While researching standards for my post on leadership, I discovered the tenets of leadership as defined by the state of Texas. Intrigued, I decided to delve a bit deeper into each standard, and see how it truly relates to my role. While these standards could establish what defines a leader on paper, I want to apply them to campuses today. Knowing that refection is also a key component, there may be some twists and turns that jump out at me as I review each strand. The standards are also under review and going to change, so it will be interesting to see how “leadership” looks when it is redefined. This is post one in a series on “Texas Leadership Standards”, the entire series can be read here.
The leader is responsible for ensuring every student receives high-quality instruction.
How can a leader ensure this is happening? You start by building an incredible team. You hire the very best person for the job. You then retain those excellent teachers! If you don’t feel like the very best person is in that spot, you do what you can to make them better. When you see a need, you provide training, support, and the opportunity for each teacher to become the very best that they can be.
You’re visible. You are in those classrooms at every opportunity. If you became a principal to get out of the classroom, you’ve made a serious mistake! This is one of the most important facets of being a campus leader. I remember when I was a teacher, I would get a scheduled admin visit. I made sure I was wearing my best outfit, had my students perform on command, and did the very best, most creative lesson I had in my tool box. It was a dog and pony show! When it was over, I could breathe a sigh of relief and go back to “normal”. Ideally, instead of waiting until you have to have an “official” observation, you are in classrooms as much as possible. My teachers are so used to seeing me in and out of their rooms, it doesn’t phase them. Being in and out means I have a really good idea of their strengths and maybe can help identify areas they can grow.
You provide constructive feedback. Feedback is what helps your team know they are on the right track. Feedback allows teachers to see how they are doing, and where they could be going. It also shows them that you value the time you are spending in their rooms, and have a vested interest in their growth. Helpful feedback is goal-referenced; tangible and clear; actionable; user-friendly (specific and personalized); timely; ongoing; and consistent.
You model growth through being a lead learner. Whether it be through articles, journals, books, blogs…a synchronous or an asynchronous community…hopefully you are dialed into a way to keep learning. Besides an edcamp or conferences, Twitter is my big go to for learning and sharing. I read a number of teacher blogs and love sharing the great ideas I see happen on my campus too. I never want them to think I think I know it all or am unwilling to learn new tricks.
You are the gatekeeper of distractions. I worked for a principal who deflected hoop jumping, extraneous noise, and miscellaneous tasks like a champ. A teacher’s job is to teach. Whatever I can do to help make that the focus of their world, I am willing to do. If this means providing an opportunity for training, materials, etc…I do my very best. If it means filtering their “todo’s”, I do that too.
Many have replaced the word principal with the term “lead learner”, this standard lends itself to that perfectly. It takes leadership for a principal to question a teacher whose methods of teaching don’t result in the students understanding and knowing the subject. The principal has to ask, “Did you think about doing it this way? Maybe that would help.” A culture of learning starts with all of the points above. If that foundation isn’t in place, it will be hard for teachers to respect you as ….and credibility as an instructional leader is crucial for a campus!
More resources on the importance of being an instructional leader: