The need for effective teacher leaders is ongoing and urgent in K-12 schools. Each teacher lends their expertise and talent to the overall welfare of the school community. Gathering this expertise and putting it to good use doesn’t happen magically. Great teacher leaders, supported by experienced mentors, help pave the way for effective supervision.
Your classroom duties are essential to student achievement, but now you’re wondering how you can contribute to the whole school community. Do you find yourself helping colleagues find resources for a lesson? Have you helped someone build curriculum plans or learn how to navigate new tech software? Do you have a knack for supporting your peers? If so, you’re a natural leader. It’s time to take some steps to expand your footprint in the school system.
Assess Your Character Traits
Your path to leadership might take a formal turn in becoming an administrative leader like an instructional coach, department chair, principal, or superintendent or you might take a more informal, organic route like addressing a problem or proposing a new program. Your leadership skills will determine how you make a difference.
Here are a few characteristics and skills needed to promote change successfully.
You already have experience in the classroom experimenting with best practices for learning. You’ve approached challenges, defined them, set a plan into operation, monitored the process, and adjusted where necessary. You define yourself as a problem-solver extraordinaire.
But to be a strong leader, you also need to seek out and absorb professional development and material relevant to your instructional practice. This is where coaching can come in handy. By working with a coach in an area like Principalship (a BetterLesson focus area for new and aspiring principals), you can decide on a path that’s right for you while you prepare for leadership.
School leaders continuously improve upon outcomes for students. Defining the changes needed to cultivate school and teacher best practices sets the stage for goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics for growth. Leaders formulate plans, assemble resources, communicate the vision, and implement and monitor the progress. Analysis of data and the ability to adjust is needed to keep the vision alive, intact, and on track.
But these are things you’re already doing! Whether you’re analyzing student data to inform instruction, monitoring progress in your classroom, or seeking feedback to improve your teaching practice, you already have the foundation skills to lead.
Consider creating a personal leadership philosophy to help you define where you want to go.
Leaders are, above all, good listeners. School improvement cannot happen without listening to the team to clarify, probe, synthesize ideas and questions, and leverage individual expertise. Promoting trust and inspiring others to accept the vision and move forward is essential to being a successful leader.
A collaborative leadership style may be the number one skill that fosters a sense of shared value and ownership. As a leader, if you’re asking your school team to be actively involved and accountable for results, you will need to support them at every stage. A few ways you can build on the skills you already have:
Design achievable goals
In your classroom, you set goals for yourself and your students.
As a leader, you will need to start by planning short-term, achievable goals in a non-threatening atmosphere and celebrating the completion of each goal.
Build trusting relationships that honor feedback
As a teacher, you have experience giving feedback to help students learn. As a leader, you will need to build on that by allowing your school team to have decision-making authority within the scope of their work and offering (and receiving!) authentic feedback.
Set team norms
Conflict is inevitable in group dynamics. Just like in a classroom, you will need to set up norms from the beginning to keep communication constructive.
Choose Your Leadership Role
Determine your superpower. Are you passionate about instructional practice? Do you love analyzing data and using it to inform your practice? Do curriculum and standards pique your interest?
Options abound for potential teacher leaders to seek both formal and informal growth opportunities. Here are a few of the most common leadership paths.
If you want to see the “aha” moment in other teachers’ eyes…
New teachers are often overwhelmed in their new position. Experienced mentor teachers can ease the stress by advising them on instruction tips, classroom management, curriculum, and even politics. Guiding new teachers on a successful path can prevent teacher burnout, improve retention rates, and encourage growth in their career path. Plus, watching your mentee grow in confidence and expertise is a uniquely satisfying experience.
If you love helping teachers improve their classroom practice…
Veteran teachers tasked with observing teacher practice work with teachers to analyze observations and develop plans to address growing edges and reinvigorate their practice. Coaching can include in-the-moment feedback in the classroom,assistance in monitoring student outcomes, and helping your teachers feel more confident in their practice.
If you are drawn to data…
Data can be instrumental in driving effective classroom instruction in areas ranging from personalizing classroom instruction to helping leaders build a culture of trust in their school. The coach, tasked with improving student achievement, organizes and analyzes school data and facilitates conversations with faculty on ways to tweak instruction.
If behind-the-scenes curriculum design lights you up…
This leader helps teachers use national, state, and district curriculum standards to plan instruction and assessment. The curriculum specialist dives deeply into the structure of the curriculum to understand the parts thoroughly. These activities will help teachers determine students’ strengths and target areas for improvement.
If you want to make a school-wide difference…
Principalship is a calling for those looking to make a deep, positive, and lasting impact on a school’s students, teachers, and parents, but it’s a path that requires preparation, time, and effort.
A few common requirements:
- 5 or more years of teaching experience
- Master’s or doctoral degree in education leadership or administration
- Experience volunteering to lead school programs or step into teacher leadership roles
- Knowledge of instructional practice to evaluate teacher performance and offer feedback for growth
- Knowledge of curriculum standards to develop and implement standards
Using Coaching to Achieve Your Goals
Whether your path takes a formal turn leading you to become an administrator, instructional coach, or department chair, or whether you take a more informal, organic route like addressing a school problem or proposing a new program, your leadership skills make a difference. Personal coaching is key to effective, timely, sustainable changes in your school community.
While leaders generally have a well-developed sense of what they want to accomplish, talking with a coach helps to clarify the vision. Coaches are able to ask questions in a non-evaluative space like “What’s going well and why?” and “What are your challenges and why are they challenges?” Articulating these issues helps to clarify the thought process. Coaches guide leaders to reflect on issues around student achievement, grade levels, and collaboration and encourage leaders to create resources for teachers.
Coaching can not only pave the way for effective principalship; it can be the source of success in any leadership position, from mentor to data coach to academic coach. BetterLesson offers coaching for every stage of your leadership journey.
If you’re in the first few years of your teaching career and want to eventually move to a leadership role, our Teachership focus area can help. Within the Teachership focus area, you’ll find resources and professional learning to help you determine your goals and start your career on the right foot.
If you are looking to hone your instructional coaching skills, the Instructional Coaching focus area offers resources like strategies and personal coaching. Your coach is an outside instructional coach who can help you level-up your practice.
If you are a new principal or you are looking to move into a principalship role, the Principalship focus area offers a guided approach to meeting the demands of principalship today, including leadership resources and essential topics
If you are already in a leadership position, Executive Coaching offers a year-long progression for school leaders looking to build their leadership skills, hone their vision, use data in their school, and more.
Contact BetterLesson today to learn how to get started.Let's Talk