Isn’t it ironic that thinking about sustainability is often initiated from concerns with the management of risk? Similarly, should decisions regarding the management of risk end up being a new ‘to do’ list of behaviours (or survival strategies). It seems to me that sustainabiliy is more than a once off or annual ‘fixing’ of particular situations. While attention to particulars is critically important, the focus of our concern should be ‘sustainability in dialogue’. After all, ‘the flip side of relationships is dialogue’. A serious concern for personal and organisational sustainability needs to occur within the relational context we share with others. Such a concern moves away from solitary stresses of ‘fixing’ ourselves to broadening our shared dialogue to a concern for how we ‘release’ each other into greater expressions of what Patrick Blessinger terms ‘meaning-centred’ lives.
As a School of Education, for example, we have an aspirational statement around 3 dimensions: Intellectual rigour, sustainable practice and social justice. These dimensions need not be lifeless nor silent in our relating. They might be the basis of dialogue between staff, for instance, what does social justice look like in the way we relate in the context of allocating responsibilities or in the distribution of workloads? Similarly, should a way of being that involves sustainable practice ever be an individual outcome? In addition, have we limited intellectual rigour to teaching and learning processes that need no more than rationalist thought? Where is the space for, what Martin Heidegger calls, those thoughts that ‘find’ us from deliberative and contemplative inquiry.
In our book, co-costructing a relational aproach to educational leadership and management (Giles et al, 2012 [Cengage]), we stated that the enduring themes surrounding leadership remain as:
‘ – leadership involves life long formation
– leadership is always relational and contextual
– leadership is a critical and humanistic endeavour
– leadership needs to be strengths-based and sustainable’.
These themes are born out of phenomenlogical research and are no different for teachers, administrators, those in governance, in early childhood, primary or secondary schooling, tertiary education, or departments of education, teacher registration boards, schools of education and the like.
In an educational context founded upon an ‘ethic of care’, we must enter into, and sustain the priority of sharing aspirational endeavours that work to ‘release’ the best in ourselves and others.