You asked, we answered! During our Leadership and Professional Learning webinar, we collected teachers’ questions on growing their leadership skills beyond the classroom. Read on for a quick snapshot of our expert advice, then view the on-demand webinar for more valuable information.
Meet the Experts
Alisa Bates, PhD, assistant dean of the College of Education at Concordia University-Portland
Gerald Gabbard, PhD, associate professor of education at Concordia University-Portland
Janiel Wagstaff, K-6 literacy coach, author, and blogger
Q: I’ve got a full schedule of teaching each day. I’m eager to volunteer for an opportunity at school where I can grow my leadership skills, but it’s hard to keep up with just my day-to-day tasks. How do I fit it in?
A: Start small. Find something that’s achievable, that’s reasonable in terms of scope and scale, and start there. (Good options: Join a committee that meets during your lunch hour, create a new lesson plan that you share with other teachers in your grade, or volunteer to be an informal mentor to a new teacher.) You want your first experience of leadership to feel good and be successful.
Q: I have a great idea for starting an after-school club that could really benefit the students. How can I approach my school administration in a professional and convincing way?
A: If your school’s administrator has an open-door policy, go talk to them. If the principal is not so approachable, you can find a colleague who’s been in the school a little longer than you and who’s also interested in working in the club. That way the two of you could meet with the principal together, and it won’t be quite as intimidating. But it’s always a good practice to get your principal’s blessing before you do something that’s new and innovative.
Q: I’d love to share my classroom strategies with other educators via Facebook Live, Instagram, or other social media platforms. But I don’t want to compromise my students’ privacy. Any advice?
A: Many districts have very strict guidelines and don’t allow teachers to share students’ photos or names, and that’s a good policy. Be cautious; you can certainly speak in general terms about your classroom ideas and share sample works, but even if you do that, make sure to remove the students’ names.
Q: As one of the youngest teachers at my school, I’m worried that I won’t be taken seriously in a leadership role. How can I overcome this?
A: Many young teachers who want to try innovative projects or teaching approaches at school can relate to feeling a bit unsure. The best approach is to jump in and go for it! If you have an important message, people will listen. Don’t let your age hold you back.
Q: I’d like to step up as an informal leader on a project at school. How can I build the kind of trusting relationships with my colleagues that I need to be successful?
A: Listening is important. Are you listening to what they’re saying, but also what they might not be saying? Are you thinking collaboratively about how you can build from what you’re hearing? Are you willing to compromise? Showing that you’re open to suggestions and new ideas is an important way to build trust among colleagues.
Q: What are some best practices for creating an effective PLC (professional learning community) at my school?
A: There are lots of different ways to implement PLCs, which are valuable for evaluating student-learning data, sharing instructional strategies, and more. Some schools set up teams based on grade levels and integrate specialist teachers into the different groups. One thing that’s key for any PLC is to have a mission, goals, and a focused agenda. During regular weekly or monthly meetings, you can share teaching methods that are helping you reach goals for your students, create new goals based on how student-learning data changes, evaluate school process data, and discuss other stategies for moving your school forward.
Q: How can teachers keep learning and stay excited about moving forward in their career?
A: Keep asking questions! Questions and answers are a great way to show leadership because you expand your knowledge by doing that. And go with your passion, letting it lead you to new roles in your school, district, and larger teacher network.
Watch our on-demand Leadership and Professional Learning webinar for more valuable information from our experts.