Monthly Archives: March 2014

Cultivating great teacher leaders, and ultimately, great teammates

I really love the fact that there are so many analogies between the world of sports and school leadership.  Frankly, if it weren’t for my experiences as an athlete, I think it is highly unlikely that I would have developed the necessary leadership qualities to serve schools in that capacity.  Every sports team has goals, like winning a championship, having a better win/loss percentage, giving time back to community organizations, etc.  And let’s face it, teammates have individual goals that are directly related to their individual strengths which then end up being mutually beneficial.

When I was preparing to be a school leader, despite course work and common sense telling me so, I never fully realized how important cultivating great teacher leaders (and ultimately great teammates) would be.

I have a real blessing to spend time in my role as a student teacher supervisor in the school where I was formally a principal.  I’ve seen accomplishments of teachers becoming formal and informal leaders in the building, and I can see where the leadership team I was proud to serve for a while helped to build capacity in these individuals to accomplish personal/professional goals for themselves or accomplish something larger for the school.

Here are some examples:

– Two faculty members I know of who are currently pursuing doctoral work

– Two faculty members I know of who’ve become department chairpersons, bringing a new set of talent to their positions and to the leadership team of the school.

– One faculty member who has become an informal technology guru, helping faculty and staff when she can.  She was a first year teacher only about 5 years ago.

So the big question is how did this happen?  I think there are ways that formal leaders, as they build relationships and trust can see where the interests, talents, and passion intersect for the betterment of themselves and ultimately, the students.  As a school leader, I found that I was most successful when I personally invited someone to be part of or lead a team that was tackling a problem directly related to their interests, talents and passion.  This isn’t the way to accomplish every task or problem in a school, but when people are specifically and intentionally invited to contribute in this way, it builds their capacity, which helps to strengthen the relationship, which positively impacts their ability to be great teacher leaders and great teammates.

Isn’t this what great sports coaches do as well?

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Passion for students

This week’s call to blog for #SAVMP is related to communication and how leaders’ methods and messages have great impact.  We can all think of leaders whose methods and messages were unclear, to the point that people hardly understood what was expected of them or even know what the vision was for the final product.  When this happens, frustration builds and morale declines.

There is, though, a deeper layer to a leader’s communication than clear expectations that lead to a known vision.  I was poignantly reminded this week about the importance of conveying passion for students and the learning community of the school.  When I was preparing to become a school leader, I didn’t realize the entent to which it really matters how much the school leader communicates passion for students’ growth in all areas.   All school leaders HAVE to care about the achievement as measured by standardized test scores.  All leaders HAVE to care about making data-based decisions and effectively evaluating instruction. However, leaders can care about all those things but still be a “shell” of a person using only their brains to make logical decisions that may work some of the time.  Conveying passion for the students and their continued growth towards a productive and moral adulthood demonstrates the desired example and supports the other teachers and staff members in the building who are also passionate about students and their success.  This builds a safe community around passion for greatness and those who aspire to be such, not just academically, but in all ways (through kindness, grace, humility, and perseverance).  The leader communicates this by meaningfully interacting with students consistently in public areas of the school, focusing every decision on the needs for students, etc.  This well-communicated passion for making moral decisions that always keep the students first and foremost in mind and heart, can provide the catalyst for learning environments to go beyond good to something great when paired with a clearly guided plan to reach an understood and agreed upon vision.

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