I recently engaged in an in-depth conversation with the principal of a school I support. She was experiencing a dilemma because she wanted to alter a plan that was co-developed with a group of teacher leaders in her school to better align to the greater vision and mission of the school. She was torn because she did not want to devalue the input of her teacher leaders, yet, she knew the original plan was in need of adjusting.
The conversation lead us to ponder the characteristics and qualities of true teacher leaders. The question we pondered was “How do true teacher leaders react in times of adversity?”
From this wondering, we explored a plethora of skills every teacher leader must master to be effective and influential both in the classroom and out. Of the skills we discussed, I am sharing the four skills that are most critical for every teacher leader to hone during their time in the classroom to ensure their success when they transition out.
Integrity and Honesty
I once heard a leader in my church explain honesty and integrity like this: “Honesty is making your words align with your actions while integrity is making your actions align with your words.” I love this explanation because it helps me clearly ascertain the difference between these similar and equally critical leadership qualities. As teacher leaders, it is important for us to model both honesty in our words and integrity in our actions in all we do around campus. Integrity and honesty, or the lack thereof, will ultimately determine the quality of a teacher’s influence and impact.
Willingness to be lead
As teacher leaders, we certainly have leaders whose vision we are tasked with supporting. Your school principal has a vision for your school, which supports the vision of the district Superintendent whose vision supports that of your state leaders. Your willingness to publically support your leaders is truly one of the marks of a good leader. Supporting your leaders’ vision does not mean agreeing always, but it does mean offering constructive feedback in an appropriate and respectful manner.
Strive for innovation
Teacher leaders go first and fast toward innovation. They don’t sit on the sidelines and wait for a directive or permission to introduce new instructional strategies or implement a new digital resource. Instead, they lead by example and strive for innovation in the classroom. This is what distinguishes teacher leaders from their counterparts. Teacher leaders are easily identified on campus by their eagerness to pioneer new initiatives and willingness to demonstrate the positive outcomes when new and exciting resources are presented to their students.
A Champion for Change
One of the few aspects of education that remains constant is change. At the start of a new school year, teachers anticipate changes such as changes in content taught, grade-level of students, and even change in location of classroom. Because education is an ever-changing profession, where the needs of students and available resources evolve frequently, teacher leaders are those who seek and embrace change rather than complain or shy away from it. They not only embrace the inevitable change that comes their way, they encourage and support their peers to do the same.
As teachers, we must be strategic about modeling these leadership qualities not only to build influence with colleagues but more importantly because our future leaders are observing and mimicking our actions. These five characteristics can guide us as we grow in our leadership both in the classroom and on campus.
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