As I move into a new school year and finish up another class, I always reflect on what I’ve learned. The biggest thing that I’ve learned is there is a big difference between being a teacher leader and being a school leader. Many mistakes that I made over the year happened because I approached my school leadership role as that of a teacher leader, and the two—though they work in tandem—are not the same. Keep reading for some of my big AHAs!
Teacher leaders get their roles from their formal leaders (principal, manager, whomever….), but when we think about awesome teacher leaders they tend to have earned their power. Simply put, teacher leaders’ colleagues respect them and their expertise because they have elected to do so. They have seen the teacher leader levitate in a classroom with superior instruction, take risks, be lifelong learners, master new concepts…and the list goes on. Most important, they’ve built great relationship with their colleagues. As a result, good teacher leaders leverage their relationships and reputations to help things get done.
Formal leaders are placed in their roles, so power comes with the position. Leveraging this power is different. Although relationship building is important for school leaders and managers, it looks a bit different. You have to prove that you are an expert in the area that you’re leading, while still being transparent about what you don’t know. School leaders and managers build relationships by involving teachers/direct reports in decision-making, while still knowing when to make hard decisions.
If you find yourself in a position where you are moving from teacher leader to school leader/manager, it’s important to realize that being a teacher leader helps to prime you for a school leader/manager role. You have an opportunity to lead others and implement new idea; however, it is not the same as a school leader/manager. As a school leader/manager, you really have to own what you know and determine how to empower others.
I've definitely learned a lot this year, and I wish you the best on your journey!