This year, I am entering my fifth year of teaching, and I can’t believe it! Time flies when you are having fun…or when you are just really busy, as we all are as educators. Recently, I have been reflecting on the leaders I have worked for over the past five years. I transferred within my county to a new school this year, and I am thrilled to be closer to home with a shorter commute. I have heard many positive things about the school and the leadership from the staff. I have also heard positive words from friends who know leaders within my school personally.
I find myself fortunate to have worked in schools with good leadership. I am also thankful that I am getting to observe a variety of leadership styles that will help me grow as both an educator and a leader. In observing various leadership styles, it has allowed me to have a better grasp on the leader that I aspire to be in the future. I have worked for leaders who have set extremely high expectations for the staff. Teachers were consistently implementing new best practices into the classroom, analyzing data that was used to drive classroom instruction, and collaborating together to remediate students to meet each individual students’ needs and levels. The administration visited each classroom almost daily and were visible and accessible to both students and teachers. I have also worked for leaders who take a more “laissez-faire” approach where best practices were encouraged, and the administration left instruction in the hands of the teachers, trusting us to implement ideas in the best way possible for our individual classroom. Although these approaches are very different, each helped me grow in a positive way as an educator. Visibility as a leader is important, and so is establishing trust in the employees. Finding the right balance is crucial as a leader.
You also learn a lot from poor leadership. You realize as a leader what you don’t want to be like and how poor leadership affects the entire culture of the school. It impacts teachers, students, and the community. Teaching under poor leadership is a difficult task, but having the ability to focus on your students and collaborate with your team is necessary. Working under poor leadership was enlightening because when you do move on to a school with good leadership, you realize how important leadership is in schools. Leadership should be present at all levels in the school building, and principals must guide others in the building to become leaders themselves. I recently read a quote in a Forbes article that stated:
Good teams have what we call good chemistry. On the surface it may appear that everyone is getting along, and that’s certainly true, but what it really happening – to extend the chemistry metaphor– is through catalysis – the reaction that occurs when you add the right ingredients together.
In sports – or in the workplace – the catalyst is a team player who sets the tone for how to behave as a teammate. Call it the “one for all, all for one” type of leadership brings peers together for a common cause. Intangible yes, but it sure does work (Baldoni, 2015).
Under poor leadership, it is crucial to find the leader within yourself to be a team player and uplift others in your school. The best type of teams are the ones who “mesh well” together and understand each other. They are committed to getting to know each other on a personal level and are flexible. They take risks and try new ideas that other present and realize that we all have something valuable to offer. Being a leader is also crucial when you are under good leadership. As new practices and higher expectations are presented to teachers, it is easy to lose sight of what is important. It sometimes is easy to blame leaders for putting too much on our plate and often times there IS too much on our plate. Somehow, we continue doing what we do because of our love of education. Our common cause is the students we lead. We consider them in everything we do. We go home at night and think about them and how we can further help concepts make sense; we worry about them; we celebrate successes with them, and we help them learn from mistakes.
I am grateful for all of the leaders I have worked for in education. They have all taught me lessons. They have helped me discover the type of leader I aspire to be. Even under poor leadership, the leader within yourself allows you continue to do what is in the best interest of your students. Situations only make you a stronger educator and leader. We should all strive to be the “catalyst” in our schools. We have the skills to bring people together. We may not be the administration in our buildings, but the leadership we show is equally as important. Learning from the leadership in our buildings will only improve us as educators and human beings. I taught my students the first week of school the importance of “carrying your own weather.” This means carrying peace inside of yourself even in difficult situations. This is something I am still learning how to do myself as an adult. No matter what situation we are in, we can always learn lessons to improve ourselves and part of being an effective educator is keeping positivity and peace within ourselves so we can bring together and uplift those around us in both good times and in times of adversity.
Baldoni, J. (2015, September 9). Intangible Leadership Produces Tangible Results. Retrieved September 12, 2015, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnbaldoni/2015/09/09/intangible-leadership-produces-tangible-results/