Education is at a crossroads. There are more teaching jobs than qualified teachers to fill them. The districts with the most teaching needs are become revolving doors for teachers as many are leaving the profession. This issues are due to the decade long attack on public education in America. Education reform advocates have have attacked teachers, unions and public school in general. Charter school have become an answer because corporations see them as an avenue toward profits. (Please note there are many great charter school, mostly run by non-profit entities) Teachers are looking to their leadership to help return public schools to their glory. It is time for bold leadership to emerge, our TEACHERS, STUDENTS and PUBLIC SCHOOL need it to survive.
This leadership comes from the top. Many teachers are exhibiting signs of bold leadership but few district leaders are showing it. Maybe it is due to the politics of top level positions that the needed leaderships isn’t emerging in enough places. So what is needed in this leadership?
- Voice in educational reform: States have been allowed to get advice in educational reform from just about every sector but education. Educational leaders need to step up denounce reforms that are not based on educational research. Most of the reforms of the past 10 years make many teachers feel they are performing malpractice in their classrooms. Focus has been on test score and yearly growth not the STUDENTS. Politicians are so worried about media reports of state ranking to really examine WHY our numbers are where we expect them. So often district leaders will talk out of both sides of their mouths on these issues. Locally agree with teachers on the problems with testing but then “We must follow the law”. What if the law is wrong? What if the law hurts our students? Educational leaders need to denounce reforms that hurt our schools. Speak up and tell representative that our teachers are the educational experts, listen to them.
- Culture of Collaboration: Districts need to work together and collaborate. We can have districts cannibalizing each other. Advertisements for school of choice should not be posted in neighboring districts. In fact districts should collaborate on programing so they can offer true choices instead of same education in a different location. PD should be coordinated so the experts from each district can share with their neighbors. Competition needs to cease if school want to address their true purpose of providing a quality education for all. Funding mainly comes from the same source, lets collaborate to make the most of it. Many teacher evaluation systems have killed collaboration by pitting teacher against teacher to protect their jobs. How is this best for students?
- Stability: Education is a constantly changing profession. Leadership needs to create stability for as many variables as possible. Make 10 year curriculum commitments, hire principals, district leaders and teachers with long term non-compete clauses we don’t see leaders jumping from district to district every summer. Life cycles of principals average out to 4 years in a building, that is not long enough for all the students to pass through! Should building level leadership be undergoing this constant change? Is it best for students and their learning? Many curriculum targets change every 3-5 years, again while most students are still sitting in the classrooms learning. Can schools keep up with the ever changing goals?
- Be a relationship based leader: Know those that work under you. Know how their schedule. Know what drives them. Know why they work in education. Know the challenges they face daily in doing their job. Know your students. This knowledge will help you lead. It will help you raise your voice on their behalf. It will create a culture of respect in your district. While you are building relationships you will notice small things that need to be celebrated. Other issues will arise that need to be addressed. This awareness will impact the learning going on in your district.
The best way to lead is by example. These four traits are stress for classroom teachers.
Our schools need this bold leadership, be a positive deviant and add these traits to your leadership style and be the leader our teachers, students and schools NEED!