No one is perfect and no one gets it right 100 percent of the time. Even the teachers that seem super organized and always perfect will make a mistake every now and then. But there are mistakes, and there are MISTAKES.
I have outlined seven critical errors all teachers and educators should have on their list things to avoid. As a former classroom teacher, with absolutely no teaching experience or educator training prior to my first day in the classroom (my college major was criminal justice), I was guilty of most of these instructional leadership mistakes. These are the very mistakes I advise the teachers I now coach to avoid if they strive to become an instructional leader.
Don’t have a well-managed classroom
Classroom management is the foundation of strong instruction. It is also the single skill that teachers will need support in from their instructional leaders. Instructional leaders must demonstrate a strong sense of classroom management to be an appropriate candidate for most positions in educational leadership. In most instances, teachers without well-managed classrooms will not be recommended or referenced for roles outside of the classroom.
Not open to feedback
Each year, teachers participate in some type of appraisal process. It is an opportunity for an assistant principal or principal to observe classroom instruction and provide feedback on strengths and opportunities for growth. Teachers that successfully transition from classroom teacher to instructional leader demonstrate an openness to this process. They apply suggestions and asked for assistance as needed. One way to block your own success to being an instructional leader is avoiding opportunities to receive and apply constructive criticism.
Never volunteer to do anything “extra”
The responsibilities and demands of teaching seem to grow each year. The thought of taking on additional tasks may seem overwhelming. But, it is absolutely necessary if your goal is to position yourself as a leader. Instructional leaders are so because they are available and willing to “do the work” and go the extra mile for their school. If taking on extra tasks is not an option, this may be a sign that being an instructional leader is not the right fit for you at the present time.
Refuse to collaborate with others
I’ve worked with several teachers who consistently affirmed that they work better alone and do not wish to work with others, yet they wanted to be a leader in some capacity. My suggestion to them was, “Who will you lead if you don’t want to work with others?” Every definition of leadership I have encountered involves working with others in some capacity. I believe some people are naturally inclined to work alone, however, a trait of a good leader is their ability to work well with others.
Don’t read books that strengthen their instructional practice
Reading is an efficient way to acquire new information, and instructional leaders need a lot of information to serve their teachers. In addition to contributing to your instructional toolbox, reading has been proven to enhance judgment and problem-solving abilities. By not reading books that strengthen both your knowledge of best instructional practices and leadership skills, you are missing out on one of the best professional development tools available.
Never mentor a new teacher
Schools often need mentors for new teachers. Being a mentor does not require one to be perfect or be a master teacher. It simply requires a willingness to help a peer by being available to answer questions and provide guidance. Mentoring a new teacher is an easy way to demonstrate your ability to lead and support other teachers and I suggest all aspiring leaders make themselves available in this way as often as possible.
Have poor relationships with their school leaders
Maintaining positive relationships with your school leaders is an advantage that will serve you well in your path to instructional leadership. By having positive relationships, your leaders are more apt to provide you with information on leadership opportunities, favorable feedback (as it applies), and honest suggestions for improvement when needed. Positive relationships don’t require sucking up or becoming best friends but it does require intentionality around being a good follower and supporter of your school leaders.
Avoiding these mistakes will not guarantee a role as an instructional leader, but it will dramatically improve your chances. Like everything else related to leadership, the important thing is to be intentional and thoughtful in your actions while in the classroom so you can get desired outcomes out of the classroom.
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