Whether you’re a teacher or an administrator, you have the ability to help your school by cultivating leadership skills and becoming a formal or informal leader.
While school administrators have the opportunity to improve their schools through a purpose and a vision for their institution, teachers also have a leadership role to play. That’s because teachers tend to stay with their schools much longer than administrators, often for their entire careers; this longevity allows them to carry the institution’s cultural memory and gives them the chance to influence multiple generations of children in the community.
School leaders and aspiring school leaders need to cultivate the personal traits and qualities that make school leaders effective, such as a strong sense of purpose, a vision for their school and a willingness to help students succeed individually and collectively. As a teacher leader or administrator, you have the chance to influence policy at your school, improve outcomes for at-risk students, send more graduates to four-year colleges and more.
What Makes a Great School Leader
Great school leaders have a number of qualities in common, whether they’re teacher leaders or administrators. For one thing, a great school leader must have a clear mission. You need some clarity about your mission and it needs to be specific. Do you want to help a specific underserved population? Are you hoping to turn a failing school around? Would you like to change grading policies to improve student commitment to doing well? All of these are great examples of strong missions for good school leaders.
An effective school leader also needs a sense of purpose; he or she must know why he or she wants to do the work of a teacher or school administrator. Perhaps you want all your students reading at grade level, or you want to show struggling inner-city youth that high academic and professional achievement is possible for them. Maybe you want all your graduating seniors to attend college. Perhaps you want your students to take more time to look over feedback instead of just glancing at a grade and throwing their papers into their lockers, never to be seen again. By understanding what you want to achieve and why you want to achieve it, you’ll be in a position to grow into the best educational leader you can be.
Develop Leadership Skills
Of course, a sense of mission and purpose aren’t all that an educational leader needs to succeed. You need to be persuasive; you can’t drag your school kicking and screaming into accepting your new policies or force it to adhere to your vision. You need to take people along with you willingly.
You’ll need leadership skills that you may not have developed in teacher training, such as the ability to monitor the progress of every student in your care and to maintain high expectations alongside feelings of genuine emotional connection with students. You’ll need communication skills, some knowledge of organizational psychology and other important administrative skills to implement new policies and amend old ones; offer worthwhile feedback to other educators; and facilitate professional development opportunities for teachers and staff.
There are plenty of professional development resources for teacher leaders, but perhaps the best way to develop the leadership skills you’ll need in an academic setting is by enrolling in an online master’s in education administration. A master’s in education administration will prepare you to make the transition to a formal school leadership role, whether as a department chair, a principal or assistant principal, an instructional leader or a director. If you’d rather continue as a teacher, you can use the skills you learn in the program to grow professionally as a respected teacher leader in your institution and influence the policies and practices that mean the most to your students. You can earn the credential on your own time, and you’ll still be able to uphold your responsibilities to your students and your school.
If you’re an educator, don’t discount the power of leadership to improve your school. You can make school more effective and more rewarding for your students and colleagues by stepping up and taking on a leadership role in your institution. When educators become leaders, students benefit – and so do the schools and faculty they depend on.
About the Author
Tiffany Rowe is a marketing administrator who assists in contributing resourceful content throughout the World Wide Web. Tiffany prides herself in her ability to provide high quality content that readers will find valuable. When not researching, editing or submitting content you can find her doing Yoga, photography, D.I.Y crafting and dog training.