Grooming Future Educational Leaders
(First of a Three-Part Series)
Editor’s Note: This article begins a three-part series on Female Leadership. Readers will find the content of the article appropriate to all educators, though it is certainly the author’s hope that special attention be given to potential female leaders.
An important aspect of the superintendent’s job is to encourage and motivate staff members to newer heights. This may mean providing training in instructional technology or content reading strategies, or it might mean encouraging staff members to take on a variety of leadership responsibilities. Why promote leadership among teachers? Enhancing teacher leadership lifts the level of teaching and professionalism for that particular emergent leader and creates a climate where shared leadership is embraced and supported. It also is a critical way to build the number of female principals and superintendents in New Jersey, as data shows the proportion of female principals and superintendents continues to be low relative to the large number of female teachers in New Jersey.
How do you spot an emerging leader? Consider these qualities as you reflect upon your staff:
- Is this teacher an exceptional educator?
- Is this teacher ambitious?
- Does this teacher second-guess decisions in a respectful manner?
- Is this teacher an effective communicator?
- Is this teacher able to troubleshoot? When bringing a problem to your attention, has the teacher already thought of possible solutions? Better yet, has the teacher already solved the problem and now is simply informing you of the smart actions taken?
- Does this teacher have positive energy levels? Can they handle stress in a positive manner?
- Is this teacher comfortable with change?
- For those of you who have read Ron Clark’s Move Your Bus, is this teacher a Runner?
Now that the emerging leader has been identified, consider the leadership experiences that will enrich this person’s potential. Some opportunities that I have provided during my years as a Principal, Assistant Superintendent, and Superintendent have included:
- Invite the emerging leader to assist in interviewing prospective teacher candidates.
Providing an emerging leader with the chance to participate in the interview process, debrief with you on the candidates’ strengths, and consider which candidates to invite back can be an illuminating experience on many fronts. The teacher will gain a glimpse into other instructional styles and may even glean a strategy or two from the experience. Further, that teacher may have a better understanding of the school culture or gaps within the grade level and, therefore, provide smart insight into hiring decisions.
- Select the emerging leader to serve as the grade-level leader on a curriculum committee.
Nothing teaches skills in organization, communication, and instructional leadership like being the grade level representative on a curriculum committee, particularly when that person is expected to relay information back to colleagues on a regular basis, write portions of the curriculum, and be the role model for best practices.
- Invite the emerging leader to attend your monthly Superintendent/Principal Chats or Parent Forum as a notetaker.
This is an easy one - nothing to do but sit and listen and take notes - but the opportunity to watch a skilled leader (that’s you) communicate the school or district vision to parents and address unscripted questions is akin to watching a lion tamer capably manage a group of unruly felines.
- Leading a professional development workshop.
Encourage the emerging leader to plan and present a workshop for colleagues on an area of strength, such as flipping the classroom, conferencing techniques, or comprehension strategies. Leading a book study is another less prep-heavy way to lead a workshop.
- Chair a special ad hoc committee.
Does your district policy manual call for an annual review of student discipline data? A Wellness Report to the Board of Education? Enlisting the assistance of an emerging leader to handle these duties not only frees you or a principal from this project, but provides a wonderful mentoring opportunity for the emerging leader. Scheduling meetings, selecting committee participants, organizing data, and reporting information either in writing or publicly are all amazing learning opportunities for tasks that administrators regularly take on.
With the current lack of qualified candidates seeking superintendent positions, it is more critical than ever that we encourage smart, capable educators to join the administrative ranks. Be on the lookout for the emerging leaders in your schools and district!