Education

Leading the Way

By Anthony Rebora — October 01, 2002 2 min read
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“New Roles Tap Expertise of Teachers”
From Education Week, May 30, 2001.

In education today, few commodities hold more value than the elusive notion of “leadership.” With schools under strong pressure to show improvements—and many of them facing complex challenges—administrators and staff developers are being encouraged to put a premium on traits associated with individuals who solve problems, build teams, and bring about change. This emphasis is increasingly evident in teacher hiring and promotion.

To give one example, the New Teacher Project, a nonprofit consulting firm that develops alternative-certification programs and advises school districts on recruiting and hiring, puts leadership skills at the heart of its selection criteria. The group says it has found that such skills “are the greatest determinants of [teachers’] success.”

Among the specific leadership traits the New Teacher Project looks for are:

  • a strong record of past achievement;
  • strong writing, critical thinking, and speaking skills;
  • an ability to maintain perspective in difficult situations;
  • sensitivity and respect for others; and
  • a commitment to underprivileged communities.
  • The New Teacher Project keeps an “open mind” about how applicants might show such characteristics, says Ariela Rozman, the group’s vice-president for marketing. In general, according to Rozman and National Director of Selection Fiona Lin, it seeks out candidates who have clearly set high goals for themselves and performed with marked creativity and initiative in past jobs or school work. Community involvement—through volunteer and mentoring programs, for example—and a commitment to “improving systems” are also common threads.

    If the New Teacher Project emphasizes the big picture, Steve Bingham, director of the Program on Education Leadership for SERVE—a research and consulting organization devoted to educational improvement in the southeastern United States—identifies some more job-specific ways teachers can exhibit the kind of leadership qualities prized by school administrators. He recommends developing strong networking and computer skills and, if you really want to impress, combining these skills by creating a professional e-mail listserv.

    Bingham also points to the rising currency of “instructional leadership,” meaning leadership that is specifically built around student learning. In this connection, he advises teachers to work to develop a “profound knowledge of curriculum and pedagogy” and to become active in “collaborative inquiry,” through which teachers join together to share and examine instructional practices.

    Leadership obviously comes in different forms. The consensus, though, is that it entails active involvement and a quest for improvement.

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