by EVELYN A. PANGILINAN, Ph.D.
School Principal IV
Niyugan Elementary School
Change dominates our world and education is a major vehicle for initiating, managing, and sustaining or stabilizing our environments affected by change. It is through educational value that we develop the understanding and knowledge to effectively craft strategies for leading change (Kotter, 1996).
The previous school year was a period of adjustment not only for school heads and teachers, but also for learners who were accustomed to the conventional school setting where they meet their teachers and classmates face to face. Parents on the other hand also experienced a 360° turn of events because probably most of them turned into para-teachers or home knowledge providers while others have to sacrifice their work.
These sudden transformations in education were the effects of Covid19 pandemic in the country. The situation caused the schools to forgo with face-to-face classes (as recommended by IATF and approved / as ordered by the President) and embrace distance learning. With this situation, bigger responsibility was put on the shoulders of school heads.
Distance learning is an educational situation where the instructor and the students are separated by time, location, or both, and it can be either synchronous (real-time, instructor-led event in which all participants are virtually “in class” at the same time) or asynchronous (interaction between instructors and students occurs intermittently with a time delay) using a variety of distribution methods including technology (Freeman, 2010). In our country, most public schools adopted the Modular-print Distance Learning as the learning modality for the previous school year and most probably this school year 2021-2022.
The roles of school heads in distance learning are doubled since they are responsible for the effective general management of the school, for ensuring the provision of academic leadership and strategic vision, and for the quality of instruction that learners need to have.
Prior to the opening of school year 2020-2021, school heads underwent refresher or short courses, i.e. Learning Delivery Modality Course for School Heads (LDM1) and other DepEd and NEAP-sponsored upskilling to name a few. The LDM1 course somehow prepared the school heads in implementing distance learning.
School heads are also expected to perform their roles as the first key to quality instruction in distance learning because as instructional leaders of the schools they manage, they need to set core standards; standards governing curriculum and instruction, as well as learners’ performances.
Next role of school heads is to give optimum support to teachers by providing technical assistance or coaching and mentoring and conducting walk through. They have to continue this practice especially during distance learning where they can participate in remote discussions and provide constructive feedback. This is the time where teachers really need the presence of the school heads particularly in facing issues regarding distance learning.
The success of any organization is an outcome of dynamic and effective leadership (Sharma & Dakhane, 1998). Thus, another role of school heads in distance learning is to provide leadership and coordination within the school for both internal and external stakeholders in order to meet the school’s objectives in implementing distance learning. School heads must create a team where stakeholders can help each other in devising an effective work plan of activities for a successful distance learning.
Maintaining effective educational programs and promoting improvement of teaching and learning are also the roles of school heads because the success of the school lies on the quality of educational programs offered especially in distance learning where parents are really involved in teaching their children.
Developing high collaborative efforts between and among teachers must also be in the list of roles of school heads in order to create common value and agreement. Regular meetings must be conducted by the school heads to be able to track the progress of the learning modality used.
Then, school heads must also establish high, reasonable and clear expectations that do not keep teachers from guessing what would be the next move for the school. This creates trust, allowing teachers to be comfortable with taking ideas or problems to the school heads. This would also prevent misunderstandings or misleading information. They must provide motivation for teachers and learners and lead in ways that encourage the distance learning team to strive for excellence.
It is also the role of school heads to spearhead the training and empowerment of teachers to effectively use technology and apply the highest service protocols in responding to and assisting learners through In-service trainings (INSETs) and School Learning Action Cells (SLAC) where teachers themselves get to help one another and share their ideas for the success of the distance learning delivery modality. This requires effective delivery of skills and training using appropriate technology and pedagogical approaches (Entz, 2006).
Finally, school heads must also address issues and concerns on distance learning immediately to avoid bigger problems. Thus, school heads have an instructional quality role in which they should determine the factors that build and contribute to the quality and growth of instruction in distance learning.
“Great leaders don’t set out to be leaders, they set out to make a difference.” – Jeremy Bravo ###