We will be publishing some excellent guest writer blogs on Thursdays for the next few months. This week the blog is provided by Jennifer Brown and is a companion to the interview with Mike Davis and Mark James, Junior Achievement — A Case Study in Disruption that aired on 11/12/2019.
The classroom offers no shortage of challenges for teachers, from navigating the different learning needs of a diverse group of students to keeping up with changing educational trends and policies. Plus, because of the 2020 pandemic, educators had to suddenly transition to remote-learning models, which was almost impossible to prepare for. And as many schools across the country re-open for full- or part-time classroom education, teachers have had to create structures that not only keep their students engaged but also adhere to COVID-19 health and safety standards.
While these types of obstacles are enough to keep some teachers engaged for a lifetime, others set their sights on even greater challenges within the educational system that will be in place long after the pandemic is over. However, transitioning out of the classroom into an educational leadership role isn’t as simple as throwing your hat in the ring. While classroom teachers are leaders in their own right, serving as an administrator requires a set of leadership skills all its own.
What It Takes to Be an Educational Leader
Becoming an educational leader is an opportunity to make an impact beyond the classroom. However, while teachers have ideas about the ways they’d lead differently given the opportunity, taking those ideas and turning them into actionable policies requires a unique set of skills.
When running a classroom, teachers have to make decisions moment by moment to keep their classrooms running smoothly and their students learning. Administrators, on the other hand, have to carefully consider the input of a variety of stakeholders before taking action.
In order to balance the demands of educational policies, district administrators, teachers, and parents, administrators must cultivate a culture of mutual respect and honest communication. That’s not easy to do when teachers often view administrators as a hindrance to their ability to teach, which is why an educational leadership role requires not only professional acumen but emotional intelligence as well.
The Demand for New Educational Leaders
For teachers who are up to the challenge of educational leadership, there’s no shortage of roles to fill. While teacher shortages draw the most attention, schools across the country are also facing a growing shortage of principals and other administrators. According to the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the demand for qualified principals in elementary, middle, and high schools is projected to grow 6 percent by 2022.
While some school districts struggle to attract candidates for leadership roles, most schools find that their problem isn’t the number of candidates, but the quality. One in three school principals stay in their role for less than two years and 18 percent leave the position within a year. Inadequate preparation is a leading reason for high principal turnover, which is why teachers are such attractive candidates for the job. When administrators have a background in education, they’re not only less likely to leave, they’re also more effective.
The Role of Educational Leaders in Student Achievement
What are the hallmarks of an effective educational leader? It’s not just an understanding of policy or a knack for juggling competing priorities. Experts agree that the most effective administrators are those who frame their decisions around what’s best for student learning — and that means creating a collaborative environment between teachers and administrators rather than taking a top-down approach to management. When administrators foster an environment that empowers educators, the sense of safety, support, and continuous learning that’s created trickles down to students as well. In fact, research has found that an emphasis on collaboration and communication is one of the key characteristics of high-performing schools.
Advancing your Career as an Educational Leader
While teachers are uniquely positioned to become educational leaders, taking that career leap requires additional qualifications. School principals require graduate-level degrees in educational leadership or administration in addition to state licensure, while educators who want to expand the opportunities available to them may opt to pursue a Doctorate in Education. With an EdD, educators can pursue a career as a K-12 principal, school superintendent, or an administrator in a post-secondary setting.
Pursuing a career as an educational leader isn’t a decision to make lightly. School administrators have a difficult job, and creating an environment that empowers students and teachers — both during and after the pandemic — requires professionals who understand the difference between leading and ruling. However, for teachers who appreciate the challenges facing their school system and want to make a difference, taking the step into an educational leadership role is the best way to do it.
Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.
About the Author
Jennifer Brown is a guest writer.
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