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Registrar's Report

The Bridges of Leadership

An unlikely source of inspiration leads to a bridge between teaching and learning about … well … bridges.

By Michael Salvatori, OCT
Photo: Matthew Plexman

Photo of College Registrar Michael Salvatori.

Last June, I had the pleasure of attending a Rufus Wainwright concert as part of the Luminato Festival in Toronto. The concert was a song-by-song reproduction of Judy Garland’s 1961 performance at Carnegie Hall.

As I tapped my foot along to “San Francisco,” the lyrics started to resonate: There’s Brooklyn bridge, London Bridge and the bridge of San Louis Rey … But the only bridge that’s a real gone bridge is the bridge across the bay ...

One word: bridge. And, like a bridge, it connected with Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader, a book I was reading by Herminia Ibarra in which the author illustrates the importance of leaders serving as bridges, making connections to the external world rather than serving as internal hubs.

Ibarra cites research by Deborah Ancona, who found that “team leaders who delivered the best results did not spend the bulk of their time playing these internal roles. Instead, the best leaders worked as bridges between the team and its external environment.”

In part, this research flips my previous assumptions and expectations of leaders as the nucleus providing direction, guidance and information to others. As I read further, I began to think of the “bridge model” of leadership and the role of the leader in facilitating growth and independence among others.

The astute leader observes and discerns what the team needs and then sets out to build bridges between the team and resources — human or otherwise — to facilitate its work. In some cases, the “bridge” is a link between an interest or need and the development of a capacity within an individual; a bridge to the teaching and learning process.

In some cases, the “bridge” is a link between an interest or need and the development of a capacity within an individual; a bridge to the teaching and learning process.

As teachers who facilitate student learning, we serve as bridges. The contemporary concept of the teaching and learning dynamic reinforces this model. Student-centred learning naturally diminishes the role of teacher as the hub and promotes connecting, scaffolding learning and capacity building.

The role of teacher-leader is an important one in learning environments as well as at the school and board level.

To acknowledge the role, the College recently developed an Additional Qualification (AQ) course — Teacher Leadership.

Last fall, we engaged members in a survey to help develop the content for the guideline for the course. Our survey response was excellent and generated topics such as: supporting transformative teacher leadership through inquiry and collaboration; mindful leadership; leadership development; reflective theories and practices; pedagogical leadership; empowerment; capacity building; and building ethical leadership.

The draft guideline is available on the College’s website at I invite you to read it and provide your feedback. Once it’s final, providers will use the guideline to offer the AQ course. A teacher as bridge connects the learner to opportunities and possibilities both within themselves and in their environments.

Michael Salvatori's handwritten signature.