In this new decade, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can step up as a leader and even how I can support all of the leaders around me. You may think this is just about superintendents, principals, and assistant principals, but it’s not — it’s about everyone.
Whether you’re a superintendent, principal, literacy coach or a teacher, you want to make a difference. You have a bigger vision for your school. And you probably know that there’s more you could do to create more classrooms filled with engaged and joyful kids who love to read and write.
You can become the leader who inspires incredible work and helps your school create literacy reform. You can help teachers transform their practices. I’ve seen it happen, so I know what’s possible. I’ve witnessed teachers who desperately wanted their school to become a “workshop school” so they figured out ways to get funding for professional development, open their classrooms to others to learn, read together, or visit each other’s classrooms. It’s not always the principal or the superintendent who starts the fire.
In addition to fire, becoming a leader takes time and resources. And it’s completely possible for you.
Here are four ways to become a true leader:
- Start with a shared vision.
Explain to your teachers or colleagues why this work is so important and why everyone should get on board. Start by showing videos or visiting classrooms or schools that have made this possible and are seeing success. See if you can create a sense of, “We’re all in this together. I’m in it with you and will be learning alongside you.”This year, I sent a Welcome Packet to each school we work with at the start of the year. In it, was a short letter that reminds leaders to rally their teachers at the start of the year. Well, it’s the start of a new year and a new decade, so even if you didn’t do this in August, now is a perfect time! Gather your teachers and tell them about your dream for your school and district and invite them to join in your vision.
- Lead by example.
Working as a staff developer for 15 years, I’ve seen leaders who really jump in with fellow teachers and leaders who only watch and don’t get involved. Teachers will have the most respect for a leader who’s willing to try this work out in classrooms, read about it, and plan right alongside them.
- Create safe learning environments for teachers to build their content knowledge and method background.
You can accomplish this in many different ways. Start with studying a professional book or a topic (for example: mini-lessons) during a faculty meeting or PLC time. You can also do this with the support of a literacy coach (if your school is lucky enough to have one) and through the support of an outside staff developer — that’s us! In this safe and welcoming environment, teachers feel comfortable and confident to ask questions and learn together.
- Have goal-driven conversations.
While you’ll want to develop goals and bottom lines that everyone is working towards, our teachers are all at different levels. For this reason, you’ll want teachers to be able to set their own individual goals and work towards them. You may decide as a school to help kids become independent as readers and writers, and develop structures and routines. Then an individual teacher can strive to have strong read alouds where kids are invested and having powerful conversations.
What are you doing in the name of leadership?
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