Why We Need Classroom Leaders

We spend lots of time talking about principal leadership in education. We dissect principal workload, discuss how important instructional leadership is and concur on the impact a principal has on a school. And I agree!  The principalship is a key element of every school’s success, as I discussed here.

07 classroomBut we need much more than formal leaders!  School improvement, that is, improving our effectiveness to meet student need so that every student achieves and succeeds at a high level, is the foundation for every educator’s work. And we can’t do it without leaders in the classroom.

Who knows students inside out?  Who builds the trusting relationships with students so they want to do their best work?  Whose passion and enthusiasm ignites colleagues’ moral purpose? Yep, you got it: classroom educators (teachers, educational assistants, early childhood educators).

I’ve talked to many classroom educators who don’t consider themselves leaders. They can’t always see how the innovative, thoughtful work they do every day with each other on behalf of students means they are changing education and student achievement. Carol Scaini, a former leader in our district, put together an excellent tool to help teachers understand the impact of their work and where to focus for growth as a leader. It’s called the Self Assessment Tool for Aspiring Leaders. It can be used for more formal leadership roles, but it is equally useful for teachers who want to explore their vital role as classroom leaders.

District leaders can set the strategic directions. Principals and vice principals can lead the instructional program and make sure the school runs smoothly.

None of it matters without leaders in the classroom.


5 Responses to “Why We Need Classroom Leaders”

  1. Sue, I love this post, and I really love the link to Carol’s resource. In my mind, the “leaders” are usually those people in the admin or consultant roles. Your post reminds me of the fact that teachers can also be leaders and can help bring about day-to-day change with what they do and what they model for others.

    As I worked on my TPA Binder over the Break, I was regularly drawn to the “Leadership In Learning Communities” domain, and the fact that so many of the competencies were on day-to-day in-school leadership and not just system wide leadership. This binder building process helped me re-think my definition of leadership. I wonder how others view leadership and if/how Carol’s resource and your blog post would change things for them.

    So much to think about …

  2. A few years ago, I was “fast-tracking” to get into leadership–what I thought was system-level positions and then administration. Two years ago, I was going to apply for one of those system jobs, and then someone told me this: you can be a leader and stay in the classroom; it’s actually more important that leaders stay in the classroom than move on to system/admin.

    It was like a revelation; I had never thought of leadership in that light. I’m so thrilled that I decided to stay in the classroom, at least for now. I have so much to learn about teaching, and what better way to learn than from my students! Every year I become a better teacher because of the time I spend teaching :).

    1. I’m thrilled you decided to stay in the classroom too. We need people like you there.

  3. bhovsepi Avatar

    I think a lot of us discount our own level of expertise. That word “leader” is a loaded word. It’s easy to confuse “leader” with “administration.” It seems that as soon as I was able to separate the two, my role as a teacher changed. As a result, I am more open to taking risks, continuing my informal education, developing a network, and enjoying what I do.

    1. I’m so glad that you are finding your passion and joy in teaching. You are just the kind of classroom leader I am talking about in the post. How do we make sure that more teachers recognize their innate leadership as teachers?

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