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 4 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 visit a YES Prep campus here in Houston! If you have a mentor, make it a point to observe that individual. The instruction does not even 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 other approaches to teaching.
2. Ask others to observe you AND give you feedback.
Being as proactive as possible to improve your own instruction is another key way to grow into instructional leadership. Reach out and ask teachers and leaders you respect to observe you and give you feedback. As a future instructional leader, you will need to model strong instruction as well as collaborate and support other teachers. Furthermore, it’s critical that you can accept feedback as well as provide it. Believing in the value of feedback is first and foremost. The cycle of receiving and implementing feedback is at the heart of instructional leadership.
3. Branch out.
If you haven’t taught in more than one grade level or subject, I’d suggest trying to get some experience in a new area. It may not be wise to go from teaching high school ELA to middle school math, but even going up or down a grade level in your own content area can give you much needed perspective. You might even try teaching something completely different for summer school to get a feel for what it’s like. The more perspectives you have, the more flexible your toolbox becomes and your range of experience will add weight and legitimacy to your feedback and coaching in the future.
4. Read, baby, read.
One cannot underestimate the power of reading all that the education world offers us. And try to 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.
What books would you recommend for people looking to become instructional leaders? Leave your recommendations in the comments.