Developing Educational Leaders
(cross posted at Ed LeaderWeb)
I would assume there are a number of LeaderTalk readers who are teachers in the process of becoming administrators. I remember being in your shoes not too long ago. Fortunately, I had a great principal who truly helped develop my leadership abilities. Looking back, he constantly challenged me as a teacher while I was working to become an administrator. As a current assistant principal, I would like to share some of the ways I gained valuable administrative experience while I was attending graduate school and then searching for my first administrative position.
I also share this information with teachers I know who are looking to step into leadership roles. I truly believe part of our responsibilities as administrators is to be constantly developing the leaders of tomorrow.
I Will Do It
Volunteer to do just about anything. I remember spending a majority of my planning periods in the office, offering my help in any way. Of course, I still did not abandon my teaching responsibilities, I just had to do the prep work at night at home. It meant many late nights, but I knew I needed as much experience as possible. When I would offer my services to the principal and the other assistant principals, I hoped to work on cutting edge projects that integrated technology and the like. Sometimes I was fortunate to be able to chip in.
However, in the beginning I was often asked to help with discipline. It was not exactly what I was looking for, but in reality, administrators do spend a great deal of time with student discipline. I always accepted and chipped in handling discipline referrals. It offered me great experience as I was always able to ask for their thoughts and I was truly learning on the job. As time went on and I proved my dedication, I was progressively given greater responsibility. However, I always continued to help with discipline. Hey, I was looking to impress the powers that be! I even volunteered for a morning or afternoon duty post to assist with student supervision.
Tackle a Major Project
When you are marketing yourself as a future leader, you need to make yourself stand out. Handling discipline offers great experience, but when you are in an interview you want to be able to talk about more. One of my "projects" was the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life. I was involved with the RFL before this, but only on a personal level. I devoted many hours and much effort to developing our school's involvement in this most worthy cause. I was basically given the reins and told to "have at it." The experience in guiding the entire project was great. I learned how to long term plan, work with the community and be the point person on a pretty big project. In addition, we were able to raise a lot of money for the American Cancer Society along the way.
Get Involved at the District/State Level
It is never too early to start building relationships. Get to know as many people as possible. This will give you the opportunity to learn from current educational leaders. It will also allow you to show your dedication to education. District committees are always looking for volunteers. Serving on one allows you to see the bigger picture. I remember one of my biggest adjustments from teacher to administrator was realizing their are a lot more kids out there than the ones in your class!
Immerse Yourself in Technology
I am not an expert in technology, and I definitely was not one when I was looking for my first administrative position. However, I realized I had to be at least fluent. I learned all I could about technology. More importantly, I learned how to use technology that truly impacts teaching. I think it is instrumental in your future success to learn to use technology to analyze data. Then make sure you go out and use it! Developing a data driven instructional plan is a must have in your toolbox. We need to be doing it anyway, and it will provide you with excellent talking points in your interview!
Work With Adults
Teachers have a great amount of experience working with students. However, when looking for administrators, the powers that be often look for teachers who have experience working with other adults. Make sure you find ways to do this. Making presentations at faculty meetings is a great place to start. Being involved in professional organizations in other option. Go the extra mile and be active in the organization. Listing your memberships on your resume is one thing, but talking about the Task Force you served on and how it benefited kids in whole other ballgame.
Understand Your Schools and Districts Priorities
This just about always includes the state assessment. Do all you can to be involved in the process. Make sure your strengths are not just in the subject area you teach. For example I taught American History at a high school. I did not have any expertise in math and just a limited knowledge base of reading instruction. I made it a priority to learn as much as I could about both. More importantly, I identified the experts who I could work with. Make sure you know the reading and math coaches/specialists. I remember working on a project that lined up reading and math with American History, correlated to the state standards. It was a great way to learn from the reading an math expert. It also gave me experience in those subject areas and a final product to talk about in the interview. Most importantly, we created something that we truly felt impacted our students.
You want to be able to talk about as many things as possible in a future interview. You need to build experiences because we all know in an interview it comes naturally if you have hands on experience. One important caution--Do not embellish your experiences at all--if you were only a small part of a project, do not lead on that your spearheaded the project! Also keep in mind why we are here; to improve student achievement. Hopefully you are looking to enter administration to expand your capabilities in doing such.
There are many other ways to get involved. Talk to as many people as possible. Spend as much time as possible assisting your principal and the other administrators in the building. I often felt like I was on an extended interview. It always kept me on my toes. Talk with veteran administrators as well as the newbies. They both offer great insight to the rewards and demands of the position. Do all you can to get involved. Remember to seek out opportunities. Do not just sit and wait for them to come your way! Get involved!