What are the best ways a teacher can demonstrate leadership in the classroom?
One of my former students asked me questions about my teaching experiences for a college class she was taking. One of those questions was “What encourages teachers to become leaders?” My answer to that question as well as a few others formed the introduction to my book Uncommon Core because these questions are important ones that all teachers must answer before and during their teaching careers.
“Being a teacher in itself is being a leader. We stand in front of the classroom and help a room full of people discover the beauty of knowledge, and discover who they are and who they can become some day. If teachers are not embracing their roles as leaders, then they are wasting their time in the classroom. Leadership means that we cannot be government puppets; to do so would be a mockery of knowledge itself. We also cannot be puppet masters of our students; we educate them so they can think for themselves, not to think the way we think. We lead as role models; we lead as educational coaches and knowledge facilitators; and when we see injustices in the world, we need to lead by example and take action.” (Introduction vi)
Regardless of public opinion or government criticism, teachers are leaders and we need to embrace that fact. We should also know what type of leader we want to be. Early on in my career, I chose to put the “power and control” type of leadership away, and become the type of leader who serves her followers–her students. I provide opportunities for my students to discover where they fit in, what their niche is, and to discover their own leadership abilities.
Another key element to this type of leadership is a genuine care and concern for those that we are leading. The old adage “They won’t care what you know until they know that you care” is relevant in the classroom and any leadership position. I have worked with some highly intelligent teachers, but they looked at teaching as a way to demonstrate their knowledge, not as a way to empower students. With this mentality, students could care less how smart that teacher is. Most students despised those teachers because refusing to show kindness, compassion, and concern for those students turned teachers into talking heads, not leaders.
Besides classroom leadership, teachers need to take leadership positions in educational reform. Only a few teachers are involved in these discussions. If educational professionals took leadership opportunities, we would see positive changes in education creating better environments for students and teachers. Speak up in school and at board meetings; write letters to state and federal officials; opt your children out of state tests and boycott proctoring those exams that rob our students of time, money, and resources that should be used for edification, not data collection. Teachers should not be afraid to stand up for what they know is right; after all, we are the experts.
To read the rest of the discussion from the other Top 12 Global Teacher Bloggers go to