Thursday, April 24, 2014

Teacher leadership

Teachers are leaders. There's no doubt that when we stand in front of a group of kids, regardless of their age, we are on the verge of making an impact, influencing them and guiding them through, sometimes, unexplored trails. But teachers not only influence their students, they also influence each other, and others above them in the educational organizational chart. So the question is... what kind of a teacher-leader are you?



A lot of teachers think that in order to lead, integrate technology, or bring about change in education, you need to be a superintendent, a district-wide tech coordinator, a principal or hold a similar position. Nothing could be farther from the truth! In fact, wherever you are in the educational spectrum, you can effectively lead others. The principle I'd like to share with you comes from the very own nature of leadership and from years of research and experience from Dr. John C. Maxwell. In his book, The 360 Degree Leader, Dr. Maxwell states in the most simple and effective way:
Leadership is a choice you make, not a place you sit. You can lead others from anywhere in an organization. And when you do, you make the organization better”
As a matter of fact, if you're not in an official position of command and decision-making in your school or district, there's a crucial role you play: Maxwell quotes David Branker on this:
To do nothing in the middle is to create more weight for the top leader to move. For some leaders—it might even feel like dead weight. Leaders in the middle can have a profound effect on an organization.

Bringing it down to the education industry

Here are a couple of practical thoughts and advice I'd like to offer to all of us who are in the middle leadership tier:

  • Innovate. Don't be afraid to propose new ideas and strategies to your principals or school leadership. Don't settle for the status quo. Just because it's been done like this for the past n years, it doesn't mean it's the best way to tackle the challenge.
  • Share your work, what you do and what you've accomplished with other educators in your school, district or with the world. Blogging is a fantastic way to effectively influence more people you can imagine.
  • Be honest. Don't hesitate to tell others what worked and what didn't. After all, leadership is not a synonym of perfection.
  • Add value to others around you. You do this all the time with your students but, perhaps it's time to do it with the teacher next door or even with those who are reluctant to change. 
  • Empty your leaders' backpacks and fill yours. By nature, we only do what we're supervised to do. We typically say "That's not in my job description". The more you empty your leaders' backpacks with tasks and problems and fill yours with those, the more you're becoming like them from a commitment and responsibility point of view. 
What are your thoughts on this principle? How can you apply it in practical ways to what you do on a daily basis? What are you already doing that shows leadership in the mid-level of your organization? What would you like to do? Please share your thoughts, comments or questions.



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