Lead Learner – What Does That Mean?



I call myself a Lead Learner. Yes, I am officially a PreK-5 principal, but what I do is lead learning.  But what does that mean?

In a recent email from an anonymous colleague, I introduced myself as the lead learner of East Side Elementary School rather than the principal.  In the response at the end of the email, this individual asked, “Would you clarify the role of the lead learner.”  Well of course.  So here was my response:

I am pleased that you asked for more clarification regarding a lead learner.  My official role is as principal of the East Side Elementary School, but I consider myself a lead learner. 
There are three keys to maximizing impact a principal can do, as Michael Fullan states, the role of the principal is a:
1.  Agent of Change
2. Systems Player
3. Leading Learning or Lead Learner
As the lead learner, I model and shape the conditions for all to learn.  I learn alongside my teachers.
For instance, we moved to a Responsive Classroom philosophy that has dramatically improved our culture and I was trained alongside my teachers so I, as the lead learner, can have sustainability in the program.  We are being trained in PBL.  I will be at that three day training so I can sustain the outcomes and learning for the staff and students.
It is a new way of thinking about the role of the principal.  There are a bunch of us that are calling ourselves lead learners.  It’s also about building professional capital.  Our staff and teachers can be lead learners too.  My recommendation, get Michael Fullan’s book The Principal.  It’s a must for ALL principals.  I hope that gives you a snapshot of  what a lead learner is. We need too move from administrator to Lead Learner.  Even better Connected Lead Learner’s.

I haven’t heard back as of yet, but wanted to meet and talk about it further about my journey as a lead learner.  As stated, this is a shift in philosophy and a new way in looking at school leadership.  Michael Fullan has a great visual noted here:

Move from principal to lead learner.  Build the professional capital of your staff.  Give them the autonomy and the power to make decisions that are best for kiddos.  Bring in your parents and systems not only within the the school, but throughout the district as well as the community and region.  And let go of, “But that is the way we always did it.”  That is not change leadership.  This is not easy and believe you me, I have a lot to do, but in the end, it is best for kids.  Isn’t that what it’s about?

  1. #1 by cvarsalona on August 10, 2014 - 3:27 pm

    Well said, Vicki. Your connected lead learner status is one that will take you far on your journey to impact teaching and learning.

    • #2 by Victoria L. Day on August 10, 2014 - 3:41 pm

      Thanks Carol!

  2. #3 by Jay Posick on August 10, 2014 - 9:58 pm

    It’s a powerful message when we call ourselves lead learners. I know that you will show your students, staff, and families that this is your true calling.
    Have a great year!

  3. #4 by Joy on August 12, 2014 - 12:09 am

    Thank you for this post!! I have been motivated to change my title as well to Lead Learner as I thinking about being a life long learner and creating the conditions for learning to happen for all of our community members.

  4. #5 by Ben Gilpin on August 12, 2014 - 6:12 am

    Spot on! Vicki you summed up the changing role extremely well. I appreciate your attitude as Lead Learner. Your positive nature and willingness to walk hand-in-hand with others really sets you apart. Thanks for the post, I’m glad to call you colleague and friend!


  5. #6 by Kara Reidy-Vedder on March 12, 2015 - 2:45 pm

    Hello Vicki,
    I recently received a copy of your article about Lead Learners and I am planning on citing it in a paper I am writing for grad school. The only problem- the person who copied it for me did not mention what magazine it came from and I am having trouble hunting it down to cite properly. If you have a moment, could you please share which magazine the article was posted in? Thank you!

    • #7 by Victoria L. Day on March 12, 2015 - 5:51 pm

      I would love to. It is from the School Administrators Association of New York Vanguard/ Practices from Practitioners True Impact. Fall 2014 Vol. 43 No. 3 pages 19-21. Thanks for reading it!

      • #8 by Kara Reidy-Vedder on March 12, 2015 - 7:59 pm

        Thank you so much for the quick reply! I am looking forward to becoming a Lead Learner soon!

      • #9 by Victoria L. Day on March 12, 2015 - 8:08 pm

        You bet. Keep in touch!

  1. Steve Barkley » Blog Archive » Leading Through Learning

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