21st Century, Leadership

Effective Leadership

I am currently reading a really great article.  Pamela Mendels (pmendels@wallacefoundation.org) is senior writer at The Wallace Foundation in New York City. Her foundation colleagues Lucas Held, Edward Pauly, Jessica Schwartz, and Jody Spiro contributed to this article on the five pivotal practices that shape instructional leadership.

Interestingly, the article begins by explaining that the word ‘principal‘ originally was used as a verb in front of the word ‘teacher‘ and the ‘principal teacher‘ was:

a kind of first among equals, an instructor who assumed some administrative tasks as schools began to grow beyond the one-room buildings of yore.The original principal was, like the other teachers in the school, concerned with instruction above all.

The article goes on to outline the five pivotal practices:

Shaping a Vision

Deciding what you stand for and standing for it.  Sounds simple, right?  Research shows that when leaders are clear in their vision, when they set a standard and expect others to raise their game to meet that expectation of a shared vision, growth and success will follow.  Without a clear vision for why you are there, people tend to become distant rather than united as a group.

Correlation to the Classroom: Set clear standards and adhere to them.

Creating a Climate Hospitable to Education

In addition to a roof that isn’t about to crumble around you, effective leaders ensure an atmosphere in which students and teachers feel supported and responded to.  Teachers who are given the opportunity to collaborate and work with other teachers to create common goals and improve instructional practice. Making sure you have non-toxic working environment is key to success.

Correlation to the Classroom: Support your students, allow for collaboration and regularly meet to avoid ‘issues’ to decay your class bonds.

Cultivating Leadership in Others

Schools in which leadership is shared are proven to be more effective.  Bringing teachers in to leadership roles, involving parents and other members of the community to share their areas of expertise all go toward raising the standards of education within a school. What I really like here is the finding that leadership is not a zero sum game.  Research found that “principals do not lose influence as others gain influence”.

Correlation to the Classroom: Empower your students with leadership opportunities.

Improving Instruction

Effective leaders know that improved instruction will come when research-based techniques are employed, frequent periods of focused observation are coupled with timely feedback, changes are made to schedules and ‘how things are done’ to accomodate new initiatives and ideas about learning and teaching.  This goes for everyone – especially those teachers who would rather be left to do it ‘how it always has been done’.

Correlation to the Classroom: Give your kids timely and effective feedback, initiating new ways of ‘doing’ based on solid principals of learning, giving students options for discovery and reflection as learners. 

Managing People, Data and Processes

Knowing how to support teachers in a way that allows them to thrive is a key component of an effective leader.  The support of the administration is the number one reason teachers give when making the decision to stay or leave a position in a school.  Being able to effectively manage the key responsibilities of a principal: planning, implementing, supporting, advocating, communicating and monitoring, will determine not only your success as a principal but also the success of your school. (Based on the VAL-ED method of analyzing Principal effectiveness developed by Vanderbilt University and endorsed by The Elementary School Journal)

Correlation to the Classroom: 

  • Plan thoroughly
  • Implement with initiative and innovation
  • Support all levels of learning
  • Advocate in the best interests of your students
  • Communicate clearly with all stakeholders
  • Monitor your own and your students’ growth and progress.
I really like the points raised above – both the five building blocks of effective leadership and the six points via the VAL-ED survey.  I would like to implement these ideas into my own teaching practice as a teacher, both for my own benefit and the benefit of the students in my class. What professional goals do you set yourself?  How do you monitor your effectiveness as a leader in your classroom?
My friend, Marina, who teaches in Nanjing recently posted on how she gathered feedback from her students. Marina used the following tool to gather her data and was really surprised by the feedback she got.  She went on to add a newer post about how things have only gone
from great to even greater since she gathered the feedback from her students.  One of the things Seth Godin talked about in NYC last week was seeking feedback from your tribe – the people you connect to and resonate with.  It would stand to reason that we do this with our kids  in our classrooms, no?
How do you define ‘leadership’?

3 thoughts on “Effective Leadership”

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