International event draws more than 1,000 delegates
More than 1,000 educational leaders from around the world met in Banff from March 15 to 18 to take part in uLead 2015, a conference billed as “the summit of educational leadership.” Attendees, which included leaders from school, district, provincial and state levels, all gathered to learn and grow together.
Delegates participated in full-day workshops with a focus on leadership for early childhood education, presented by Edmonton Catholic Schools, and on high school redesign, presented by principals from Calgary Catholic Schools. Delegates had an opportunity to participate in keynote presentations by a variety of experts, including Simon Breakspear, Pasi Sahlberg, Andy Hargreaves, Dennis Shirley and Pak Tee Ng.
March 17 began with a leadership panel discussion that included Alberta Education Minister Gordon Dirks, Iceland’s education minister iLLugi Gunnarsson, Pak Tee Ng of Singapore, Finland’s Pasi Sahlberg and several principals from Alberta. These presentations formed the basis for an ongoing discussion on agile leadership in the face of the many forces that are acting on education worldwide today.
This discussion formed the basis for four days of quality dialogue by the delegates, with 75 sessions presented by practicing school leaders from around the world. Many of these discussions were animated by Alberta school leaders sharing stories from their schools or districts. Many were led by principals — such as Eyglo Fridriksdottir, from Reykjavík’s Sæmundarskóli School, or Lisbeth Gyllander, from Helsingborg, Sweden — who shared about things they have learned in their school leadership journeys.
Many dozens of individuals came from abroad to participate in uLead, including a team of 33 from Iceland, seven from Sweden, and delegates from Australia, Singapore, Norway, the United States and Great Britain.
Delegates made numerous comments about how transformative the discussions were for them as school leaders and how connected the many presenters were to the daily reality of their schools and classrooms.
“Pak Tee sharing that education was the heartbeat of a teacher resonated with teachers in the worldwide audience,” stated one delegate.
Ng also shared that “education is the human enterprise of paying it forward.”
This sentiment was a thread that ran through the four-day leadership event. As Simon Breakspear shared at uLead, “There is no ‘what works’ in education. There is only what’s working, for what people, and under what conditions.”
The delegates at uLead took away many things from their time in Banff. One particularly strong thread that they all carried away with them was the message that there are three “killer apps” of flourishing learning: agency, relevance and connection. They also carried strong new relationships with leaders from around the world that they will explore in the months to come. ❚
Jeff Johnson was one of the organizers of uLead 2015 and is an executive staff officer in the Professional Development program area of the Alberta Teachers’ Association.