In teaching and teacher leadership, there are so many opportunities to grow, especially in the world of education reform. If you are in a place that does not allow for you to grow or get the support to grow into a desired role, find a place that will foster that within you. Your development should be a priority for you as a teacher leader. One question I frequently get asked is: how can I develop into an instructional leader?
Here are 3 ways in which you can prepare yourself for instructional leadership:
1. Observe as much instruction as you possibly can.
It is important to get into classrooms in order to build your capacity to support others. Do work or answer emails in a colleague’s classroom (with their permission). Sit in on grade levels that you haven’t taught. Take an afternoon to visit a school that has a reputation for being excellent. Come to one of the YES Prep Public Schools in Houston, Texas! If you have a mentor, make it a point to observe that individual. The instruction does not have to be particularly strong because observing a range of teaching will give you critical experience.
As you are visiting classrooms think about the key factors in the instruction and culture. What would make the MOST difference for the kids in the room? Also, push yourself to understand the engagement level of the kids and the urgency of the teacher. These thinking exercises will challenge your own understanding and expose you to more teaching.
2. Ask others to observe you AND give you feedback.
Being as proactive as possible to improve your instruction is another key way to grow into instructional leadership. As a future instructional leader, you will need to model strong instruction as well as collaborate and support other teachers. If you have tried your own techniques and improved them, you will have more to offer. Don’t expect to have used every technique or taught every subject; however, the more that you can experience the better your toolkit. Furthermore, it’s critical that you can accept feedback just as well as you can provide it. The cycle of receiving and implementing feedback is at the heart of instructional leadership. Once you realize how valuable feedback is, you can then start to implement change and understand growth within your own context. This will also help to foster a growth mindset within your work. The more you push your individual growth, the more success you will find. Believing in the value of feedback is first and foremost.
3. Read, baby, read.
One cannot underestimate the power of reading all that the education world offers us. I will reference key texts in another post. For now, I suggest you read texts, blogs, books, and resources that are as practical as possible. When it comes to supporting teachers, you need to be able to articulate the what, the why and the how of strategy and instruction. This is not to say that there is no value in theory, because there is. However, to launch your career, my recommendation is to stay as grounded in strategy for effective teaching and student learning as you possibly can. Look for my post on cornerstone texts coming soon!
So, how are you growing into instructional leadership? What recommendations can this blog provide you?
Written by Nella Garcia Urban, Senior Director of Teacher Development, YES Prep Public Schools