogue and shared experiences. The learning is deep and rich, the sharing is profound and the friendships are exhilarating.

Where to from here

To learn more about (or to become involved in) this innovative and exciting international leadership programme:
• e-mail us at: warren.marks@det.nsw.edu.au or
suzanne.lazenby@gmail.com
• visit the website: www.aleap4principals.com.au
• visit YouTube and search for ‘Leading Educators Around the Planet’. Applications open 30 November 2015 and close 1 March 2016.
Might you now be that risk-taking educator looking for different international experience?

Category: Summer 2015

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