5 Things Educators Need to Know About Leadership

Thoughts from Educators, for Educators

In education, leadership emerges in many shapes and places. It thrives in an environment of support, respect, and optimism, and is necessary at all levels of the teaching profession — every school, classroom, and child needs a network of leaders to empower them to flourish.

But in this profession, you don’t have to be in a position that clearly designates you as a leader to become a leader in your own space and network. Leadership is about supporting your colleagues, your students, and yourself — it’s about taking risks in pedagogy, trying new technologies, and holding your community together.

The Art of Teaching Project gives us the privilege of connecting with educators from across the country, who hold a variety of roles, experiences, and perspectives. When given the platform to share their thoughts with an audience of peers, many of them chose to discuss leadership. Here are some of the most impactful learnings they’ve shared with us, that we want to pass along to you:

Elementary teacher Cassie Brooks, on being a teacher leader:

“Being a leader when you are not an administrator is tough. Stepping out of your box is tough. Getting people to accept change is tough. Doing all the extra tasks that have nothing to do with actual teaching is tough. Sometimes I want to just back up. Maybe you do, too. Maybe you have just backed up and given up when those tough times have loomed ahead. Ultimately, though, the tough times have to be faced. The difficult tasks have to be completed, and you have to step out of your box from time to time. So, don’t back up. You just make the journey longer when you have to start that way again. Teacher leaders must move forward.”

Principal Stefan Joly, on understanding other roles:

“Being a teacher and preparing for the school year was not easier or less stressful than the administrative duties I face now. We both face the same levels of anxiety as the first days sneak up. The first days of school for a teacher are full of nervous anxiety making sure every detail is perfect for each student coming into the classroom. I appreciate that nervous energy now, and know that my energy preparing my classroom put my administration at ease.”

Principal Derek McCoy on providing feedback and coaching:

“I will be the first to admit that while I was unskilled at giving feedback, I very rarely broached OFIs with others. Different positions and roles don’t automatically imbue us next level skills, particularly in cognitive coaching. Be ready to have talks with your team about what, how, when, and why we have to have change conversations.”

Director of Curriculum & Instruction Barry Saide on resiliency:

“Resilient educators often become leaders in their classrooms, buildings, and districts. They lead from that place of vulnerability, displaying with strength what others might classify as weakness. It takes a special person to identify their own personal failures, name the players involved in these personal experiences, and weave these short-term failures into long-term positive personal narratives that can radiate from them to those around them.”

Director of Technology Kyle Pace on fostering a culture of leadership:

“All too often in education — whether that be at a conference, in a professional learning workshop, or even at a faculty meeting, we have become used to one person in the room being the “expert”, or the “Oz” around a particular topic. While these leaders are certainly needed to help us shift our thinking and culture around teaching and learning, they should not stay the only authority on a topic for long. As educational leaders — superintendents, assistant superintendents, directors, principals, and assistant principals — are we investing the time to build leadership capacity in others? It is my belief that the best leaders create more leaders. We should all strive to be a “multiplier”, someone who wishes to increase leadership capacity in others.”

For more stories from educators, visit The Art of Teaching Project.

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