Becoming An Innovative Teacher Leader With Innovative Leader Competencies
In 2018, the Wall Street Journal reported that educators were leaving the teaching profession at the highest rate on record. As teacher protests about fair wages and adequate resources are on the climb, districts aim to staunch the flow of the teaching exodus. And while pay and resources are certainly worth prioritizing, a 2018 Gallup poll shared that teachers who left the classroom cited one overwhelming reason as to why: lack of career advancement. If you ask teachers about opportunities to forge a career path in education, most would share that you either stay in the classroom, or you move into administration. Yet, not everyone wants to be a school principal.
Schools need to provide other opportunities for teachers to obtain leadership opportunities while staying in the classroom. At Education Elements, we believe that teacher leaders foster innovation. If schools can support these teacher leaders, then they will better able to foster innovation in their colleagues.
Are you a teacher leader looking for opportunities to lead both in and out of your classroom? We encourage you to begin reflecting on your teaching practice by trying out some of the tactics below, based on our 5 Innovative Teacher Leader Competencies:
Deeper Dive: Use our Ultimate Guide to Innovative Leadership Development to explore the traits of innovative leaders at every level of the school and district.
Know Yourself: Understand how personal experiences, values, and strengths impact teaching philosophy and practice.
- Reflect: Why do you choose to teach and what do you love most (and least) about your job?
- Act: Share the story of why you became a teacher with others and how your journey has evolved. At Education Elements, each person shares with the company a “Why I do what I do” story. It is so inspiring to hear from colleagues about their values that drive the work they do each day. Reflect on your own journey as an educator and consider finding a time in an upcoming PLC to share your story.
Nurture Trust: Build deep relationships by creating an environment that encourages and celebrates risk-taking and vulnerability.
- Reflect: What would others say about how you build and maintain trust? How do you know?
- Act: Share a story of failure. When was a time you tried something new in your classroom that did not go as planned? Model growth mindset with your team by talking about what you learned from this and how you are trying it again. Don’t be afraid to name your fears and celebrate others for taking risks!
Related Resource: Explore how to increase teacher retention and happiness by empowering teachers in your school and district.
Cultivate Curiosity: Seek out ways for self and others to constantly ask questions, learn, and share.
- Reflect: When did you last share a new idea with a colleague of another grade level or department? Do you share with others when something works really well within your own classroom?
- Act: Share your new ideas by creating a time and space for an optional personalized PD such as an “un”conference. We have all sat in a PD that starts with announcements (that we wish would have just come through an email) followed by a presentation that may not apply to all teachers in the room. Setting up an “un”conference models voice and choice by allowing any teachers to share new ideas and others to attend sessions of their choice. Consider pairing up with another school or schools in your district!
Catalyze Action: Have bias towards action for self and others to test ideas, learn, and share discoveries with others.
- Reflect: Do you invite others to see your teaching in action? Do you ask for feedback to learn and grow?
- Act: Open your doors by bringing PD to life! Teachers can hear about new ideas in PD, but seeing the new learning in action helps bridge the gap from ideas to implementation. Consider creating a Pineapple Chart or another shared platform for teachers to sign up to visit classrooms. We know that many teachers’ doors are always open but it can be hard to find a time to step out. Setting up a calendar helps to make this a priority and it just takes 5-10 minutes in a classroom for new ideas to spark! Pro tip: if participation is low, have a participating teacher share about their experience and the new ideas they brought back to their own classroom. Others are sure to join in!
Navigate Perspectives: Clarify and synthesize ideas to make concepts relevant and achievable.
- Reflect: When your school adopts a new curriculum or has a new initiative, are you able to help others see the connections to existing best practices?
- Act: Changes in the curriculum, crosswalk years, textbook adoptions, and new initiatives are inevitable. When these come along help others to shift from the the mindset that there are hundreds of new ideas to making the connection to current practices. Guide other teachers in crafting the story of where you have been, where you are now, and where you are going.
Teachers, we believe in you and thank you for the amazing things you do each day for your students. We encourage you to continue your leadership both in and outside your classroom by prioritizing the development of these 5 Teacher Leader Competencies. If you try something new, we’d love to hear about it! Tag us on twitter @edelements #LeadToInnovate
About Megan Huneck D'Ambrosio
Megan Huneck is a Senior Design Principal on the Design & Implementation team, collaborating with district and school leaders to develop and implement personalized learning initiatives. Prior to joining the Education Elements team, Megan taught for six years in Arlington Virginia Public Schools (VA). While teaching, Megan was chosen to be a member of the LearnZillion DreamTeam where she facilitated engaging blended professional learning experiences for Syracuse City School District (NY) instructional leaders and teacher leaders.